The Ultimate Car Camping Pack List

Includes our favorite gear!

The Best Short Hikes Near Calgary

1-4 km hikes less than 1 hour from Calgary!

10 Fun Family Bike Rides in Calgary

10 family-friendly bike routes that include tasty snack spots!

3 Family Hikes in Northwest Calgary

Waterfall Valley, Douglas Fir Trail, Nose Hill Park

Exploring Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Where to go, where to stay, and where to rent equipment!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Family Season's Passes at Nakiska & The Big 3

There are few things more thrilling than flying down a snowy slope on a bluebird Alberta day. Whether you board or ski, you know what I'm talking about! If you just can't get enough snow and speed in your life, it's time to take the next step and commit to a season's pass. Here's what you need to know before saying I do:
  • When does a Family Season's Pass save you money? 
  • How to save money if you have little kids, post secondary students, or ski infrequently.
  • Key Features of Nakiska, Norquay, Sunshine, and Lake Louise's Family Season's Passes. 
This post was NOT sponsored.


When Does a Family Season's Pass Save You Money?

A family season's pass is the best deal for families with 2 adults and at least one child 6-17 years old* provided you ski at least 10 times a season (at sale pricing)

If you have 2 children over the age of 6, your pass pays for itself in only 8 visits (at sale pricing)!* 

Single parents with 2 teenagers can save with a Family Season's Pass at Nakiska, Norquay, and Lake Louise at sale prices (and at Nakiska and the Big 3 at regular prices).

*Exceptions 
  • If your only child over 6 years old is eligible for the Grade 2 $20 Fun Pass (available at Nakiska, Sunshine and Lake Louise), it's more economical to purchase Adult passes and a Grade 2 Fun Pass.
  • The Nakiska Family Pass or Norquay 90 Family Pass pays for itself in only 4 visits at sale pricing!
  • The Lake Louise Parent Pass allows 2 parents to share a pass and receive a complimentary Beginner Fun Zone ticket for the other parent. One parent skis while the other teaches the kids to ski in the learning area! A great option for families with kids aged 0-5! 

Skiing is fun for the whole family!

Family Season's Pass FAQs

  1. What about kids under 6 years old? Kids under 6 ski free at our local ski hills, but if you are a frequent skier, you may wish to purchase a Tiger (0-5 yr old) Season's pass so you don't have to line up and get a lift ticket every time you ski.

  2. What if I have more than 2 kids over the age of 6? Mount Norquay, Sunshine and Lake Louise Family Season's Passes include all children under 17 that live with you. Nakiska's pass includes only 2 children, so you will need to purchase an additional child/youth/student pass (but this still works out to less than a family pass at Sunshine or Lake Louise). 

  3. What about kids over 17 years old? If you have Post secondary students (18-29 yrs old) at home with you as well as younger children, get a Student Add-On to your Family Season's Pass for about the same price as Youth passes. Non-students will need adult season's passes.

  4. How can I save money if I only ski a few times per season? 
    • The best deal by far is Mount Norquay's Toonie Days. Ski all day for $2 !
    • If you have a kid in Grade 4 or 5 and like to ski at different resorts during ski season, consider the Grade 4 & 5 Snowpass that lets your child ski 3 times at each participating location for $29.95. 
    • Purchase a discount card from your favorite ski hill. For little more than a daily lift ticket, you get your 1st, 4th, and 7th day of skiing free and discounts on other visits. Look at the Big Drop (Norquay), Lake Louise, RCR (Nakiska), or Sunshine cards.
    • Take advantage of coupons, Groupons, and Costco deals. Costco sells lift tickets to Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine for 20-30% off. 
    • The ADmazing Savings Ticket Pack (formerly Student Union Ticket Pack) also has coupons for Nakiska (50% off lift tickets) and Mount Norquay (2 for 1 lift tickets and rentals).
    • Look for hotel ski & stay deals. Several hotels in Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise bundle accommodation and lift tickets for great prices. 

Season's Pass Details for Nakiska and The Big 3

Now it's time to look at our local ski hills - Nakiska, Norquay, Sunshine, and Lake Louise - and what they have to offer.

Nakiska - Calgary's Closest Mountain

Nakiska is a family favorite due to its proximity to Calgary (<100 km!), great ski school, and beginner-friendly green runs. When you've mastered the basics, there are plenty of intermediate and advanced runs to carve. Adventurous skiers and boarders will love the Monster Glades and NaJibSka Rail Park! To see our favorite things about Nakiska, check out Why you need a Nakiska Season's Pass.

Nakiska Ski Resort

Nakiska Family Pass Details
  • Family Size: For two adults and up to two children under 17 years old living at the same address. 
  • Blackout Dates: n/a
  • Discounts: 20% off food, 10% off rentals and daycare (20% off high performance rentals), 10% off retail (some exclusions apply), Friends & Family Ticket Discounts (up to 25% off), hotel discounts, and lesson discounts. For a complete listing see RCR Member Benefits and Savings
  • Sale Price: $699 (until October 15). Regular Price: $1,999.
For more information, see Nakiska Season's Passes.

Big POG at Nakiska Ski Resort's Gold Chair

Mount Norquay - Banff's Closest Mountain

Mount Norquay is a fun and friendly mountain just minutes from Banff. Enjoy great skiing, top-notch and affordable instruction, and short chairlift waits at this hidden gem, then hit the town for good eats and a soak at Banff Hot Springs. Did you know Norquay has 60 runs and glades skiing (Norquay 90 Glades off the Mystic Chair)?

Sweet view of Mount Rundle from #MightyQuay
Image Credit: Mount Norquay
Norquay Family Pass Details
  • Family Size: For two adults and children under 17 years old living at the same address. 
  • Blackout Dates: n/a
  • Discounts: 10% off food and beverage, rentals, lessons, and tubing. Night skiing excluded. 50% lift pass discounts at eligible Leading Mountain Resorts of the World.
  • Sale price: $1,269 (until October 15). Regular Price: $1,499. 
Norquay 90 Family Pass Details

The Norquay 90 Family Pass is a great deal with the same perks as the regular Family Pass and only a few blackout dates! More than half of Christmas Break is included as well as Family Day long weekend, Spring Break and Easter weekend.
  • Family Size: For two adults and children under 17 years old living at the same address. 
  • Blackout Dates: December 27 -30, January 7-8, January 14-15, January 21, January 28, February 11-12, February 25-26, March 4-5, and March 11-12.
  • Discounts: 10% off food and beverage, rentals, lessons, and tubing. Night skiing excluded. 50% lift pass discounts at eligible Leading Mountain Resorts of the World. 
  • Sale price: $629 (until October 15). Regular Price: $799.
For complete details, see Banff Norquay Season's Passes

Mount Norquay Ski School
Image Credit: Mount Norquay

Sunshine - The Longest Ski Season

Ski for 7 months at Sunshine Village, home of North America's longest non-glacial ski season! Ski amazing runs on three mountains, and enjoy Canada's only high speed heated chair lift (TeePee Town LX). Fun for all levels. Those with avalanche training and gear will love making epic turns in Delirium Dive.

Beautiful Sunshine Village
Image Credit: Shawna Hays

Sunshine Family Pass Details
  • Family Size: For two adults and children under 17 years old living at the same address. 
  • Blackout Dates: n/a
  • Discounts: 20% off dining (some exclusions apply), 10% off rentals & tuning, 10% off retail over $20, 20% off Marmot Basin lift tickets, as well as Banff dining and accommodation discounts. Full details here
  • Sale price: $2,249 (until October 15). Regular Price: $2,575. 
For more information, see Sunshine Village Fall Season Pass Sale.

Big POG crushing the steeps
Lake Louise - The Largest Ski Resort in the Rockies

With incredible views and super long runs off the front and back side (the longest run is 8 km), it's easy to see why Lake Louise is so famous. Whether you're just learning or are an expert skier, there is plenty of terrain for you to discover. You'd have to ski for over a week to do every run at Louise!

Fun fact: There are a couple green runs off the back bowls. Worth checking out for a different view!

#JustLakeIt!
Image Credit: Chris Moseley, Lake Louise Ski Resort 

Lake Louise Family Pass Details
  • Family Size: For two adults and children under 17 years old living at the same address. 
  • Blackout Dates: n/a
  • Discounts: In 2015/2016, members received one Free First Tracks private lesson per passholder, free summer gondola and Sunny Tube Park access, 10% off kids' lessons, 10% off rentals (20% off high performance), 20% off Lake Louise Ski Resort branded merchandise, 10-20% off food and beverage, 2 Buddy Passes ($20 off regular adult lift ticket) per passholder, 4 Buddy Pass discounts per day per passholder during Bonus Days, lift tickets discounts at partner resorts, discounts on Banff and Lake Louise lodging, dining, and more. Complete Lake Louise Season Pass Benefits here.
  • Sale price: $2,259 (until October 15). Regular Price: $2,579. 
For more information, see Lake Louise Season's Passes.

Beautiful views!
Image Credit: Chris Moseley, Lake Louise Ski Resort 


When to Buy

No time like the present! Early bird deals for Calgary's closest ski resorts will end on October 15th.


Where do you plan on skiing this winter?


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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Hoodoo Creek Trail, Bighorn Backcountry

To see hoodoos, a cool cave, and great views of Abraham Lake and Mount Michener, head to Hoodoo Creek in Bighorn Backcountry! Although the hike is only 5.2 km return, allow at least half a day for exploring the cave and playing on the rocks.


Hoodoo Creek Trip Report
Guest Post By: Philip Lund, All Out Kids

We hiked up to the cave with our 4 and 6 year old who both did amazing, as Hoodoo Creek is a moderately difficult hike. I would recommend a minimum age of 6 years old, unless your children are used to big hikes.

Heading up the creek bed
Image Credit: Philip Lund
I would also recommend hiking boots as it is a really rocky hike up the creek bed with a short scramble at the top to the cave.

Snack time at Hoodoo Creek
Image Credit: Philip Lund
You have two options to do this trail: the creek bed or trail along the right bank. We hiked up the trail and came back straight down the creek bed. The trail bypasses more difficult parts of the creek, but in other parts, the creek is easier, so you can choose your own adventure.

Lots of rocks to climb over
Image Credit: Philip Lund
The trail brings you back to the creekbed right before the hoodoos.

Hoodoos, Hoodoo Creek Trail
Image Credit: Philip Lund
Hoodoos, Hoodoo Creek Trail
Image Credit: Philip Lund
After the hoodoos, the canyon narrows dramatically. Continue through the creekbed until you get to a fork in the stream at the top of the valley. The cave is on the right side. It's a steep 50 m scramble (4-5 minutes) to get up there, but it's worth it!

Hoodoo Creek Cave
Image Credit: Philip Lund
We made it!
Image Credit: Philip Lund
View from the cave
Image Credit: Philip Lund
Looking back at Abraham Lake and Mount Michener
Image Credit: Philip Lund
We returned via the creek bed and were able to keep our feet dry by hopping in and out of the creek bed.

All in all, it was a fun hike through some really cool rock formations with the added bonus of a cave and beautiful view!

Know Before You Go

  • JP Fortin at Pursuit Adventures recommends avoiding this trail on rainy days as there is a risk of flash flooding in narrow parts of the canyon (upper reaches). 
  • We found a few ticks so make sure to do a tick check as usual. For tick safety tips, see this post: 5 Myths About Ticks & Tick Safety Tips.

Hoodoo Creek At a Glance 

Distance: 5.2 km
Elevation Gain: 400 m
Target age: 6+
Time: Allow 4-5 hours with kids (including lunch and snack breaks)
Washrooms: No.
Stroller friendly? No.

Trailhead: There is no sign, but there is a big cairn to the left of the stream, near the road.

Directions from Nordegg turnoff (Stuart Street and Highway 11): Go west on Hwy 11 for 38.2 km. The trailhead is on the north (right) side of the highway - there is no official parking; park on the side of the road. You will see a large gravel wash/creek bed which is Hoodoo Creek.
  • Landmark: Drive 2.7 km west of Windy Point (see photo below) and pull over on the right side of the highway. The trailhead is at approximately 52.2457924,-116.4309815.
Check your odometer here!
Hoodoo Creek is 2.7 km west of here on the right side of the road.
Windy Point is a sharp left BEFORE this (if driving from Nordegg).

About the Author

Philip Lund is a husband, and an active father of two, with a love for the outdoors and the mountains. His passion for outdoor sports range from ice climbing, whitewater kayaking, camping, backpacking, and all things in between. Phil and his wife Kristi have combined their outdoor, retail and management experience to create All Out Kids Gear. Fuelled by their endless frustration searching for good quality kids gear All Out Kids was born. They are dedicated to bringing kids and family gear to a one stop shop, helping, and inspiring families to get outside.



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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fun Times at Crimson Lake Provincial Park

"You should go camping near Rocky Mountain House! You would love it!" a friend exclaimed many years ago. I didn't believe her as Rocky Mountain House wasn't in the mountains. What would I do there? Three words: Beach, cycling, and paddling! There are also some cool attractions in the area worth checking out. On our recent trip to Crimson Lake, 15 kilometres from Rocky, our only regret was not staying longer.

Amenities

CRIMSON LAKE

With a sandy beach, showers, playgrounds (one near the beach and nature playground near Loop G), biking/walking trails, coin laundry, camping store, picnic shelters, boat launch, amphitheatre programs, and beach volleyball, you could easily spend several days at Crimson Lake Campground.

For canoe or pedal boat rentals, contact Still Waters Canoe Rentals at 403-418-8207. Laura and her husband (who are also your super-friendly Campground Hosts) would be happy to help you out.

Crimson Lake Provincial Park Playground - My kids loved playing in the sand!
TWIN LAKES

Twin Lakes has 39 unserviced sites with water pumps and pit toilets. It also has a great boardwalk trail, docks perfect for fishing off of, and a boat launch. A quiet alternative to Crimson Lake, not far from Rocky Mountain House.

Camping

Crimson Lake's campsites were on the larger side with good privacy and shade thanks to all the trees! We found the sites and washrooms to be very clean.

Unserviced, power, and wheelchair accessible sites are available at Crimson Lake. You may reserve through Alberta Parks or try for a first come, first served site, but I recommend booking a site as this campground is quite popular!

For more rustic camping (no showers or hookups) at a smaller campground, stay at Twin Lakes.

Crimson Lake Provincial Park Campsite

Activities

We went to Crimson Lake for beach time and paddling and weren't disappointed. The beach is sandy with warm, shallow water in the swimming area. You can walk for metres until the water is chest high! Note: Keep a close eye on little ones; there is no lifeguard on duty. 

If you paddle, head to Raspberry Island (pull up on the SW corner of the island) and then make your way around Crimson Lake. On our visit, there were very few powerboats, so the water was calm, and we enjoyed the chatter of loons. You can also paddle at Twin Lakes, about 6 km from Crimson Lake Campground.

There are several options for biking/walking:
  • Amerada Trail: This 10 km gravel trail goes around Crimson Lake. It has ups and downs, but no huge hills. Kilometre markers let you know how far you've gone. Hiking with Barry has a detailed trip report here: Amerada Trail - Crimson Lake.
  • Beaver Pond: About 1.5 km from the Crimson Lake Day Use Area via Amerada Trail.
  • Bike from Crimson Lake to Twin Lakes: About 7 km one way. Rolling trail best suited to riders on 20" bikes or larger. 
  • Twin Lakes Boardwalk & Twin Lake Island: The boardwalk takes you through marshland with good opportunities for bird and wildflower viewing. *Please don't pick wildflowers.*
  • There's also a network of trails on the SE side of Crimson Lake near Loops D & F.
 See the Crimson Lake Provincial Park map here.

Planning on fishing? Nearby Twin Lakes is stocked with rainbow trout, but the lake also has a illegally introduced perch that are slowly taking over the lake. Check Alberta Fishing Regulations for catch limits. 

Last but not least, the campground does a great job with family and evening programming. During the summer, they have events such as Pond Dipping, Art in the Park, and Sunday night movies. We hope to check these out next time!

Amerada Trail, Crimson Lake Provincial Park
Crimson Lake Provincial Park Beach
Crimson Lake Provincial Park Beach
Paddling at Crimson Lake
Raspberry Island
Paddling on Crimson Lake - Raspberry Island at left.
Twin Lakes Day Use Area & Twin Lakes Island, Crimson Lake Provincial Park
Map showing distance from Crimson Lake to Twin Lakes
If you're feeling ambitious, bike all the way to Rocky Mountain House!

Nearby Attractions

  • Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site is worth a stop if you're in the area and is free to visit if you have a National Parks Annual Discovery Pass. Check out the indoor exhibits, then take the walking trails to the Play Fort, archaeological ruins of 4 forts, and the bison paddock. Be sure to catch the puppet show (summer only)! For more details, see the park's hours and events listings. 13.5 km from Crimson Lake Campground.
  • Wilderness Village: This nearby resort has a free petting zoo open 9 am - 9 pm, pony rides ($) and trail rides ($). 1.2 km from Crimson Lake Campground.
Play Fort at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site

Bottom Line

We would happily return to Crimson Lake Provincial Park for paddling, beach time, and cycling! The beach was wonderful, the water was just right for swimming, and boardwalks are always fun for the kids. 

If you're planning your next road trip, Crimson would make a great base camp for exploring the David Thompson Corridor with its proximity to Rocky Mountain House.

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Friday, September 9, 2016

10 Things to Do This Fall In Calgary And Area

There's a nip in the air and the leaves are turning. It's a great time of year to get outside without worrying about bugs or overheating. Here are our recommended things to do this fall in and around Calgary. Will you attend a fall festival or look for larches?


  1. Go on a Fall Colours Hike. Glenbow Ranch is one of our favorite places to see blazing aspen groves. For larches, try the Lake Agnes Teahouse, Ptarmigan Cirque, Tryst Lake, or trails from the top of the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola
  2. Check out Illuminasia at the Calgary Zoo. The lantern festival runs from September 8 - October 16, 2016, Thursday-Sunday, 7 pm - 10 pm. In addition to hundreds of lanterns, you can enjoy live entertainment (Stage Show), complimentary activities, and paid activities. $
    Elephant Lanterns at Illuminasia 2015
  3. Enjoy Fall Fun at Heritage Park! The September 10 & 11 Harvest Sale supports local charities. Take a Heritage Park Ghost Tour on Wednesday Nights until November 9.  Little engineers will love Railway Days on September 24 & 25. $

  4. Be amazed and learn at Beakerhead Festival - "a smash up of science, art and engineering". September 14-18. Kids will love the giant inflatables and mechanical displays. Free and ticketed events.

  5. Celebrate Fall at the best Autumn Pumpkin Festival in town. October weekends at Calgary Corn Maze. $

  6. South Calgary residents can visit Kayben Farms' Autumn Jubilee. Weekends September 24-October 16. $. To see what we like about Kayben Farms please see this post: Family Fun at Kayben's Sunshine Adventure Park.

  7. Have spooky fun at Halloweekends at Calaway Park. Weekends September 10 - October 10. Costume contest September 17th! $

  8. Start a new tradition and Celebrate Day of the Dead. This non-religious Mexican holiday is about remembering one's ancestors and is observed October 31-November 2. Learn more about the holiday and how to celebrate it outside here.

  9. Get Festive at the Banff Santa Claus Parade on November 19. Free.

  10. Go on a Canyon Ice Walk! By mid-November, many (shallow) mountain creeks are frozen enough to walk on with crampons or ice cleats. Our favorite ice walk is Grotto Canyon - you can walk on the frozen creek bed to ice falls and see 500 year old pictographs! Other nearby options are Johnston Canyon and Jura Canyon. For more information, please see DIY Ice Walks Near Calgary.
    Grotto Canyon Ice Falls
    Bonus: Did you know we have ice falls in town? Visit Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park or Fish Creek Provincial Park to see frozen falls. Waterfall Valley's falls are small, so they freeze any time the weather gets below zero. For the much larger ice falls in Fish Creek Park, try late November or early December unless we get an early cold snap.
Fish Creek Ice Falls (they are about 5 m high!)
Small ice falls in Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park
What are your favorite things to do in fall?

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Family Fun at Kayben's Sunshine Adventure Park: Photo Tour

Kayben's Sunshine Adventure Park, in Okotoks, is a great place to play outside! With bouncers, giant slides, nature trails, pedal karts, a corn maze, farm animals to visit, and more, the only problem is that your kids may never want to leave. In summer, there are also fun summer camps and berries to pick (black currants) and in fall, there are Autumn Jubilee weekend events. 

My girls' favorite things to do at the farm are: bouncing on the Berry Bounces, burying each other in Wheat Wonderland, zipping down the Giant Slides, climbing different routes on the climbing wall, and running through the corn maze. Snacks at Jojo's Cafe were a highlight too; a visit isn't complete without a treat! 

Parents will appreciate the onsite concession and washrooms, stroller friendly park (sports stroller recommended - unpaved trails), and handwashing stations. With so much to do, allow 3-4 hours for your visit. A complete photo tour follows.


Here's a photo tour of most of the things you can do at Kayben's Sunshine Adventure Park.

The Giant Slides - sit on a burlap sack to go EXTRA fast!

OMG it's a big slide!

Climb the stairs or climbing wall to go on the slides
My girls loved shooting balls over the Berry Bounce
Spiderweb
Little Girl in the BIG Chair
Access the Corn Maze via the Nature Trails
Straw House & Slide (beside Corn Maze)
Middle of the Corn Maze
The corn is tall in August!
Berry Bounce (one of two)
Wheat Wonderland
Climbing Wall
Feeding the Goats
(There are also sheep, donkeys, horses, chickens, ducks and gees.e)
The red barns make cool photo backgrounds!
We arrived around noon and I had to coax the kids to leave at closing time (5 pm). If you plan on visiting more than twice a season, it's definitely worth getting a season's pass. Did you know the park is open until October 29?

For more information, please visit Kayben Farms.

Disclosure: Kayben Farms kindly provided us with a family day pass, but all words and opinions are my own.

More Family Friendly Attractions