Winter in Alberta: Our Little Trip
Spending so much time in new Zealand with my partner had me thinking this year. Why doesn’t he come home for Christmas to spend a snowy month in Alberta with me? I have always been a sucker for a white Christmas in Alberta (home) so I knew he would fall in love with it as well.
Lucky for me, I am well acquainted with winter in Alberta so I decided to plan us a week long itinerary for the National parks. With the help of Travel Alberta I came up with this 5 night/6 day trip in the beautiful winter Rockies with Geoff.
Day One: Arrive In Calgary
Calgary is the best port of entry for the Canadian Rockies if you are traveling from abroad. It is the closest large city to Banff National Park and has the best options for flights and car rentals. Geoff and I drove from Calgary to Banff for out first night. We didn’t have much time that evening but if you do there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat. I recommend Nourish, Geoff and I are both plant based so this place was the go for us but even if you are not vegan it is still amazing food with great portions. I also recommend Park or The Tavern. Some of the best in Banff all with variety of choices.
We checked into the newly renovated Mount Royal Hotel for two nights as we had a jam packed few days ahead. The lovely accommodation suited us great with being right downtown to all the Banff Shops. It was great to walk out the door and grab a coffee or dinner without always having to drive around. I loved showing Geoff around the candy stores and clothing shops as the spirit of Christmas was all around us. He was surprised at all the snow piled up around the town, something this kiwi isn’t very accustomed to!
Day Two: Dogsled, Skating and HI Tea
It was an early start for us to drive out to Lake Louise for some dog sledding to start our day. Before anything however I never miss a stop at The Trailhead to grab a couple breakfast wraps. Oh how I dream of these wraps.
After some food we went up to the staging area for the sledding. Geoff looked at me excited as this was his first time dog sledding and we could hear the dogs barking ready to go. We went with Kingmik Dogsled Tours as it is the only one operating out of Lake Louise. It was amazing to meet all the dogs and learn about their personalities. Geoff and I got cozy in the dog sled as the mushed away down the great divide trail. Usually you can drive your own sled, however conditions were unusually warm that day and it was unsafe for guests to drive. Apparently the brakes don’t work as well in wet snow. We still had a lovely time watching the dogs and chatting with our musher. How can you not love being surrounded by sixty puppies!
After dog sledding we went up to Lake Louise to lace up for some skating. Geoff has never skated so I was a bit concerned about how it would work out but as always he surprises me with new activities. We had a blast skating around as I tried to teach him to stop on the ice. That was one thing he has yet to master because each time he spun around in a circle! He did better than I thought though and we soon headed in to Fairmont Lake Louise for HI tea. I have always wanted to try HI tea and you need to make a reservation in advance. It is so fancy and something I don’t do all the time but we thought we would treat ourselves. They brought us into a great beautiful room with the famous Lake Louise view, it was an incredible backdrop. We picked our teas and were treated to scones, whip cream, custards, finger sandwiches and a decadent buffet of desserts. I actually loved this experience, a must do if you love food (who doesn’t?!).
We headed home for the night as I took Geoff down a couple of roads to show him the area. We got so lucky we got to see a moose and two calves! She was licking salt off a service road nearby. We watched her for a while before we lost the light of the day and headed back to our hotel.
Day 3: Skiing and Storm Mountain
We started the day much the same as the one before. Drove to Lake Louise, went to the trailhead and then we went to the ski hill! I have skied my whole life but Geoff has only done a little bit of snowboarding. We drove up to Ski Louise, one of the prettiest ski hills I know of! Geoff got his rentals from the gear lodge and it was so quick and easy. Everyone was so helpful. We started the day up the Gondola and got ready to find some fresh powder. We started off to the backside and found some amazing spots to ski! The larch still had some needles left so it made it even more beautiful. Geoff again impressed me with how well he could snowboard. It must come easier to guys to pick up stuff?! We had an amazing day only stopping for a quick hot chocolate at the lodge. Then we made it until the chairs closed. I think I got him hooked on winter!
After skiing there is nothing I love more than a hot bath and a warm meal. Lucky for us our next stop was Storm Mountain Lodge. These are the cutest historic cabins you will ever find! They were built over 100 years ago to encourage public to the railway tourism. The cabins speak for themselves and yes they have adorable little fireplaces and bear claw bathtubs! The food at Storm Mountain is also a must. We enjoyed a beautiful three course meal that was so delicious I wish it was easier to eat there every night. You must make a reservation however, it gets incredibly busy because the food is so nice! We woke up to heavy snow and it felt like magic being there as I walked to the main lodge to fill up my coffee. What a wonderland.
Day Four: Icefields Parkway and Jasper
Sadly you can’t control the weather in the Rockies and heavy snow was in the forecast for our drive to Jasper. We may have missed the incredible mountains of the parkway as we drove in the whiteout but boy did the snow make it feel so magical. The Waterfalls along the way also looked marvelous in the blanket of snow. We drove carefully and made it to Jasper in time for dinner. Hungry for the Jasper Curry Place we were sadly disapointed to see it was closed for winter, but we settled for Earls instead to fill our bellies. We then headed to Jasper Park Lodge for the next two nights.
This accommodation is one of the best in Jasper because everything is at your fingertips. They have a miniature village of cafes, spa and endless outdoor activities. You can rent everything from skates to skis to satisfy the winter cravings. We settled into our beautiful room onlooking one of the lakes and planned our next day in Jasper.
Day Five: Jasper, Ice walking and Skating
I woke up excited for sunrise in Jasper. I love this area because it is amazing in summer but has a certain sparkle in winter. Everything looks so fresh and new in snow. I enjoyed a bit of fresh air walking to the main lodge to get my coffee fix. A few elk were outside the room (as they are in Jasper). After waking Geoff up we packed and headed to Pyramid Lake for sunrise. Sadly the clouds blocked the sun so we went for breakfast instead. During that time the sun arrived and made spectacular views of Pyramid mountain.
I wanted to drive to Maligne Lake and snowshoe down the lake a bit to get a view of some of the most incredible mountains so we drove off in that direction. There were no shortage of stops as we enjoyed breathtaking views at Medicine Lake and along the way. As we approached Maligne Lake we realized sadly that the valley was socked in with weather and there would be no big mountains visible. We explored around instead taking in the fresh mountain air. We headed back to Maligne Canyon for some ice walking which is always good for photos and fun.
The weather was pretty warm in Jasper for Ice walking in early December so it may be wise to ask or hire a guide. Lucky or us we followed a guided group just to the main part of the canyon until we didn’t feel safe to continue. It was breathtaking and we had a blast looking up at the massive walls carved by water.
We ended the night with a night skating session at the Jasper Park Lodge. Little oil candles lit the way around the rink and it was so much fun gliding through the dark together. Afterwards we treated ourselves to the best tasting toffee pudding in the Lodge restaurant. We earned it!
Day Five: Stops along the way to Mt. Engadine Lodge
We headed back to Canmore from Jasper on this day. Sadly it was still snowing heavily so again the parkway was a whiteout. We still enjoyed checking out the parkway and the beautiful ice fields along the way and even helped a lady get unstuck from a snow drift. We made it back to Lake Louise for more trailhead (can’t not).
Geoff and I explored Canmore a bit. A beautiful town any time of the year it is only a ten minute drive from Banff. I got some Christmas shopping done at Rocky Mountain Soap Company, a local soap maker with the best natural beauty care products!
We then went to one of my favorite places in the Rockies, Mt Engadine Lodge. I love this place because of the home like feel. They have small quaint rooms and newly added glamping tents. The atmosphere is beautiful with frienedly faces and fireplaces all around to get cozy by. They also love to feed you here so that may be part of my love for this place! Afternoon tea, dinner, breakfast and lunch is all included in the stay. You get to eat with the other guests and learn about everyone’s journey. I love staying at least a night here. There are hundreds of close hiking, skiing and snow shoeing trails in this area so it’s easy to stay busy. The view is stunning as well. I always enjoy spending time out here.
Day six: Explore and Home
We finished up our trip with a bit of exploring in Kananaskis after a huge Mt. Engadine breakfast no less. Beautiful big mountains and lakes kept us busy shooting photos and playing until we took our packed lunch on the road home.
The winter season was a hit with Geoff and he can’t stop talking about snowboarding again! I love traveling in winter because of three main reasons, it’s quiet from tourists, it’s cheaper in the off season and it’s so incredibly beautiful in the mountains with snow. There is never a shortage of fun at any time of the year in Alberta.