Arriving in Alberta’s section of the Rockies, arguably the most picture-postcard perfect area in Canada, the first thing that strikes me is that everyone should visit this part of the world at least once in their lifetime. Such a shame it would be to never set eyes on mountains this majestic, witness skies this blue (when the clouds disappear…), inhale air this fresh.
With stunning peaks all around, winter seems like an ideal time to explore this adventurers paradise. How is it, then, that around 75% of the areas visitors currently come in summer? And what happens if you love the ancient snow-capped mountains, just not the idea of hurling yourself down them on a pair of skis or a snowboard? Well, lucky for you, the Albertans have thought of that too and developed a wealth of alternative activities to keep you amused, enthralled and entertained whether you’re staying for a weekend or a fortnight.
In fact, it’s no surprise that they cater so well to non-skiers, as they have been welcoming visitors ever since the 1880’s when the Canadian Pacific Railway was being constructed, and the Upper Hot Springs allowed weary workers and travellers to soak their tired limbs in the springs rejuvenating waters. From my recent time spent in this truly beautiful part of the world here’s what incredible things you can get up to in Banff & Lake Louise without even putting on a pair of skis…
For those with a head for heights and a love of unusual thrills, ice climbing is truly a unique sensation. If you’ve ever watched Spider-Man and felt like giving it a try, Yamnuska Mountain Adventures will get you started in the Ice Climbing Capital of the World!
Sure the scenery is incredible from ground level, but the get a sense of the scale of the mountains you need to take to the air, and nothing beats the thrill of an instant vertical take off and the maneuverability that a helicopter provides. Just remember to pick your jaw up off the floor on the way out of the chopper!
Witness the Northern Lights
With huge skies and relatively little light pollution, this is a good place to try and see the mesmerising colours of the Aurora Borealis, The further north you go the better, be in Jasper or all the way up to Wood Buffalo National Park.
Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
If you can tear yourself away from astonishing scenery for just a moment, this great little local museum will give you some history and context into how the area came to be what it is today. With artwork, clothing, artefacts and a regular programme of events, you can soak in the culture of the mountains and its people.
Tubing at Mount Norquay
Back on the slopes to put more smiles on your face than you ever thought possible. Just simply pick up a doughnut-like tube, choose your lane (fancy going round the bend at the end like you’re in a washing machine? Yes!), go fairly straight or ask to do it “starfish style” in a spin. So. Much. FUN!
Snowshoeing up at Lake Louise Ski Resort
For a sedate but fascinating afternoon, strap on a pair of snowshoes (they don’t resemble tennis racquets on your feet anymore) and take time to explore the things you might miss if you’re whizzing down a slope on skis.
When the need for speed engulfs you, it’s time to jump on a snowmobile and pretend you’re in a James Bond movie. More stable than a motorbike, allowing you to fully enjoy the speed and adrenaline pumping thrill of riding a 600cc skidoo!
Not just any ice skating – you can even do this on iconic Lake Louise in winter, in the shadow of the imposing Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel! They create an ice-castle each year, and you can even skate after the sun has gone down – almost as though they’re throwing down the gauntlet to any other ice rinks in the world to challenge them for the most sublime place to skate.
Soaking in the Banff Upper Hot Springs
Well, after all that adventure, you’ve earned yourself a soak in these fabulously restorative waters, at a balmy 39C, with a backdrop of even more impossibly scenic mountains, like Mount Rundle.
You may decide to come in summer to try river rafting or to shop at the gigantic West Edmonton Mall (the largest in North America), or drive the iconic Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper. Whatever your reasons, Alberta is a fantastic place to visit, but for that extra little sprinkle of magic, visit in the winter once the summer crowds have gone and you might just start to feel like one of the locals…
This post was brought to you as a result of the Travel Alberta blog trip, created and managed by Captivate in partnership with Travel Alberta. GlobalGrasshopper maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site.