Who says you need to ski to enjoy the sights—and heights—of Western Canada? If you’re craving a different kind of high-altitude adventure, check out these awesome mountain experiences.
CANMORE WINTER CARNIVAL
Bring the kids and enjoy art workshops, live performances and ice-skating—all that, plus you’ll get front-row seats to two World Cup events, biathlon and cross-country skiing, which take place during this year’s carnival. Feb. 1-March 13
Alberta’s frozen lakes are the perfect site for ice sailing, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: gliding across frozen surfaces on specially made iceboats. Ghost Lake—along the Bow River at the foothills of the Rockies, 30 minutes west of Calgary—is a popular site for the sport.
BANFF WILDLIFE WINTER TOUR
Embark on this professionally guided tour of Banff’s majestic winter wildlife. Available from December to April, this three-hour jaunt will get you up to speed on the history of the Bow Valley—while you keep your eyes peeled for cold-weather critters. Hotel pickup is available, and tours include hot chocolate and a light snack, as well as binoculars to better spot the animals.
HORSE-DRAWN SLEIGH RIDES
There’s no better way to turn your vacation into a full-blown movie set than to embark on a horse-drawn sleigh ride through snowy hills. At Banff’s Brewster Adventures, you can be whisked away by a team of horses following a trail that runs beneath the spectacular Victoria Glacier. Rides last 45 minutes, and blankets are provided for an extra cozy ride.
If skiing and snowboarding don’t get your adrenaline pumping, try zooming through the mountains on a snowmobile. Banff Adventures offers full-day guided snowmobile tours—including lunch and all the equipment you’ll need—and lets you choose whether you want to drive the machine yourself or sit back and watch the scenery whiz by. Prices range from $99 for a child passenger to $435 for experienced snowmobilers to try their hand at an advanced “back country” tour.
BANFF MOUNTAIN FILM & BOOK FESTIVAL
This fall festival is a celebration of mountain-inspired literature and film, featuring lectures, screenings, author signings, and readings. Perfect for nature- and culture-lovers alike. Oct. 29-Nov. 6
SKATING ON LAKE LOUISE
It doesn’t get more scenic than the natural ice rink of Lake Louise, sparkling and surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Best of all, this rink is totally free. If you haven’t got your own pair of skates, there are plenty of sports equipment stores that will rent them out—try SnowTips, which offers skates for $14/ day, or Wilson Mountain Sports, for $12/ day.
For a summer-specific mountain adventure, try the thrill of white-water rafting on Jasper’s Fraser River. This trip is available to anyone age 12 and up, but it’s not for the faint of heart: it begins with a short portage before you hop in and head down Class-3 rapids (an intermediate level). Professional guide, life vest, and helmet are provided.
You don’t need to know how to ride to book a horseback riding tour through the Spray River Valley—after this epic seven-hour ride, you’ll be a certified cowboy or cowgirl. The pros at Banff’s Warner Stables will get you comfortable on your horse before you head off for a guided tour, including a midday break for a barbecue lunch.
SNOWSHOEING AT MARMOT MEADOWS
The trails of Jasper National Park are the perfect winter playground. The park’s Marmot Meadows Winter Hub provides equipment and offers snowshoeing excursions for all ages and skill levels—on weekends, you can take hour-long lessons or strap on a pair and set out in search of animal tracks.