I always thought snowshoeing was kind of lame. I mean, the ethos of the sport is approachability, after all. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Yawn. But then I went on a totally rad trail in Banff National Park, and had to back down from my hard-ass opinion (something I loathe to do). Now I’m all about the snowshoe.
A gal’s gotta give credit where credit is due. Snowshoeing in Banff is actually pretty rad. I strapped on a snowshoe with White Mountain Adventures at Sunshine Village. It turned out to be an alfresco adventure like no other.
Snowshoe in Banff
There’s a lot of winter and spring activities you can do in Banff, but this is one of my faves. The snowshoes are providied. All you have to do is show up in winter gear (wear your warmest winter boots) with water and a camera and you’re good to go. Here’s all you need to know about the snowshoe scene in Banff.
1. It doesn’t suck
You’ll be walking through a true winter wonderland during the two hour excursion. Whereas with skiing there’s a barrier to entry (skill and cash), anyone can snowshoe and the views in Banff National Park are out of this world.
2. You get to play in a lot (and I mean A LOT) of powder
This is a deal because most snowshoe trails are packed down. Any skier or boarder can tell you powder = FUN and so it is for snowshoeing as well. There’s so much powder here because you’ll be up at a higher elevation – near the actual downhill ski trails. You’re snowshoeing around areas that skiers would love to get into, but too bad for them, they can’t.
3. Snow slides are way more fun than playground slides
The snowshoeing trail you take when signing up for snowshoeing at Sunshine Village is mostly downhill. Some parts are fairly steep, meaning: way better to slide than stomp. Rushing down natural slides totally gets the adrenaline going, as these babies have an incline waaay steeper than what you’ll find at the playground.
4. You follow the same trail summer hikers do
This snowshoe adventure begins in Banff National Park, crosses the Continental Divide into British Columbia and spends a bit of time in Assiniboine Provincial Park, before heading back to Alberta. How cool is that? It’s also pretty rad walking over benches buried deep in the snow and tromping across frozen lakes, their bridges barely visible.
5. Head here for larches
On this tour you’ll pass by an area known as Larch Valley. Why hike shoulder to shoulder with the masses in Lake Louise, when you can come to this tranquil spot? Hike here in autumn and you’ll be privy to hundreds of larch needles turning golden in the peace and quiet. Here’s all you need to know about doing this secret larch hike.
6. You’ll fall in love with winter all over again
Tromping through the crisp, clean, whiter than white snow, you may wonder, as I did, why you don’t get outside more often. Though it remained a solid -12 Celsius during our hike, it didn’t feel it. Maybe it was because we were exercising, but the invigorating air also stimulates the senses, making you feel very much alive.
7. Canon-balling off a cliff is like jumping into marshmallow fluff
Probably the best part about snowshoeing behind Sunshine is they have all these great little cliffs you can barrel off of. Our guide, Adrienne knew just the right spots and so we went for it. We each took a running leap and hurled ourselves into the air landing in clouds of fluffy snow.
8. Walking meditation is great for chatty minds
Quiet beauty makes mindfulness less of a chore. All is still in the snowcapped woods. It’s just you and nature and the occasional pine marten. Thoughts came fast and furious as I started the trek, but then a curious thing happened. I just let them go. One by one they flittered off into the frosty air, as I took in my surroundings and concentrated on just enjoying the moment.
9. Having a guide is a good thing
This isn’t the type of hike you’d want to do on your own. Why? Well, you’re in avalanche country for starters. And it snows so much here, you’d be hard pressed to find your way if they got a recent dump of snow (which they get frequently). Our guide, Adrienne was totally laid back and knowledgable. I almost forgot she was working and we weren’t BFFs.
10. Fondue is the perfect ending to any winter adventure
After our robust two hour hike, we shed our gear and cozied up fireside at Creekside Restaurant in the Sunshine Mountain Lodge. As the flames warmed our rosy cheeks, we speared cubes of bread (yes they have gluten-free!) and plunged them deep inside pots bubbling with melted cheese. Add a brew or gluhwein, and your day could only be made better if they let you have a nap then and there.
Have you ever gone snowshoeing? Where are your favourite spots?
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