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Warm up your Winter in Banff and Kananaskis

Can’t afford to jet off to Mexico or Hawaii this winter? No problem because I’ve got you covered with 10 super fun things to do with your family right here in your own back yard!

1. Go skating on a frozen lake. There’s nothing more classic than skating on a frozen lake or playing a game of pond hockey. 

Here are my personal picks for the best outdoor skating experiences this winter:

Lake Louise in front of the Chateau
The pond in downtown Canmore on 7th Avenue
The pond below the Banff Springs Hotel (located beside Bow Falls)
The pond at Kananaskis Village (with skate rentals available for the whole family from Kananaskis Outfitters)

2. Learn to cross-country ski at the Canmore Nordic Centre. The Canmore Nordic Centre is an ideal place to try cross-country skiing for the first time and all gear (including toddler skis and sleds for towing younger kids) can be rented on-site from Trail Sports. Trail fees are in effect, but the trails are immaculately cared for and the lodge makes for a great place to warm up between loops.

3. Try snowshoeing in Kananaskis. Kananaskis Outfitters at Kananaskis Village rents snowshoes for the whole family. They can also provide you with trail information and maps for the nearby area. Wedge Pond is one of the closest places to try family snowshoeing in an easy one-kilometre loop that’s great with young children. For a longer hike, try the two-and-a-half-kilometre village loop that starts behind the playground. Other trails can be found in nearby Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

4. Hike to a frozen waterfall. Troll Falls is an easy, short three-kilometre return hike from the Stoney Trail parking lot near Kananaskis Village. The trail is generally well packed down throughout the winter and is wide enough for sleds. The hike is also great on snowshoes and is a track-set for cross-country skiing.

5. Try winter camping at a wilderness hostel. Hostelling International offers private rooms in many of their wilderness hostels that are ideal for families wanting to spend a night in a rustic mountain setting.

Recommended hostels for families:

HI-Kananaskis (three private rooms and the only wilderness hostel to have electricity and indoor plumbing. Each room sleeps three people).

HI-Mosquito Creek, Banff (rent the private cabin here, which includes your own kitchen and sleeping for 10).

HI-Athabasca Falls, Jasper (two private sleeping rooms for six people in a log cabin for families or small groups).

For information on the wilderness hostels, visit the Hostelling International website at www.hihostels.ca.

6. Go to the Ice Magic Festival in Lake Louise. The festival runs from January 16 through the 25. Highlights are skating on the lake with an ice castle, the International Ice Sculpture Competition and the Little Chippers Festival for children. To watch the ice-carving competition, you will want to go out between January  16 and 18, but the sculptures can be viewed in front of the lake well into February.

7. Slide down an ice slide during Snow Days in Banff. This month-long festival goes from January 10 through the 8 of February. Our favorite activity is the ice slide located beside the river in downtown Banff. Last year they also had an ice train that was a huge hit with the children! Full information on Ice Magic and Snow Days can be found on the Banff Lake Louise Tourism website at www.banfflakelouise.com/Area-Events/Festivals/Winter.

8. Hike a frozen canyon. Canyons are a fun place to explore in winter with frozen waterfalls around every corner. One of our favorites is Johnston Canyon in Banff, which sees a lot less people in winter! Hike to the Upper Falls in a six-kilometre return trip to watch ice climbers in action. If you’re hiking with young children, you can hike to the Lower Falls in an easy two-kilometre return trip. Note that if the trail is slippery, you will want to bring some ice cleats for your boots.

9. Check out the Canmore Winter Carnival. This festival runs from February 16 through March 1 with highlights including the popular Snow Tracks on Main Street where you can ski down the main street of Canmore. Also popular is the Kid ‘n’ Mutt races where children get to try their hand at mushing.

10. Roast marshmallows in the snow at Cascade Pond in Banff. Find a day-use area such as Cascade Pond with fire pits and have a winter marshmallow roast after your hike or ski trip. Bring hot dogs for a real outdoor winter picnic.

Tanya loves hiking, camping, skiing and all things mountain related. She is the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, www.rockiesfamilyadventures.com, and the founder of Calgary Outdoor Playgroups on Facebook. More information about her playgroups can be found on her blog.

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