Cross-country skiing is an affordable winter sport that is easy to learn for the whole family. It’s free to ski on most groomed trails, and once you invest in the equipment, you’re good to go. I recommend starting off with second-hand skis and boots while the kids are still growing, or you can rent skis for the occasional day if you aren’t ready to commit to the sport yet.
Cross-country skiing is a great form of exercise, and I always appreciate being able to have a more relaxed start to my day rather than having to show up early at a ski hill to find parking. Enjoy solitude, reconnect with nature, and spend a few hours bonding with the family away from digital distractions.
Five top places to ski in Calgary
1. Shaganappi Point Golf Course. Here you’ll find 7 kilometres of easy trails for both skate and classic skiing.
This has always been one of my family’s favorite places to ski in the city because of the variety of loops, allowing you to ‘choose your own adventure’ every time without having to ski laps around the same circle. There is also a large parking lot off of Bow Trail and 26 Street SW.
Note: Dogs are not allowed on city golf courses and you’ll need a headlamp if you want to ski in the evening as the trails are not lit. You’ll generally find a porta potty on-site at most golf courses.
2. Confederation Park Golf Course and Canmore Park. The golf course parking lot is located off Collingwood Drive NW and when it’s closed to the public, you can park along 19 Street or at Canmore Park (19 Street and Chicoutimi Drive NW).
Confederation Park has approximately 6 kilometres of grooming for classic and skate skiing. My family has always enjoyed skiing around the easy loops here, and you can extend your outing by crossing over to Canmore Park where there is another loop with 2 kilometres of additional grooming.
3. Maple Ridge Golf Course. The City of Calgary maintains trails for cross-country skiing on this golf course located off Mapleglade Drive SE. This is a great place for families in south Calgary to get out for an afternoon close to home. It has traditionally been track-set on Tuesdays.
4. South Glenmore Park. The City of Calgary also grooms trails in this park located off 24 Street and 90 Avenue SW. It has traditionally been track-set on Wednesdays, and families will enjoy having a playground in the park.
In my opinion, cross-country skiing in a city park is a little more relaxed than skiing on one of The City golf courses. Dogs are welcome in the park as long as they are on leash and snowshoeing is also possible for members of the family who might not want to ski but would rather hike beside the ski trails.
5. Bowness Park. Last winter, this popular park in northwest Calgary became my family’s favorite place to ski in the city last winter. While you’ll only find 2.5 kilometres of trails, The City of Calgary does a fantastic job of creating a nice flat loop that you can repeat several times for a longer ski. My family also enjoyed bringing our skates for a mixed outing of skiing and ice skating on the lagoon.
Five top places to ski outside of Calgary
1. West Bragg Creek. There’s a great trail system with choices for all ski abilities. Highlights of skiing here include a heated trailer at the parking lot where you can warm up or have lunch between loops, its close proximity to the city (less than a 45-minute drive from the west end of town), and some of the best grooming near Calgary for both classic and skate skiing.
Families will also appreciate that you can ski, hike, snowshoe, or fat bike, all from the same parking lot. Trails are well-signed, and most are specific to the sport you want to enjoy (so you won’t find bikes or hikers on the ski trails).
Note: Dogs are also allowed on these trails but must be on- leash in the Provincial Recreation Area, including in the parking lot.
2. Canmore Nordic Centre. This is one of the few places where trail fees are in effect, but my family loves skiing here early season when there isn’t a lot of snow elsewhere. We also appreciate the consistency and quality of the grooming.
Highlights of skiing include a heated day lodge with cafeteria and indoor bathrooms, an amazing sledding hill on-site (free to use), a rental shop where you can also rent sleds for young children to ride in, and a loop that’s lit for night skiing.
Families will also enjoy skiing to the Meadow Warming Hut that can be reached in roughly a 5-kilometre return on an easy beginner trail.
3. Kananaskis Village and Ribbon Creek. Some years, my family finds snow here as early as mid- November. When conditions are good, families will love the easy groomed ski trails that loop around the Village. We also appreciate being able to warm up inside the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge afterward at the Market Café.
Other highlights include ski rentals on-site from Kananaskis Outfitters, snowshoe and hiking trails nearby, and families can explore frozen Troll Falls either on skis or on foot from the Ribbon Creek Parking Lot below the Village.
And don’t forget your skates because the pond is free to use for all guests at the Village. There is also a playground and a sledding hill that families can enjoy after skiing.
4. Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. This park is a little farther away in Kananaskis (90 minutes from west Calgary) and the trails are best enjoyed by intermediate skiers. You’ll also have to rent skis in advance if you don’t have your own.
If you aren’t familiar with these trails, start from the Pocaterra Warming Hut where you can access the Pocaterra Trail or start from the Visitor Centre where there are several options for intermediate loops. Use either the hut or the Visitor Centre to warm up between loops and you’ll find heated bathrooms at both.
5. Lake Louise. If you want to plan a weekend ski getaway, I recommend booking a private room at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre, a hostel with shared cooking and living facilities, and then enjoying your ski in/ski out access to some of the best trails around the Village of Lake Louise.
You can also drive up to the lake from the hostel where you can ski across the lake to view frozen waterfalls or you can hop on the Tramline Trail and ski back down to the hostel where gravity works in your favor.
Other highlights of a ski weekend here include ice skating on Lake Louise, snowshoe and winter hiking trails, and the ski resort nearby if you want to spend a day downhill skiing.
Tanya is a freelance writer and mom to a spunky boy. She loves hiking, camping, skiing, and all things mountain-related. She is the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, rockiesfamilyadventures.com.
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