Dragging yourself out of bed for a Zoom call isn’t exactly how we like to start our days. Getting out of bed to go cross-country skiing in Calgary, however, is an entirely different matter. Not only is it a great work out, but you don’t even have to head to the mountains to do it. We’ve got the best tips on where to ski, who’s offering lessons and how to get a hold of rentals, right here in the city.
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Cross Country Skiing in Calgary
Calgary is known for its skating and downhill ski options, but few people realize the many opportunities for cross country skiing in Calgary. Regardless of where you live in the city or if you own skis, it’s easy to take advantage of this excellent workout during the winter months.
No longer do you have to ski in tiny, un-groomed parks in your neighbourhood. Instead, you can check out some of our recommended track-set areas, free of charge.
Some quick ski tips: stay within the tracks so they last longer, pick up after yourself and leave the trails better than you found them. Dress in layers (you may feel hot quite quickly) and don’t forget to bring a headlamp if you’re skiing late afternoon or in the evening.
Groomed Ski Areas in Calgary
There’s several, lovely groomed areas in the city for cross country skiing. These trails are maintained by various organizations including Calgary Parks and the Foothills Nordic Ski Club. In pretty much every quadrant of the city, you’re sure to find a track-set trail to stride across.
West Confederation Park
With the closure of the cross-country trails at Canada Olympic Park, a new park needed to pick up the slack. The city chose West Confederation Park, located in the Northwest Neighbourhood of Collingwood. West Confederation Park has 7 km of classic trails for beginner to intermediate levels.
Confederation Park sports trails of varying length, making it easy to choose your desired length and difficulty. Skiing is free, but the trails are maintained by the Foothills Nordic Ski Club volunteers and they do take online donations.
For conditions and other information, head to Foothills Nordic. Parking is available in the parking lot and there’s a porta-potty on-site. Dogs are not allowed.
South Glenmore Park
In South Glenmore Park, you can ski upon the heavily trafficked Glenmore Reservoir Trail. It’s a popular, 15.3km loop that’s usually track set by the city.
There’s a lot of walking and snow-shoeing traffic on this loop, so it isn’t a quiet ski like you’ll find on the golf courses or in the mountains. However, you do get a beautiful view of the reservoir. The trail gains 293m in elevation. Here, can bring your dog with you, as long as it’s on a leash.
It seems like every year there’s a new activity to do at Bowness Park. This year, when you’re visiting the skating or ice bike pathways, don’t forget to bring your skis. Tracks are set by Calgary Parks and dogs are allowed in the park on a leash.
You can park on-site, but the park has been quite busy lately, so expect to pay if you’re parking off-site and walking in. There’s limits on numbers due to COVID-19, so be aware that you may have to wait. You can find Bowness park at 8900 48 Ave NW. Dogs are allowed but must be leashed.
Maple Ridge Golf Course
During the winter season, snow carpets the scenic Maple Ridge Golf Course. Maintained by the city, the snow is groomed and track-set, making it a capital spot to ski in south Calgary.
It’s a popular location, which makes sense, thanks to the variety of trails and easy access. Parking is only available on the street, so you may have to drive around a bit to find a spot. While you ski, you can look out over Deerfoot Trail and the valley that flanks the Bow River.
At the end of most weekends, the tracks are over skied and thin, so it’s often best to wait until they’re groomed every Tuesday. Dogs aren’t allowed.
Shaganappi Cross Country Skiing
One of the most popular routes in the city, Shaganappi cross country skiing is a no brainer. You’ll ski for free on the snow-quilted Shaganappi Golf Course. The golf course boasts 7km of public cross-country ski trails with amazing views of the city -especially downtown.
Skiing at Shaganappi is very beginner friendly and this spot is often used for ski lessons. There are 10 numbered pathways, making it easy to mix and match your loops. For beginners, check out the Western portion of the golf course.
The snow at Shaganappi is groomed and maintained by the Shaganappi Nordic Operations Club. To keep up with conditions, weather and other information, subscribe to the Shaganappi mailing list. Getting to the course is easy (it’s just off Bow Trail) and there’s tons of parking available. Note: Dogs aren’t allowed on the golf course.
East Village Cross Country Loop
Just in time for 2021, check out the new East Village loop, located at Fort Calgary. While this groomed cross-country trail is super short – at 1 km, you can loop it a few times and you can’t beat the trendy location. Reward yourself afterwards with a treat from Sidewalk Citizen and a warm bevy from Phil & Sebastian, both located in the Simmons building – a short walk west of the ski loop.
To access the loop, you can park in the Fort Calgary parking lot for $3 or find street parking in either Inglewood or Ramsay. There’s no rentals available on-site, but they do have an on-site waxing station.
The trail is groomed weekly and opens at 7 am until late at night. It’s not lit though, so be sure to bring a headlamp if you’re skiing after sundown. Dogs aren’t allowed on the trail.
Cross Country Ski Rentals Calgary
You don’t have to spend a fortune to buy skis in order to enjoy gliding through these city trails. Instead, check out these shops for cross country ski rentals in Calgary. During winter, these places can be quite busy and may sell out, so book or arrive early!
Due to COVID-19, many rental places have moved to online bookings, making it easier for you to know what’s in stock and get your hands on it on your own time. If you’re new to skiing, you may want to consider getting insurance on your skis. You can rent for one day or multiple days. Either way, make sure to check what time your skis are due back so you don’t incur extra charges.
Norseman Outdoor Specialist is one of the busiest rental locations in the city and operates on a first-come, first-serve basis. They offer cross country ski packages complete with boots, poles and skis. These packages range from $12-$25/day. They also offer multi-day rentals.
You can purchase some options online, but the stock isn’t updated, so you need to call or email to find out what’s in. If you plan to go in person, go early. If they can’t serve you that day, they’ll take your name and number to let you know when your slot is open. You can find them at 4655 37 St. SW, near Mount Royal University.
Life Sport Shop makes it easy to get your cross country ski package by ordering online. You can get packages that include skis, boots and poles, all for $19.99/day. The longer the rental, the better the discount! They also have kids ski packages for $11.99/day. If you’re looking to buy gear, you can do that here, too. Find them at 4711 85th Street NW.
The U of C Outdoor Centre is go-to spot for all kinds of sports rentals. You can order online and select the exact time that you’d like to pick up. Unlike some other places, their rentals aren’t sold in packages, so make sure you’re picking up all three pieces separately.
U of C also has no-wax skis, so you won’t have to worry about getting the right wax for the right temperature. You can rent skis for $8/day, poles for $2/day and boots for $8/day. If you aren’t sure about sizing, check out their online sizing chart to make sure you get the right gear.
Located on 16th Avenue NW, Sports Rent is a convenient place to grab your skis if you’re heading west to the mountains, as it’s right on the TransCanada Highway. Sports Rent offers a multiple options including adult packages (skis, poles and boots) for $25/day, junior packages for $20/day, skis only ($20/day), or boots only ($10/day).
The longer you rent for, the cheaper it is. One perk about renting here is that you can pick up your rentals the night before (any time after 4PM) at no-additional charge.
Calgary Cross Country Ski Lessons
Cross country skiing is easy to pick up, but you’ll enjoy it so much more with a quick lesson. Trust us, it’s waaay more fun once you figure out how to be efficient with your moves instead of flailing about à la Jody R. Thankfully, Calgary cross country ski lessons are available at several locations.
At Norsemen can rent your skis and learn about them, too. Norsemen offers everything from Stage 1: Technique basics to Stage 3: An all-day ski-tour to refine skills.
If you want to learn the basics of maintaining your equipment and choosing the right trails, try one of the equipment or waxing clinics for only $20. Receive a $20 store-credit for attending and put your new skills to work. Visit their website to book online.
XC YYC’s runs their lessons on the groomed trails at Shaganappi Golf Course. Choose between group lessons, semi-private and private options from beginner to advanced or get your instructor level. A one-off 1.5-hour lesson is a no brainer or take on a multi-day program to really hone in those skills. Visit their website to book your courses.
Full Circle Adventures partners with Norseman for their public lessons, but run private lessons through their own company. Private lessons can be purchased on their website and cost $225/person or $155/2 people. The lessons take place at a variety of locations including Confederation Park, Maple Ridge Golf Course, West Bragg Creek or Kananaskis Village. They also offer family and semi-private options.
At the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre, you can get your lessons and rentals all in one place. Start with the cross country seminar and learn how to wax skis and find gear to make your experience more enjoyable.
Next up, ski the scenic trails of Kananaskis Country(just an hour outside of the city), by taking the beginner class to learn gliding, striding and turning. Once you’re ready, you can extend your cross country journey all the way to racing. They also have some great options for kids.
Have you ever gone skiing in the city? Where are your favourite spots?
MORE WINTER ADVENTURES TO TRY:
A new, beginner cross country trail right in Banff
Best Banff winter activities
5 Spots near Calgary for a wee winter break
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Snowshoe parks in and around Calgary?
This is a good comment because this winter I’ve seen a lot of snowshoers go onto cross country skiing tracks (Goat Creek), which is a major no-no. I don’t know of any dedicated snowshoeing trails, but I’m asking some experts I know and will circle back if I hear anything.
I’m told that in the city your best bet would be finding stashes of powder in a city park or golf course. You closest option for snowshoeing (not 100% sure they have dedicated trails though), would be West Bragg Creek. Hope this helps. Jody (I’m logged in as my web developer, Joe:)