You don’t have to hit the slopes to enjoy winter in Alberta. This province of Canada has a plethora of cool things to do that are sure to give you goosebumps, from sleigh rides to bike rides, ice carving to ice climbing, and just sitting around in a hot spring.
Sleigh Ride In The Snow
Snuggle up with your loved one under fur blankets, sipping on liqueur or Champagne and nibbling chocolates during a horse-drawn sleigh ride to the end of the glittering Lake Louise in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Breathe the cool mountain air, goggle at the towering peaks and catch snowflakes on your tongue. And if you’re thinking of popping the question, now’s your moment.
Climb A Frozen Waterfall
Grab your helmet, harness, crampons, ice axes – and don’t forget your guide. You are heading into Maligne Canyon to scale the majestic Queen of Maligne waterfall in Jasper National Park. Beginners are welcome – you can climb as much or as little as you like, and you’re always attached to a rope so if you slip, the most you will fall is a metre or so. But the exhilaration will last a lifetime. Another good option for ice climbing in Alberta is Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park.
Soak Your Worries Away
Warm your bones in steamy, hot mineral water as snow coats the mountainsides all around you. At Banff Upper Hot Springs, you can make like a Japanese snow monkey and enjoy a singular outdoor experience that has drawn travellers for more than a hundred years. Get there early in the morning for the best experience. For a more luxurious soak, try the indoor Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Banff Springs, with pulsating waterfalls, mineral pools of different temperatures, and stunning mountain views.
View The Northern Lights
In the far north of Alberta lies Wood Buffalo National Park, in the largest dark sky preserve in the world. You’ll want your warmest clothes and your best driving skills to travel the 228-kilometre winter road through the park from Fort Smith to Fort Chipewyan. You’ll even cross the Peace River on a bridge made completely of ice. Along the way you might spot fox, lynx, wood bison and moose. But best of all is the aurora borealis, dancing across the skies. Make sure you stop in at the visitor centre for some expert advice. For something less remote, seek out the northern lights in Banff National Park.
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Appreciate Art In Ice
Moose butting heads, first-nations warriors, fierce cougars – these are just some of the sights that have been seen carved into dazzling ice sculptures at the annual Ice Magic Festival in Lake Louise. Watch professional ice carving teams use chainsaws to create these ornate sculptures. There are several ice-and-snow-related events about the region and the kids can even have a go at ice carving in the Little Chippers Ice Zone. Also check out the Edmonton Ice Castle, made entirely out of icicles, where you can wander through tunnels, and slide down an ice slide. At night it is illuminated and really does look like something out of Frozen.
Fly High Over The Rockies
If you thought the Rockies were spectacular from ground level, wait until you see them from the air. Take off from Kananaskis Country in the foothills and front ranges of the Canadian Rockies, following a route showcasing the history of the First Nations people, and the breathtaking mountain ranges. Add to the adventure by setting down for a snowshoe trek on a backcountry trail to a frozen alpine lake.
Fat-Bike The Back Country
The latest must-try winter adventure sport in Alberta is fat biking – think mountain biking in snow on extra-wide tyres with low pressure. There are plenty of backcountry trails around Canmore, Banff, and Lake Louise, commonly used by cross-country skiers and snowshoers. Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park has recently delegated a set of summer trails for dedicated single-track fat bike use.
Fish Upon A Frozen Lake
Walk out on to a frozen lake, dig a hole and drop in a line. Ice fishing may be a foreign concept to most Aussies, but it is a quintessentially Canadian experience. You can hire a guide to take you to spots around Banff and Calgary, and they’ll provide all the essentials, like a ski-doo suit, ice hut, auger, and underwater video camera. Look for lake trout in the Rockies, as well as walleye, Arctic grayling, perch and more.
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The Kimberley Rocks of Ages
The rock making up the cliffs is old, so old, it predates life on earth. Let that sink in for a moment.
“I can’t see any fossils in any these rocks,” I ask my guide Carly.
“These rocks were formed before there was anything to fossilise,” she replies plainly.