Affordable Family Day Options Close to Calgary

Are you like me and have nothing planned for the upcoming winter long weekend? How did Family Day creep up on us so quickly? Researching is my job, so I’ve gathered a few options beyond Banff for folks like me who want to do something, but not necessarily stay overnight. Here are my top picks for winter fun and mountain experiences close to Calgary. Wallet, you’re welcome.

Family Day around Calgary

Waterton town winter
Waterton looks like a sleepy toy village from Bear’s Hump hike.

Waterton in Winter

Waterton Lakes National Park just might be my favourite of all Canada’s national parks. It’s a gem of a spot, and in winter it’s super quiet. Most folks assume the town is closed. It’s not, but many of the businesses are boarded up. Still, nothing’s stopping you from hiking up Bear’s Hump or Bertha. And the Cameron Lake trails are legendary for snowshoeing and cross country skiing.

Waterton lakes national park winter
My artsy shot. (Photo credit: Robbins Rockstar)

Two resorts remain open – Waterton Lakes Lodge and Waterton Glacier Suites. Their pricing is crazy affordable for being a mountain resort town ($120-$170/night), and they usually have fun Family Day programming going on. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. Hundreds of elk – up to 500 at a time graze on the plains just before the Park gates. That’s something you won’t see in summer!

snowshoeing winter waterton national park
Admittedly, hiking up Bertha is a bit of a B….

Lake O’Hara Lodge and Foodie Field B.C.

I’ve always wanted to get to Lake O’Hara Lodge, but I didn’t know who I could do this excursion with. It’s 11 km in on cross country skis, and I suspect my family wouldn’t be up for it. Little did I know you can day trip in for lunch, and it’s slightly downhill for the return trip, so easy peasy. Sort of. Of course you can stay overnight at this luxurious, rustic backcountry lodge, but you don’t have to.

backcountry lodge snowshoes winter
My friend Leigh, who’s been everywhere, done everything raves about this place! (Photo credit: Leigh McAdam/

Those on a budget do well at Truffle Pigs Lodge in Field, B.C. (about a 20-minute drive from Lake Louise). Rooms at the Lodge start at $105 a night in winter, and you can opt for one with its own kitchen. Personally, I wouldn’t go for the kitchen, as Truffle Pigs Bistro is where you want to eat. Foodies from Banff and Canmore make the trek out here for dinner. Two-hour wait times aren’t uncommon (not too shabby for a restaurant in a community of only 180 people!), so call 250.343.6303 to make a reservation. Note: Currently open Thursday through Sunday.

Snowcat Day Trips at Island Lake Lodge

Island Lake Lodge has many decadent winter experiences, and snowcat day trips are their latest. You no longer have to pony up for an overnight stay to experience their world-renowned cat ski operation (though you won’t regret it if you do!). Now outdoor adventurers can enjoy day trips at this spectacular mountain lodge.

backcountry lodge winter
I dare you to think about work once ensconced here. (Photo credit: Island Lake Lodge)

For $69, you can take the snowcat up to this remote mountain lodge deep in the Lizard Range of the Canadian Rockies. Did I mention lunch is included in this price? After that, the choice is yours: snowshoeing, cross country skiing and spa treatments are all available.

backcountry snowshoeing winter
Just you and your thoughts in Fernie. Hopefuly that’s a good thing… (Photo credit: Island Lake Lodge)

Castle Mountain

This delightful ski hill near Pincher Creek has ski-in, ski-out rooms sub $130 on most weekends. Some even come with a bunk bed, so it’s possible to sleep five! Even if you just make a day trip out of it, it’s cheaper (and potentially closer for Calgarians) to ski at Castle than at most of the resorts around Banff. Check out our family’s experience at Castle here.

cat ski
Castle just got a dump of snow! (Photo credit: Alan Heidel)

Those hankering for super fresh powder should check out their Cat skiing excursions available Thursday to Saturday. It’s shed loads more affordable than heli-skiing, yet you still get fresh lines in knee deep pillowy snow. This Cat operation is different because it’s lift-assist, so you take the chair lift up first before meeting your Cat vehicle. Makes it less intimidating for intermediate skiers like me, who might want to opt out of a couple of runs. Who cares, right? It’s your money…

So what are your plans for the upcoming winter long weekend? I’d love to hear your suggestions as the huz is out of town and I’m looking for options.

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