8 Alternatives to Downhill Skiing

7 Alternatives to Downhill Skiing in Alberta Resorts

The Northern Lights at Vermilion Lakes (Credit Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Paul Zizka)

Winter in Alberta: you either hate it or embrace it. I do my best to love it, but admittedly, it can be hard when the windchill factor makes going outside unbearable. Fortunately, we’ve been blessed with fairly mild temps this season, so I’ve gotten a good number of alfresco adventures under my belt. The great thing about Alberta is that you don’t have to be a skier or boarder to get that adrenaline rush when you’re in the great outdoors. Check out these 8 great alternatives to downhill skiing in Alberta.

Snowshoeing in Banff National Park

What to do in winter if you don't ski

That’s me, barrelling off a cliff at Sunshine (Photo credit: Leigh McAdam of HikeBikeTravel.com)

Take a historic snowshoe tour following the footsteps of the First Nations at Sunshine Village. Though snowshoeing is easy, it’s not a lame walk in the park. You’ll get to dive into ultra deep puffs of powder, before whizzing down natural snow slides so fast you’ll think you’re bobsledding. Here’s a look at my experience romping through Sunshine Meadows last month. Lake Louise Ski Resort also offer snowshoeing excursions as does White Mountain Adventures at Fortress.

Tubing at Mount Norquay, Banff

winter tubing

It’s a race to the finish! (Photo Credit: Mount Norquay)

Got a need for speed? Want to feel the wind rushing through your hair as you barrel down a mountain? You’re in luck! Both Mount Norquay and Lake Louise offer tube parks at their resorts. Tubing is a cheaper alternative to skiing and is a great option if some of your brood want to tackle the slopes, while the others just wanna have fun.

Where to sled (or toboggan if you’re Canadian) in Canmore

cross country lodge

Behind the main lodge at the Nordic Centre is a rad toboggan hill (Credit Tourism Canmore/Kananaskis)

Calgarians know sledding is a serious issue, man! Since it’s come to light you’re only allowed to sled in designated parks, families need to select their hill accordingly or risk breaking the law. I love the purpose-built toboggan hill at the Canmore Nordic Centre. It’s got plenty of lanes, some bumps for speed demons and gentle slopes for the young ‘ens. There’s a cafe onsite and also a wee-skating rink. 

Ice Skating near Banff, Calgary and Canmore

two girls on outdoor ice rink

There’s a lovely pond just off downtown Canmore, behind Communitea (Photo Credit: Tourism Canmore/Kananaskis

There are so many romantic outposts in the Rockies for a spot of ice skating, it’s a wonder I don’t see more couples out. The ice castle at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is an obvious choice, as is the pond at Delta Lodge at Kananaskis and the big rink on Banff Avenue, on the grounds of their High School. My favourite skating spots in the Rockies are more secluded. I recommend hitting up Spray Lakes or Carrot Creek if you’re looking for some solitude.

Sleigh Rides in Banff

horse drawn sleigh ride

This is one of my favourite ways to explore Lake Louise (Photo credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Paul Zizka)

Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh….Turn Jingle Bells into reality with an invigorating journey through the Rockies. Sleigh rides can be had in both Banff and Lake Louise, either with friends or in a small cutter sleigh built for two. Snuggle down under a buffalo robe, as you clip clop your way through a crystalized alpine meadow, while fondling remembering Laura Ingalls and all those romantic rides she took with Manly. 

Winter Hiking in Banff National Park

Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon is magical in winter (Photo credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism)

Hiking in summer is fine and all, but let’s be honest, the bugs, the sweat, the crowds…. It can be a bit much, if you’re a slacker like me. Winter hiking is a much more pleasant, peaceful experience. There’s a great trail from the parking lot at Mount Norquay that takes under two hours to complete and any paved trails are fair game. If you’ve never seen a frozen waterfall, consider trekking along Johnston Canyon. You’ll be amazed at the ribbons of frozen water twisted into icy sculptures. 

Ice Sculptures at Lake Louise

ice magic ice castle

When you live close to an ice castle it’s a real shame if you can’t visit (Photo credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism)

Just because the Ice Magic Festival is over, doesn’t mean it’s not worth the trip to Lake Louise. These whimsical works of frosty art are still on display on the grounds of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise until winter’s end. Take a tour, bring your camera and for heaven’s sake, don’t forget your skates. How many opportunities in life does one get to twirl around an ice castle, after all?

Dog Sledding in Banff and Canmore

Dog sledding in Banff National Park

Mush! (Photo credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Paul Zizka)

Can there be anything more exciting than surging though the deeply cleaved Bow Valley behind a team of wild dogs? OK, the dogs aren’t wild, but they are super fast and crazy keen, just raring to go. Some outfits let you drive, others nestle you inside the sled so you can let others do the work. Whatever way you roll, you’re sure to get a major adrenaline rush. Tip: don’t stuff your pockets with beef jerky.

So, what have I missed? What are your favourite outdoor winter activities?

P.S. You also might enjoy reading:

5 Reasons to get to Lake Louise this winter

Carrot Creek: Banff’s Secret Skating Spot

About the Author:

I’m a freelance writer with bad hair, a loud mouth and a serious case of wanderlust. Whether it’s luggage, time or just life, I cram as much as possible into small compartments. Warning: Contents may shift during flight. My life is one bumpy ride! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest.

16 Comments

  1. Mae 06.02.2015 at 19:15 - Reply

    Great ideas. I am not a downhill skier but I do get outdoor in the winter. I just wish we had dog sledding in my area. Maybe I will make it up to Canada one of these days.

    • Jody 07.02.2015 at 10:30 - Reply

      If you’re from the US, I bet they have dog sledding there, too. Thanks so much for dropping by, Mae!

  2. You are such a slacker Jody but that won’t stop me from taking you out this summer on an epic hike somewhere in Banff NP!

    • Jody 07.02.2015 at 10:17 - Reply

      I will hold you to it!

  3. Allison 09.02.2015 at 16:19 - Reply

    Utah offers many of these activities in the winter too! Even if you do love skiing, these are all a lot of fun.

  4. […] If you’re on the hunt for a picturesque place to make lasting memories with your sweetheart, check out these 10 romantic getaways in Canada’s National Parks. (Or if you want to stay close to home check out these awesome alternatives to downhill skiing in Alberta.) […]

  5. Claudia Laroye 12.02.2015 at 10:00 - Reply

    I love snowboarding, but I love all of your non-skiing suggestions too. There’s so much fun to be had during winter in Canada!

  6. Colleen Lanin 12.02.2015 at 12:54 - Reply

    I am not a huge skier (though I will do a half-day of skiing the slopes) but I do love the outdoors and playing in snow. These are great suggestions. Also: snow ball fights, building snowmen & making snow angels…especially with kids!

  7. Penny Sadler 25.02.2015 at 19:31 - Reply

    Wow! Ok, I admit I am NOT a winter person so you’ve really accomplished something here. I actually want to try some of these things. Especially snow shoeing, sledding, inner tubing, and if I could skate that thing around the ice castle, che romantice!

    • Jody 25.02.2015 at 19:45 - Reply

      Would love to see you out here in Alberta one day Penny!

  8. Gran Canaria Local 26.02.2015 at 12:20 - Reply

    Living in Gran Canaria, we miss these snowsports. Sure, we have ice skating over the festive period. Along with German Christmas markets. Although, glühwein doesn’t taste as good when the temperature’s around the 20-degrees mark.

    • Jody 26.02.2015 at 13:37 - Reply

      I can’t believe you get an ice skating rink in the Gran Canaria. I love mulled wine so much, I’d probably still drink it in summer weather:)

  9. Meg Jerrard 26.02.2015 at 13:21 - Reply

    Sleigh rides look like so much fun! I’ve never been skiing before so I would love to try the next time I travel somewhere with the opportunity, but this is a great list of alternatives. Thanks for the inspiration!

  10. Molly 27.02.2015 at 08:03 - Reply

    I would love to have a go Snow shoeing and see the Ice Sculptures. The sleigh ride also looks fabulous too.

  11. Sanjana @ Green Global Travel 05.04.2015 at 21:35 - Reply

    Great list of alternatives for people that don’t like skiing and would like to experience the wonderful snow!

  12. trekking Nepal 29.12.2015 at 21:17 - Reply

    fantastic photos and snow memories

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