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When spring is in the air, but there’s still patches of snow and ice on ground it’s officially shoulder season. Shoulder season in the mountains is great because you can still knock off lots of winter activities, plus a few summer ones, too. Spring in Banff National Park, Lake Louise, Canmore and Jasper is awesome because the crowds have dissipated. Better still, you’ll find a fair number of specials and discounts to lure you into Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. And there are so many things to do in Canmore, too! Here are over 20 activities and adventures in the Alberta Rockies you won’t want want to miss out on.
Spring in Banff National Park
- You’ve probably wandered the path along Johnston Canyon, but exploring it at night on an ice walk with either Discover Banff Tours or White Mountain Adventures is a surreal experience, especially for dark sky lovers. It’s one of my favourite natural attractions and is something everyone visiting Banff National Park should do.
- Yes, there’s still stashes of snow in the mountains! Take a guided snowshoeing tour though Sunshine Meadows and discover patches of the ski resort you never knew existed.
- Think you know Banff? I bet you’ll discover some new haunts on the Discover Banff and Wildlife tour that operates year-round. Guides take to you to the very best spots for wildlife photos, which sure beats hoping you catch a glimpse from the highway.
- Survive shoulder season by focusing on the 3 Ps: pins, pints and pizza. High Rollers is Banff’s latest hipster hotspot. Despite boasting 48 taps, this beer hall/bowling alley is family friendly until 10pm.
5. Keep the good times rolling with a distillery tour and flights of vodka at Park Distillery. I loved the vibe at this kitschy Canadian restaurant, and their cocktails are something special. (Cougar milk = come to mama.)
6. Wouldn’t you just love to be able to see bears and cubs poking their heads out of their lairs? Take to the friendly skis on an helicopter sightseeing tour and you just might! Alpine Helicopters whisks you high above tree-line for jaw dropping vistas of mountains, meadows and turquoise rivers. You will be able to snag the most beautiful photos!
7. Mosey through the back woods on horseback with Banff Trail Riders. Their one hour Bow River Ride typically begins the end of April (other trail rides start up early May) and takes you to beautiful spots within the National Park.
8. Spring skiing is the very best kind of skiing. It doesn’t get much better than cruising down the slopes in balmy weather with soft snow underneath. Slush Cup at Sunshine Village is an event not to be missed, through the Saturday and Sunday of the May long weekend are just as fun. Have you tried the sushi and ski experience at Lake Louise Ski Resort? The sushi at Kuma Yama is getting rave reviews! Be sure to head here April 27 for their Shake the Lake party.
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9. When’s the last time you hit the hot springs? Soothe sore muscles at Banff Upper Hot Springs. After your soak, grab a bite to eat in the cafe. It’s licensed… The springs are all natural thermal water, so expect to feel oh-so relaxed afterwards. It’s like a mini vacation.
10. There are many ways to seek natural serenity in the mountains, but surely yoga in the great outdoors is the most relaxing. Taking place May 24-26, Banff Yoga Festival is a three day event with sessions that go beyond downward dog. Try raw cooking, meditation and even organic wine tasting! There’s no better way to relax in a beautiful mountain setting.
11. Then there’s the Mindfulness, Meditation and Yoga Spring Retreat takes places at the swish Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. If you read Trip Advisor, you’ll know this is one of the Rockies more premier hotels. (Their sister hotel is the Fairmont Banff Springs.) There are several spring weekends to choose from. You’ll learn how to live in the moment, while enjoying luxury meals and sleeping in a swish hotel.
12. If you’re on vacation in Banff with kids, check out the many family friendly activities in Banff National Park.
Things to do in Canmore
13. The premier event for anyone who loves their food and wine, Canmore Uncorked is one of those laid-back events that thankfully isn’t foodie pretentious. There’s a ton of experiences and set prices menus that range from $5-$40. It runs April 25 to May 5.
14. Ever been spelunking? An entire world lies beneath the surface, and Canmore Cave Tours operates all year long. Test your limits as you sample caving and rappelling on a range of tours and courses. (If I had to pick, this is one of my favourite things to do in Canmore!)
15. Families can lose an entire day inside Elevation Place. Head here for an indoor climbing gym (with smaller pitches for little climbers), plus a pool with a waterslide, lazy river and tons of large floaty toys.
16. Golf is usually cheaper at the start of the season. Besides boasting a world class course, Silvertip Resort has a fabulous brunch at their restaurant, Rustica.
17. If you’ve spent much time in Canmore, you’ve likely thrown back a few beers at The Grizzly Paw. Their new production facility offers brewery tours Friday to Sunday, and it includes samples! This is one of the best date things to do in Canmore! And if you’re into spirits, check out the tours and tastings at Wild Life Distillery.
18. It seems odd to be hiking in March or April, but many years it’s totally doable. Stick to lower elevations for trails clear of snow.
19. It’s hard to find a green spa, but Verde Day Spa is one of them. They’ve got several locations in Canmore and even one at Sunshine Village to melt away city stressors. I head here for facials, massage and even waxing. (I don’t know what it is about their wax, but I swear it hurts less.) With tricked out showers, be sure to book an extra 15-minutes after your treatment so you can freshen up while getting pummelled at the same time. Check out what else you can do at Sunshine Village that doesn’t involve skiing.
Things do in Jasper
20. I bet you didn’t know Jasper had a pride festival. They’ve got over 20 fun events from skiing to line dancing, a Burlesque show and family activities – all during the April 25-28 festival.
21. Your ears may pop as you ascend up Whistlers Mountain on the Jasper SkyTram, but the 360° views are second to none. This is the highest and longest aerial tramway in Canada.
22. For an adrenaline jolt like no other, link up with Rocky Mountain Canyoning. During canyon repel excursions, you’ll get to suss out areas that seem totally inaccessible. Descending down deep gorges using ropes to control your movements is a rush you won’t soon forget.
23. Have you started running outdoors? Jasper’s half-marathon takes place April 13.
24. Spring skiing at Marmot Basin is super fun, especially if you’re breaking out the coconut bras during their annual Aloha Cup on April 20.
25. It’s almost time to hit the water! In late April, you can paddle across Jasper’s prettiest lakes or brave the river rapids on guided trips with Wild Current Outfitters.
What are your favourite shoulder season activities to do in the mountains?