Alberta’s snow-capped mountains, picturesque landscapes and world-class ski resorts make it an ideal place to hit the slopes—but the winter fun doesn’t stop there. From snowshoeing to ice climbing, there are plenty of ways to take advantage of the province’s great outdoors on your next winter break.
Alberta enjoys a relatively long winter recreation season and has regular warming trends called ‘chinooks’. These help to relieve the cold and bring more snow, giving visitors the option to try their hand at activities unavailable in the warmer months. So, whether you’re planning a Rockies road trip, or just want to take advantage of the limitless winter activities on a Jasper or Banff holiday, this post will give you some inspiration to start planning your Alberta adventure. If you would like to book any of these activities as part of your holiday, don’t hesitate to give us a call.
One of the best things about holidaying in Alberta is that activities run whatever the season. Thanks to snowshoes, which have spikes to provide extra grip and attach to your boots, hiking can be enjoyed year-round in the province. A fun way to keep active during winter, snowshoeing is easy to learn and inexpensive to try, with rentals for visitors of all ages available in various locations. Explore parks across the city of Calgary, or venture into the snowshoe trails of Lake Louise Ski Resort, Sunshine Village, or Fortress Mountain—the latter of which you may recognise from films such as The Revenant, Planet of the Apes and The Bourne Identity.
Snowshoeing experiences are also available across Alberta’s national parks, including Jasper and Banff. If you’re in the Edmonton area, we recommend visiting Elk Island National Park, where you can enjoy a day snowshoeing whilst keeping your eyes peeled for bison.
For a bucket list experience you’ll remember forever, dog sledding in Alberta is a must-do. As well as spending time with adorable huskies, you’ll also witness some incredible views of the Rocky Mountains as you journey through the snow. Among the most popular locations to go dog sledding in Alberta are Canmore, Lake Louise and Jasper.
Sundog Tours offer fantastic dog sledding experiences of varying lengths, providing transportation through the Yellowhead Pass if you wish. The full-tour also includes a hearty trail side lunch, cooked over an open campfire, as well as warm apple cider and homemade treats, and the chance to learn more about the history of the area and its people.
If cycling is something you miss during the winter months, fat biking is a fantastic alternative. Essentially mountain bikes with wide tires built for snow, fat bikes have much lower air pressure, giving them an almost bouncy feel and making them slower than summertime mountain bikes.
Alberta—or to be more specific, Calgary—is home to the most extensive urban pathway and bikeway in North America, with over 95 kilometres of trails to explore. If you want to explore Calgary’s numerous pathways, we recommend the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre, in Banff, Soul Ski and Sport, and in Edmonton, Kananaskis Outfitters and Revolution Cycle.
Fancy scaling a frozen waterfall? During winter, it’s not uncommon for temperatures in Alberta to drop below freezing, creating the most beautiful icy blue formations along rock faces and canyons. While this activity might sound daunting, with a little practice and guidance, you’ll soon learn the basics. Along with cleats (grips on the soles of your shoes) you’ll be provided with axes, which you use to work your way up the surface.
Options are aplenty for ice climbing in Alberta, with guided trips to Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park, the nearby ‘Junkyards’ at Grass Lakes, and Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park. If you’ve never been ice climbing before, it’s worth going with a guide, and Rockaboo Mountain Adventures or Yamnuska Mountain Adventures offer several introductory ice climbing courses and tours throughout Banff and Jasper.
If you’ve ever wanted to witness Alberta’s frozen canyons first-hand, ice climbing lets you do just that. Journey through the impressive Johnston Canyon along a combination of steel walking platforms and forested paths, passing frozen waterfalls and towering pillars of blue ice along the way. Don’t miss the incredible ‘Cathedral of Ice’ located at the upper falls, where you can take a hot chocolate break and watch other ice climbers in action. Maligne Canyon—the deepest canyon in the Canadian Rockies—is also an incredible location to try this unique winter activity.
Sundog Tours and Discover Banff Tours are great companies to ice walk with—both providing steel cleats for your boots to minimise slipping hazards, as well as hotel transfers if required. Guides pick out a safe route for you to walk through the canyon and check the ground is solid enough with an ice pick, while also pointing out the best photo opportunities and sharing the history of rock paintings and geological marvels as you encounter them.