(Written by Canada native, Celine Brewer)
We are from Calgary, Alberta and have spent most of our weekends travelling to the mountains around Banff National Park. Recently, we made the plunge into full time mountain living and are excited to continue to explore this amazing area all year round. Our kids are still young, so we are just dipping our toes into some of these activities with them, but we are excited to do more as they get older.
So, while it might seem that most people are trying to get away from the cold Canadian winter, this is one of our favourite times of year in the mountains. Whether your kids have spent their lives enjoying snow or seeing it for the first time, Canmore, Kananaskis Provincial Park and Banff National Park have a multitude of activities to keep the entire family active outside.
For all these activities in the mountains, know the risks. Educate yourselves on potential dangers (i.e. dressing for the climate, wildlife encounters, avalanches, etc.) before you go.
Snowshoeing is an excellent activity for the whole family and really only requires some warm clothing and snowshoe rentals. Once you have the snowshoe rentals in hand, the options are endless. When choosing your trail consider your desired level of difficulty, as you can get a great workout or keep it low impact and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
If it’s your first time out on snowshoes, try picking a shorter trail that is well used. This will help everyone get the hang of it. From there you can venture onto longer trails or those that are used less frequently. Keep in mind that if the trail is not well used or if there has been a recent snowfall, you might be breaking the trail yourself. This will be hard work!
If you have very young children or a baby, snowshoeing is still an option with either a baby carrier or a backpack carrier. Ensure your baby or toddler is well dressed for the winter conditions, as they will not be generating heat sitting in the carrier.
Here is a list of trails to get you started.
2. Skiing or Snowboarding
Whether you are a seasoned skier or even if you’ve never been skiing or snowboarding before, this is a fun experience for the whole family. With the ski hills providing lessons for all ages and abilities, every member of your family can enjoy a day on the hill. You will also be able to get your rentals at the ski hill.
If you are travelling with very young children, inquire with the hill to see if there is a day care available. For example, Sunshine near Banff offers their Tiny Tiger’s Daycare.
3. Hike to a Frozen WaterfallThere are several options in the area to hike to a frozen water fall. One of the most popular hikes in the warmer seasons around Banff is to hike to the falls in Johnston Canyon. This can be even more enjoyable in the winter as the crowds will be less and the frozen falls can be quite spectacular to see. Bring along some hot chocolate and snacks to keep kids motivated to hike.
Though this is not a difficult hike, check the conditions to determine if shoe spikes may be required for better traction. These can be purchased or rented in town. Again, a baby carrier will work for very young children.
4. Cross Country Skiing
Cross country skiing is another outdoor activity the whole family can enjoy. We recommend starting out at the Canmore Nordic Centre where you can get both rentals and lessons. Have a toddler or baby? You’ll also find you can rent toddler skis and a pulk (sled to pull your baby) here.
The advantage of this is you can take part in other winter activities here as a family, like ice skating, tobogganing and snowshoeing.
5. Outdoor Ice Skating
Ice skating is a fun family activity that can be enjoyed almost anywhere. What makes it more special here is being able to do it outside on a frozen pond with a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. You can find several options for outdoor ice skating in both Canmore and Banff. The free skating rink at the world-famous Banff Springs hotel is a wonderful family experience as well.
Though not required, helmets are recommended. We don’t recommend ice skating while carrying a baby (and yes, we’ve seen it done), so you may need to switch off or look into buying/renting a sled that you can pull your baby along behind you.
6. Relax in Outdoor Hot Springs
After all the outdoor activity, warm up at the Banff Upper Hot Springs. The hot springs are located in the town of Banff and are one of the most popular attractions.
Relax in the hot pool outside and take in the mountain views. With water temperatures between 37 and 40C (98-104F) your weary muscles will thank you for it. There really is no better way to end the day after being active outside. Similar to ice skating, this activity is not recommended for small children.
Regardless of which activities you choose, you will be rewarded with stunning scenery the entire time. One added benefit of visiting in 2017 is free entry to the National Parks, to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.
– Written by Celine Brewer, co-owner of Baby Can Travel, a site dedicated to supporting and encouraging young families to continue to travel. Celine and her husband have written five travel guides specifically for parents travelling with young children to some of the top cities in the world (Paris, London, NYC & Barcelona). Baby Can Travel is all about giving parents the tips, tricks and tools to be confident in traveling with their babies. You can follow Baby Can Travel on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. All photos by Celine Brewer.
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