You’re doing everything at home these days, so outside time is key to keeping your kids (and you) happy and healthy. Winter activities are everywhere in Alberta, for all ages, and most of them are free or low cost. Check out our winter-friendly outdoor guide below.
Here is a rundown of what to do with your kiddos out in the fresh air for the cooler months.
Are you a wild ice skater or do you prefer skating at public ice rinks? Skating is one of the cheapest winter activities you can do in Alberta. Skating is also a great cardio exercise to keep the whole family in shape (and get fresh air).
Many of Alberta’s wild ice adventures, like ice skating on frozen lakes and ponds, are in Banff and Kananaskis. Check out this blog for a great review of wild mountain skating.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Yamnuska Nature Areas (Bow Valley Wildland Park)
- Lake Minnewanka
Tip: Always remember to measure the ice thickness before you skate or walk on the ice, even when others are already on the ice. If you don’t know how to measure the ice properly, please check out this guide.
If you can’t escape the cold, why not embrace it? Ice fishing is a great way to introduce your kids to the exciting world of fishing in Alberta. You can get started with the basic gear:
- Ice Fishing Rod
- Ice Auger
- Lures or Bait (smelt, worms, or maggots … ew gross)
- Fishing license
You can also fish in style by renting the gear you need, including an ice shelter, heater, fish finder, and more. You can find gear rentals on Facebook Marketplace or Kijiji for around $150 for a full package.
It’s important to stay safe, so don’t head out onto the ice unless it’s at least 6 inches thick or more. Always check the weather and windspeed and dress appropriately.
There are some beautiful locations to ice fish in Alberta, including:
- Spray Lakes Reservoir
- Sylvan Lake
- Chain Lakes Reservoir
- Upper / Lower Kananaskis Lakes
You can find more locations and information about fishing in Alberta at:
You may love the speed of downhill skiing and snowboarding or prefer the slower pace of cross-country skiing. No matter what your choice, there are many ski trails and hills to choose from in the sunny province of Alberta.
Here are a few popular spots for:
- Sunshine Village
- Lake Louise Ski Resort
- Canmore Nordic Centre
- Jasper National Park
- Waterton Lakes
- Bow Valley Provincial Park
- Wapiti Nordic Ski Club
There are beautiful winter trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Ribbon Creek Snowshoe Trail in Kananaskis is a great example. Only about 45 minutes from Calgary, this gorgeous trail, which follows the creek, is great for beginner snowshoers (and walking if there was no snow the night before) and intermediate cross-country skiers. The snowshoe and skiing trails are different trails but start at the same parking lot. You can rent gear at many sports rental shops in the province well ahead of venturing out for your day.
Rawson Lake is another beautiful trail in Peter Lougheed park to snowshoe. Located just off Highway 40, it’s a prime spot in the warmer months but equally picturesque in the winter. It’s important to remember that the snowshoe trail in the winter is normally not the same as the walking trail in the summer.
For more snowshoeing trails, check out this great map to help you plan your day.
A few other suggestions:
- Chester Lake hike
- Troll Falls (great for the kids)
Remember, it’s very important to heed avalanche warning signs along your route.
Winter Hiking & Camping
Winter walks with glistening frozen waterfalls and snowy treelined views is a delight for many people in the colder months. Luckily in Alberta, there are plenty of groomed trails to discover for all fitness levels.
You will need to invest in ice cleats for most of the walks on the trails below, as there is either ice patches or long stretches of ice along the paths. Some trails you can snowshoe, sled or walk, so check the details of each trail before you go. A good app to check conditions and directions to the trailhead is AllTrails. You can also check out their website.
Tip: Before you plan your hiking day, be sure to check the popularity of the trail. You may be surprised at how busy these areas get on the weekends and holidays. Bring helmets for the ice trail adventure hikes, especially for the kids.
A few suggestions:
- Paddy’s Flat Interpretive Trail (Elbow Valley)
- Troll Falls and Upper Falls (Kananaskis)
- Johnstone Canyon (Banff)
- Grotto Canyon
If you’re on the more adventurous side or just love sleeping in the cold (bring your base layers), this section is for you. Although I don’t recommend camping outside with your kids, there are many cabins you can rent close to beautiful hikes and gorgeous mountain views.
The Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel at Ribbon Creek is steps away from the Ribbon Creek trail for skiing and snowshoeing. And you’ll already have a parking spot. The hostel has electricity, running water and many other amenities, so I would call it deluxe compared to some of the other hostels. Call ahead to book.
For additional hostel locations in Alberta, check out Hostel International Canada for hostels throughout Kananaskis, Jasper and Banff.
There are too many sledding hills to list here but sledding is a fun and enjoyable activity for kids of all ages.
What to Wear?
For help on what base layers to wear, check out this informative article.
So now you have no excuse not to get outside with your kids and have fun. Before you know it, spring will be here, and you’ll be shedding those outer layers and finding some new activities to do. Enjoy!