The most wonderful time of the year is firmly here and the Rockies (Rocky Mountains) are the perfect backdrop for your main character Hallmark holiday movie energy. Pop on that snow suit and grab that toque because it’s time to go adventuring in the mountains!
Located just an hour outside of Calgary, Kananaskis Village is a beautiful and easily accessible alpine escape from city life. Surrounded by the peaks of the Spray Valley and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, the scenery is quite openly iconic.
The stunning Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge is a year-round delight, featuring an indoor waterpark, hot tubs, a steam room, fitness centre, a games rooms, sports facilities, and daily scheduled activities. As Christmas lovers out here, we have to quietly admit that The Holidays are our favourite time of year to visit Kananaskis because – and we don’t say this lightly – the Lodge goes ALL IN for the season! Absolutely festooned with decoration galore (hello exterior gingerbread house!) Kananaskis Mountain Lodge has a slew of yuletide activities including a Polar Express train, reindeer, cookie decorating, ornament making, elf workshops, Santa meet and greets, Christmas movie nights, holiday cocktail classes, festive paint ‘n’ sips, candle making, and Christmas bingo! Oh, and there will be fireworks on New Year’s Eve, of course! Fun for literally all the family, for a weekend with pals, and, of course, perfect for all romantic getaways. Absolute tidings of comfort and joy all round!
“Nakiska” means “meeting” in Cree, and the ski hill really is an excellent spot to meet with pals and spend a day traversing the slopes. 79 marked trails are available, with the hill most suited to intermediate skiers. For those looking to avoid the crowds at the bigger resorts, Nakiska is also a more affordable lift ticket at $75 per day. Billed as “Calgary’s closest ski hill”, Nakiska is a great option for a day trip out to “proper” mountains for a fraction of the cost and popularity.
The Spray Valley has some of the best lakes for skating in the Rockies. As Wild Us season begins, grabbing your skates is a cost-effective winter activity that allows you to feel at one with nature. Is there anything better than gliding across an expansive open lake in the middle of the mountains? As always, do check conditions before you set out.
Banff needs very little introduction to Calgarians, who are well-versed in the majesty of the popular nearby-mountain town. We never need an excuse to visit Banff, but if you’re looking for one, here are four instead!
Banff Gondola: Nightrise and Mountain Top Christmas
The iconic Banff Gondola connects groundlings to the top of Sulphur Mountain year-round, but Pursuit Collective haven’t missed a beat with their seasonal programming. Back again for another year, Nightrise is a multi-sensory art installation at the top of the Sulphur Mountain Gondola, created by Moment Factory in participation with the Stoney Nakoda Nation. Wander after sunset through the “Four Wonders”; replete with projections, shimmering lights, digital art and audio-sensory listening experiences. Running until March 30th, Nightrise is here for the entire winter season.
Mountain Top Christmas is another experience offered by the Banff Gondola team, with family-friendly programming that includes activities such as holiday movie screenings, Christmas crafts, cookie decorating and meeting Santa!
Hot Chocolate Trail
Up until December 31st, explore Banff’s thriving hot chocolate scene. Yes, Banff has a hot chocolate “scene”… aren’t mountain towns CUTE like that? A treasure map of 20 local spots provides access to the most decadent sips in town. Adults will be pleased to know that there are some spirited concoctions on offer too. Spiked hot chocolates from Park Distillery are among our favourites!
Christmas at the Castle
You can’t visit Banff without a trip to the Fairmont Banff Springs, the Rocky Mountain’s castle in the sky. Think outlandish festive decorations, gingerbread house decorating, holiday carolling, theatre productions, a journey to the Northpole with proceeds going towards the Make a Wish Foundation, and (our favourite), a Christmas-themed cocktail bar! We have to say it, Banff Springs IS the spirit of Christmas!
Banff’s Sunshine Village is a ski resort for the whole family with a multitude of runs for every skill level. Not only is the powder some of the best in the Rockies, Sunshine is a whole and complete experience with a season’s worth of activities at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge such as nightly s’mores building, scavenger hunts, hot tub bingo, wine nights, tobogganing and more! You don’t need to be a skier to visit Sunshine, either; snowshoeing through Sunshine is a delightful winter trek, and we adore the tube park! For those hitting the hill, highlights such as rail jams, Santa on the Mountain, Elvis’ Birthday and, of course, the one and only season-ending Slush Cup, will ensure the slopes are the hot ticket of the season.
Travelling through Kananaskis? Why not stop in Canmore. In our opinion, Canmore is the culinary and cocktail jewel of the Rockies worth visiting for the restaurants alone, but it is better known for its easy access to winter activities.
Nordic Centre Cross-Country Ski
The Kananaskis Nordic Centre offers some of the best access to cross-counry skiing in Alberta, hosting large events like the Alberta Cup. 65 kilometres of groomed trails allow adventurers to traverse the land at the base of the ever-impressive Mount Rundle. For those who want to mix it up, there is fat biking, ice skating and tobogganing as well as winter disk golf available.
Canmore is the starting point for a bunch of really excellent snowshoeing trails, our favourite of which include Little Lougheed (5.0km out and back), High Like Trail (9.8km out and back), and Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk (4.2k out and back). If you don’t have snowshoes, fret not; there are plenty of local rental spots that will outfit you for the powder.
Canmore Brewing Company – Community Fridays
Every Friday throughout the entirety of the winter season, Canmore Brewing Company is offering $6 pints between 4-7 with live music and local food vendors, plus games and trivia. FUN!
We love visiting Fernie! Known as a famous powder destination, the town receives 30 ft of snow annually. That said, there is more to the B.C. alpine town than epic scenery and great winter riding.
Fernie Alpine Resort
Fernie Alpine Resort is a one-stop shop for winter fun! Bowl skiing is the main draw to the hill in the winter, but we also love the evening Snowshoe Experience, guided fat bike tours, and serene Nordic Sundays, which offer revellers a chance to explore Fernie’s Nordic trail system with professional guides. For those into apres culture, the resort is home to the Lizard Creek Lodge, which houses the Kootenay’s premier Ice Bar with a vast variety of vodkas to sample. Additionally, the mountain lodge is home to Cirque, Fernies’s fine dining experience.
Happy winter! We’ll see you in the mountains!