This post was originally published on the Travel Alberta website.
For some people, strapping two long planks (or one wide plank) to your feet and sliding through the snow is the highlight of the year. Others? Not so much.
But there’s no reason those plank-averse among us can’t have a blast in winter. Get ready!
Never heard of ice walking? You need more Albertans in your life. There are a handful of places in the province where creeks, rivers, and waterfalls freeze in just the right way to create magical hiking experiences. Some cleats on your boots (or, even better, a guide at your elbow), can make for selfies your friends won’t believe.
For a start, check out three of Alberta’s most popular ice-walking spots: Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park, Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park, and Grotto Canyon near Canmore.
Snowshoeing and winter hiking
Here’s the thing about snowshoeing: it’s just walking. Sure, you have those big things on your feet, but those just help stay on top of the snow (the act of strapping them on also makes you an honourary Canadian, by the way). Put them on and start walking. There. You’re snowshoeing.
In Alberta, there are all kinds of accessible trails for either snowshoeing (deeper snow) or just hiking in your boots (shallower snow). And if you want to really take the experience to the next level, try a guided heli-snowshoeing tour. A pilot and a knowledgeable guide will fly you to some untouched powder that will make your winter.
Skating at Hawrelak Park in Edmonton has been a tradition for years. If you’re in the mood for a laid-back feel in a cosy atmosphere, this is as soft as adventure gets. But if you come during the heart of winter, you’ll get an added bonus at the park — the crazily-lit Ice Castles. Formed by flowing water that freezes over a base built with hundreds of lights, this attraction is a winter wonderland. Book a ticket for the Ice Castles before you go. For even more fun in the park, plan your trip around the annual Silver Skate Festival at the park, which has roots deep in Edmonton’s winter traditions.
The good thing about being in Alberta is that it’s full of Albertans — so they are mad about hockey. That means ice-skating opportunities abound. Take your pick wherever you are in the province, and rent some skates.
Skiing in Canada is a hugely popular outdoor activity in our winter months, but it takes time to develop the skills. Many ski resorts in Alberta offer an alternative adrenaline rush that promises thrills from the moment you launch down the hill – no experience required.
Tubing is similar to tobogganing but better, because there is a tow system to pull you and your inflatable tube back up to the top. It’s like full-service sledding. And the only skill you need is sitting. Well, holding on helps, as does yelling “Weeee!”
Most ski resorts in Alberta now offer tubing, including Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, Nakiska and Mount Norquay, among others.
For many Albertans, dog sledding holds deep connections to the past. But let’s face it: it’s also an opportunity to play with the most adorable dogs ever. These cuties are born to run. They jump in place, strain at their leads, and their joyful howls come straight from the belly. If you get lucky, you might even get a chance to cuddle after they pull you through an exhilarating ride across the snow.
There are many sled-dog operators in Alberta, including Mad Dogs & Englishmen Sled Dog Expeditions, Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours, Howling Dog Tours, Kingmik Dog Sled Tours, and Klondike Ventures.
Get your camera out
Winter brings a different kind of awesomeness to your Instagram nature shots. In Alberta, that can mean prime viewing opportunities for aurora borealis, stargazing in one of Alberta’s dark-sky preserves, catching a glimpse of winter wildlife, or pondering the phenomenon of bubbles of naturally occurring gases trapped beneath lake ice. Don’t forget your camera.