The Best Short Hikes Near Calgary

These scenic hikes are all 4 km or less round trip and less than 1 hr from Calgary.

The Ultimate Car Camping Pack List

Everything you need for an awesome camping trip!

Tips for Fun Family Backpacking

Family Backpacking 101 - what to pack, where to go...

Discover Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site

Go back in time and live like a trapper at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, only 2 hours from Calgary.

Why you should visit Writing on Stone Provincial Park

Hoodoos, beaches, and paddling! Need I say more?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Best Beginner Cross Country Ski Trails in Lake Louise

Lake Louise is a nordic skier's paradise, with stunning trails you can access from your door. While there are several beginner (green) trails in the area, the best ones for first time/very young cross country skiers have almost no elevation gain. These family-friendly trails get bonus points for views and ending at scrumptious snack spots!

Bow River Loop

Bow River Loop is the loveliest novice trail you will ever ski. There are no hills to climb and the views of the Bow River and surrounding peaks are outstanding. You can ski a little or a lot depending on how everyone is doing. For a shorter ski (and no road crossings), do half of the Bow River Loop. The south side of Lake Louise Drive (near the campground) is less busy, but starting on the north side means you can ski to Laggan's or Trailhead Cafe for a treat when you're done. Both sides are equally pretty! For a longer ski, continue on the 2.2 km Campground Loop and/or 0.7 km Townsite Trail.

If doing the whole loop, be sure to remove skis when crossing the road and keep children close! 
  • Distance: 6.6 km (with options for smaller or longer loops)
  • Elevation Gain: n/a
  • Grooming: Track set
  • Parking: Park near the Station Restaurant or just past the Lake Louise Campground Kiosk.
Advisory: Sections of the Bow River Loop and Campground Loop trails will be closed from Nov 23-Dec 20 while campground maintenance (hazardous tree removal) is done.

Park here if starting from the campground
Bow River Loop
Bow River Loop
Bow River Loop
Bow River Loop

Lake Louise

Another stunning trail is the one that goes across Lake Louise! First time skiers can do an out and back to the end of the lake. The trail is completely flat and the view of Mount Victoria and Victoria Glacier is amazing. Once you are comfortable on rolly terrain, try the loop (which returns through the trees and has some ups and downs). Bring your skates as the skating is as divine as the skiing!
  • Distance: 4 km
  • Elevation Gain: 15 m
  • Grooming: Double track set
  • Parking: Public parking lot near Chateau Lake Louise (do not park at the Chateau - it's $26/day!)
Advisories: 1) Check the Parks Canada trail report and stay off the ice if  "thin ice" signs are posted. For more information on ice safety, please see this post.  2) Do not continue past the end of the lake as there is considerable avalanche risk in the valley.

Skating on Lake Louise
Cross country skiing on Lake Louise
Skating on Lake Louise during the Ice Magic Festival

Campground Loop

The campground loop is a good add-on to the Bow River Loop or option for beginner classic or skate skiers as it is flat, double track set, and groomed for skate skiing. The trail is wide and flat with no noticeable elevation gain, and offers protection from the wind on blustery days as it is in the trees. If your kids need to sit for a bit, there are several cook shelters in the campground with tables and benches.

Combine this loop with the southern half of the Bow River Loop to avoid crossing the street (combined distance is about 5 km). 
  • Distance: 2.2 km
  • Elevation Gain: 15 m
  • Grooming: Double track set and groomed for skate skiing
  • Parking: just past the Lake Louise Campground Kiosk
Advisory: Sections of the Bow River Loop and Campground Loop trails will be closed from Nov 23-Dec 20 while campground maintenance (hazardous tree removal) is done.


Once your family has a bit of experience, try Tramline Trail. Following the old tramline route, the steady 3% downhill grade means no hill climbing and easy gliding! With new/young skiers, start from the top, and send one skier back to get the car (or arrange a car shuttle if you're there with friends). We were amazed at how quickly we made our way down! The promise of a bakery treat at the bottom may have helped too!

Although this is a beginner trail, it is not recommended for first-timers as there are two steep sections. I have seen adults take off their skis at one downhill section because they were too scared to ski down! Beginners may wish to walk down steep sections. Another option is to put young children on a tow rope if you are able to maintain control with them skiing ahead of you.

About halfway down, you must cross the road. Keep children close, remove your skis, and use caution!

The trail is mostly in the trees, but opens up periodically to offer gorgeous mountain and valley views. At the bottom, if everyone still has energy, continue along the Bow River Trail to town for a well deserved treat!
  • Distance: 4.8 km one way from the lake (For a shorter ski, start from the Moraine Lake Road parking lot. For a longer ski, start from the lake or end at Laggan's!)
  • Elevation Loss from top: 195 m
  • Grooming: Double track set
  • Parking: Start from the public parking lot near the Chateau (park at the end furthest from the lake); end at the parking lot near the junction of the Tramline and Bow River Loop Trails.
Tramline Trail
Tramline Trail
Which trail will you try first?

For More Information

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why I Choose To Opt Outside

Although I love good deals as much as the next person (maybe more), you couldn't pay me to go shopping on Black Friday. There's something about all those people crammed in one place that gets me wanting to run for the hills, er... I mean, mountains. And then there's the issue of keeping it all together while I steer two little kids (with a tendency to run off) through the deal-seeking hordes. It would be easier to herd four dozen mountain goats! Better to buy all my stuff online or second hand and enjoy some peace and quiet in the open air. Time outside with my family time is quality time worth more than any deal! 

Forget Black Friday! Go fly a kite! ;)
Opting outside preserves my sanity and is better for my body too! Cinnamon buns and poutine won't be calling my name. Instead, snow covered trails will beckon and trees will bend low to whisper sweet nothings in my ear. Sure, there'll be cocoa in my Thermos, but all the sugar will be burned off by the end of our day.  

Snowshoe, ski, hike, or bike - just play outside!
Will you say no to Black Friday shopping and opt outside with me on Friday?

For more information on the REI #OptOutside campaign, please visit

This post is NOT sponsored by REI; I just love the idea of shops closing on Black Friday!

Ways to Opt Outside

#ThankfulForFamilies #OutdoorFamilies Giveaway!

With Christmas creeping up on us and American Thanksgiving right around the corner, it's a time to be thankful. 'Tis the season to be thankful for loved ones who have shared adventures of all sizes with us! In the spirit of thankfulness, I've teamed up with some outdoor families bloggers to host a huge #ThankfulForFamilies #OutdoorFamilies photo contest with an epic prize list! 

What you need to do to WIN!
More details for the #ThankfulForFamilies #OutdoorFamilies giveaway follow. Scroll down to see what prizes are being given away. Our sponsors have been extremely generous!!

Giveaway Entry Rules

  • Contest will run from November 19-30, 2015. All photo entries must be submitted by 10 pm MST on November 30th.
  • Entrants must be a resident of US or Canada.
  • Entrants’ Instagram account must be a public account.
  • Entrants MUST FOLLOW ALL the participating bloggers on Instagram (listed below) to be eligible to win any of the prizes: 
  • Entrants must post a new, original, and taken by you photo (a re-posted photo or tagging an old photo will disqualify you) to Instagram of their family, or members of their family, outdoors. Tell us why you love your family! 
  • All photos entered in the contest must be tagged with BOTH #OutdoorFamilies AND #ThankfulForFamilies.
    • Entrants may post additional photos to their Instagram feeds for additional entries, up to 12 entries total. All photos must use the two contest hashtags.
  • Entrants must comment on Instagram on the specific prize they are entering to win. Photographs of prizes will be distributed among all the hosts’ Instagram feeds (sample image below). Entrants need to only comment ONCE per prize. Additional comments DO NOT equal additional entries.
  • All winners will be chosen randomly from all submitted entries at the end of the week and announced on each of the blogs after December 1st. Notifying comments will also be left on the winning photos on Instagram.
  • Hosts will do their best to contact winners. If prizes are not claimed within 48 hours of notification, the prize will go to the next winner.
  • This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram.
I love adventuring with my family because my kids scare the bears away and my hubby packs all the heavy stuff!

Prizes & Sponsors

A HUGE thank you to our generous sponsors! 
**Please note, prizes have various shipping capabilities which are described below.**

Canada Only Prize
  • 1 Pair of Boots - your choice from the website! - from KEEN Canada (Canada Only)

Canada & US Prizes

US Only Prizes

Participating Bloggers

*Please check out all of these great blogs who worked to bring you all the prizes!* 
  1. Active Kids Club:
  2. Adventure Awaits:
  3. The Adventures in Parenthood Project:
  4. Adventure Tykes:
  5. Chasqui Mom:
  6. Colorado Mountain Mom:
  7. Currently Wandering:
  8. The Kid Project:
  9. The Mommy Hiker:
  10. Moosefish:
  11. Mountain Mom and Tots:
  12. Nature For Kids:
  13. Outdoor Families Magazine:
  14. Pedal Adventures:
  15. Play Outside Guide:
  16. Rockieschick’s Adventures:
  17. Rockies Family Adventures:
  18. Tales of a Mountain Mama:
  19. Val In Real Life:
Good luck! Let me know if you have any questions!

For even MORE giveaways, be sure to check out my Outdoor Lovers Holiday Gift Guide & Giveaways!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Outdoor Lovers Holiday Gift Guide & Giveaway

We plan to make your life easier with this holiday gift guide and giveaway! Call us crazy, but our Christmas tree has been up since the beginning of November, and baking and card making have already begun. Why such early Christmasing? It prolongs the fun and maximizes quality family time outside over the holidays (as soon as school is out, we're outta here)!

Christmas shopping is done throughout the year to save time and stress, but luckily for us, the girls are easy to shop for. For two years running, the girls have requested the same single item of Santa: a candy cane! This carefree attitude gives us free rein to get outdoor gear we were planning on getting anyways (but better stuff because we're not wasting money on toys!).

We prepare outdoor wish lists for the relatives and it's worked well for everyone. Grandma is happy to buy useful things, the kids get the best gear, and we save money. Triple win! Savings are applied to excursions (lift tickets!) and the girls' education funds (we donate some to our favorite charities too). 

To help with YOUR holiday shopping, check out my gift recommendations for outdoorsy men, women, and children and be sure to enter my giveaways below!

Here are our top holiday gift recommendations for outdoorsy children and adults. Enjoy!

Stocking Stuffers (up to $25)

Living Book of the Forest (Pop-Up Book With Sound): My sister found this book at Bass Pro and my kids LOVE it! Real animal sounds play on each page and there are pull-outs with fun facts on various forest animals. Also available on Amazon.

Gift card to local fishing shop A fisherman/woman's dream! And seriously, do you know what kind of flies to buy for that creek? In Calgary, try the Iron Bow Fly Fishing Shop, Hanson's Fishing Outfitters, Cabela's, or Bass Pro.

Technical socks: We love the comfort and quality of Bridgedale and Smartwool technical socks and ask for them every year. They aren't cheap, but they're worth every penny! Available at Mountain Equipment Coop and other outdoor gear stores.

Dark chocolate: Best trail snack ever... if it makes it out of the house!

Emergency and Safety Gear: Nothing says "I love you" like wilderness survival gear - gear that will keep your loved ones safe while adventuring. If you follow my blog on a regular basis, you will know I am as BIG on safety as I am on fun. I've featured four itemsevery hiker should carry. For the top 10 pieces of wilderness survival gear your child should carry, please see this post.
  • Paracord bracelet - Whether you buy it or make it, this bracelet is a handy way to carry a few metres of paracord! The cord has so many uses from riggin a shelter to fishing line (inner strands)! Paracord and buckles are available at Michael's if you'd like to make them yourself. 
    Paracord bracelet in pink camo
  • Whistle - When I was researching whistles, the UST JetScream stood out because it is one of the loudest available, pealess (will work when wet and has no moving parts to freeze up), and compact. It is very reasonably priced too! Every member of the family should have one. Enter to win one below! Available from Mountain Equipment Coop, Amazon and other retailers.
    UST JetScream Whistle - tiny but amazingly loud!
  • Firestarter kit - Another essential for outdoor adventurers! The ideal firestarter kit is waterproof and contains a fire ignitor and tinder like the UST Firestarter Kit 1.0Enter to win one belowAvailable from Mountain Equipment Coop, Amazon and other retailers.
    UST Firestarter Kit 1.0
  • First Aid Kit - You can never have too many first aid kits! I keep one in my purse, one in my pack, one in the house, and one in each vehicle. My kids carry their own mini first aid kits too (in case they are ever accidentally separated from us)! UST Brands and Adventure Medical Kits make high quality, lightweight first aid kits in several sizes to suit your needs. Enter to win one below! Available from Mountain Equipment Coop, Amazon and other retailers.

    • Pro Tip: Add needle-nose tweezers and Polysporin To-Go spray (with local anaesthetic) to your first aid kit. My kids think the spray is magic because it takes the ouch away!
      UST FeatherLite First Aid Kit 2.0 - 125 pieces of peace of mind
  • Compact Lantern - It's always good to keep a light source in your backpack or vehicle. We prefer lanterns and headlamps over flashlights so we can be handsfree. Backpackers will appreciate the collapsible silicone Spright Lantern from UST Brands. Collapsed, the lantern's dimensions are only 2.75” x 3.5” x 3.5” (70 x 89 x 89mm)! Its LED bulbs provide 3 levels of brightness: nightlight setting - 10 lumens, low - 50 lumens & high - 100 lumens. Available from Mountain Equipment Coop, Amazon and other retailers.
Spright Lantern Closed

Spright Lantern Opened

Gifts For Kids

Kid's Hydration Pack: Our kids were always trying to sip from our hydration packs, so we got Uncle to get them their own. Now they feel like "real" hikers! For younger children, get a small bladder (1 L) so it won't be too heavy. We like the MEC Fountain Jr Hydration Pack. The Camelbak Kid's Mini-M.U.L.E. is also highly rated. MEC Hydration Pack Available at Mountain Equipment Coop.

Pro Tip: If you already have a good kid's backpack, save money and buy the hydration system without the pack! 
MEC Fountain Jr Hydration Packs in Action
Sled: A sled is a must-have in a snowy place. For towing kids and gear around the nieghborhood, we love the classic Pelican Mega Snow Glider sled as it's sturdy, light, and large enough to fit 2-3 kids.
This style of sled is also safer than the fancy ride-on type sleds and scooters that have handles sticking out (a cause of spleen punctures according to my nurse friend at the Children's Hospital!). Available at Canadian Tire.

Pelican sled
Skates: Skates are another fun purchase. For the tiniest skaters, consider bob skates (double blades that attach to boots). For ages 3 & up, real skates should be ok. Although we started our girls on top end Bauer skates, they now have adjustable princess skates (can adjust from size 9-11). They are adequate for beginner recreational skaters and a good value as they will last a few years. You don't need to go too expensive to have fun, but more experienced skaters should get better quality skates. Available at Canadian Tire, Sport Chek, and Atmosphere.
Adjustable skates
Technical base layers: This is the ideal gift for someone who's always cold. Technical base layers are made of wool blends, silk blends, or synthetic materials to wick moisture and provide extra warmth in cool weather. High quality brands layer well and are easy to move in. I wear them under jeans, fleece pants, or snowpants! We have been longtime fans of MEC and Patagonia base layers, but have recently have become acquainted with Terramar Sports Base Layers and are very happy with them (Disclosure: I am a Terramar Sports Brand Ambassador). The materials are high quality, comfy (my Cloud 9 stuff is super soft!), and made for athletic builds. The leggings fit perfectly over my meaty legs and have a cool pattern too. I think I could get away with wearing them as pants! The kids' stuff is pretty sweet too. Best of all, Terramar Gear is reasonably priced. Stay tuned for an in-depth review! Available at these select retailers and on Amazon.

Enter to win 2 sets of Terramar Sports Technical Base Layers below.

To win Base layers for the whole family, see this post for details on the HUGE #ThankfulForFamilies Instagram contest!

Terrramar Sports Cloud Nine Full Zip Top - love the full zip, thumbholes, and super soft material
Terramar Sports Power Play 2-Piece Set - so cute!
Bike / Skateboard Helmet: If you have trouble getting your child to wear a bike helmet, you need to invest in a Nutcase Helmet. With fun designs including watermelon, ladybug, plaid, bumblebee, sugar skulls, and houndstooth, your kids will be stoked to put on their head protection and get on their bikes/skateboards! For more details, see my review here. Available at Mountain Equipment Coop and select bike stores.

Nutcase Bike Helmets - The coolest helmets out there!
SnowshoesFor fun, try the Tubbs Snowglow Snowshoes that light up with every step (available at Canadian Tire). For serious snowshoeing and excellent traction, go for the MSR Tyker Snowshoes. For a complete review of MSR Tyker (available at MEC), Atlas Sprout 17 (available at MEC) and Snowtrek SS 14 snowshoes, see this post.

MSR Tyker Snowshoes - Our Top Pick For Safety and Value!

Gifts For Her / For Him

Stormy Kromer Cap & Scarf/Mitts Gift Set: If you want something special and made in America, shop at Stormy Kromer! Stormy Kromer still makes their legendary caps in Michigan, by hand, and has expanded their product line to include shirts, jackets, accessories, and bags! I am stoked to represent this family-run American heritage brand (established 1903). Stormy Kromer cap and mitts/scarf gift sets are available for the holiday season in a variety of colours and styles. I'm partial to the Harris tweed cap and raspberry Ida gloves shown below. Available online and at select retailers.

Enter to win a $99 Stormy Kromer Gift Card below. To enter to win a Cabin Blanket, see this post for details on the HUGE #ThankfulForFamilies Instagram contest!

For more details on the company and its products, please see my writeup here(Disclosure: I am a Stormy Kromer Brand Ambassador.) 

Stormy Kromer Cap and Mitts (and jacket!)
Siltarp: This was on my wishlist forever and we finally bought one this year. Sturdy and compact, the Siltarp can be used to make an emergency shelter, rain cover, or sunshade. Keep it in your pack just in case! Available at MEC.
Siltarp in action
Potable Aqua PURE electrolytic water purifier: For the backpacker! Have you ever clogged your ceramic filter with silt or had the batteries in your Steripen die? Either way, you need a Potable Aqua PURE device. The solution the PURE creates kills everything, and the long battery life and solar panel ensure you will always be able to treat water when you need to (just be sure to keep some table salt with you). It is tiny and weighs less than 4 oz so it's perfect for lightweight backpacking! You can also treat up to 20 litres of water at one time, so it's effective for families. For a full review, please see this post. Available at select retailers.

(Disclosure: I am a Potable Aqua Brand Ambassador.) 
Potable Aqua PURE electrolytic water purifier
Therm-a-Rest Treo chair: This is still on my wishlist, but too cool not to recommend. It folds down to only 4.5"x10.5"! At 2 lbs 4 oz, I wouldn't take it backpacking, but I would definitely take it camping or to the beach! We have a small vehicle and weren't able to bring 4 camp chairs on our 3.5 week road trip, but would definitely be able to fit 4 Treo chairs! Available at MEC and Atmosphere in Canada. Available at REI in the US.

Therm-a-Rest Treo Chair

KEEN Gift Card: For the person who has everything, get them a KEEN gift card! They have a huge selection of high quality footwear from hiking boots, winter hikers, backpacking boots, and sports sandals to casual shoes and boots. I love my Durand waterproof hiking boots! Available from KEEN, MEC, and select retailers.

To enter to win any pair of shoes or boots from the KEEN Canada website (open to Canadian residents only), see this post for details on the HUGE #ThankfulForFamilies Instagram contest!

(Disclosure: I am a KEEN #FollowYourFeet Campaign Ambassador. To learn how you can earn a #FollowYourFeet patch, see this post.) 

KEEN Durand Mid WP Boots

Experience Gifts

For the person who has everything, get him/her the gift of experience! Cool options in the and around Calgary include:
  • Ski Resort Loyalty Cards (RCR Rockies Card, Lake Louise Plus Ski Card, Sunshine Card) 
  • Gift cards for Winsport - Luge, Skiing, Mountain Biking, or Zipline
  • Calgary Zoo, Heritage Park, Calaway Park, or Telus Spark day/annual passes


Now is your chance to win some great prizes! 

Prizes available include: 
  1. $99 Stormy Kromer Gift Card - Open to Residents of Canada & US 
  2. Technical Base Layers for Two from Terramar Sports (2 adult sets) - Open to Residents of Canada & US 
  3. UST Brands - Spright Lantern, Firestarter Kit 1.0 - Open to Residents of US only
  4. UST Brands - JetScream Whistle, FeatherLite First Aid Kit 2.0 - Open to Residents of US only
The giveaways end at midnight on November 25, 2015. Winners will be notified via email after the drawing is over and need to respond within 48 hours to claim their prize. This giveaway is not affiliated with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+ or any other social media.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  • I am a Brand Ambassador for Stormy Kromer, Potable Aqua, and Terramar Sports. I am also a #FollowYourFeet Campaign Ambassador for KEEN Canada. I have received free products to test, but all opinions are my own.
  • UST Brands kindly sponsored the giveaway because I'm a big fan of their great gear!
  • I have not been paid to endorse any of these products. 

More Gift Guides & Giveaways!

Please check out my fellow Outdoor Families bloggers' holiday gift guides for more great gift ideas!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Pond and Lake Ice Safety

If you know the story of Jack Frost, as told in the movie "Rise of the Guardians", you know one of my greatest fears: falling through ice and drowning. Is it paranoia or a healthy fear? Looking at statistics from the Red Cross, we would all do well to learn some ice safety tips. Did you know that about 45 people in Canada die each year from falling through ice and the largest number of deaths occurs in the Prairies1? Ice accidents are highly preventable if you take precautions! 

From 1991-2000, a third of the victims (34%) fell through ice while fishing, hunting, skating, walking, or playing on ice, about half (55%) were snowmobiling, and 11% were driving other types of vehicles2. Sadly, children 14 and under accounted for 40% of deaths3. How can we minimize the risk of recreational activities on and around ice?

  1. Use Designated Ice Surfaces4: Many towns designate skating areas in city parks and trained personnel regularly check the ice, to reduce risk of accidents. You should still evaluate conditions before heading onto the ice as ice conditions vary from day to day and throughout the day and always heed "Thin Ice" / "Stay Off The Ice" warnings, if applicable. 
  2. CHECK THE ICE - Wear a lifejacket while testing & keep a buddy nearby
    • Ice color: Clear, blue, or green ice is the strongest. Stay off of brown or white ice - white ice has snow in it and is weak5; brown, spring ice is also weak even if it measures the right thickness.
    • Ice thickness: Stay off of ice less than 4 inches thick!6 Thickness can vary over a water body, so check the ice in several spots before allowing others onto it. To accurately check, you must bore into the ice with an ice auger, ice chisel, or drill, then measure with a tape measure. For people up to 200 pounds, the minimum recommended ice thickness is 4 inches. Snowmobiles or ATVs require the ice to be at least 5 inches thick7.
    • Ice QualityStay off the ice if it is thin, broken, cracked, or discolored (white or brown). Where fatalities occurred, "the most common ice condition was thin ice at 57%, followed by an open hole in the ice at 21%, cracked ice 8%, and ice floe 8%."
    • Type of Water Body: NEVER GO ON ICE OVER MOVING WATER! Do not travel on ice on rivers, reservoirs, or lake inflow/outflows! "Reservoirs accounted for 19% of all ice drowning."9
    • Weather Conditions: Rapid cooling is just as dangerous as rapid warming. Rapid warming can cause melting, while rapid cooling can cause ice to crack10. Ice strength can change throughout the day, so always test the ice before allowing others onto it!
  3. Select shallow water. Staying near shore on ice over shallow water greatly reduces the risk of severe injury or death. 
  4. Supervise children and keep them within arm's reach: "None of the toddlers and only 10% of 5-14 year olds who drowned during activities on ice were accompanied by an adult."11
  5. Go With a Friend: Most adults who died falling through ice were alone.12
  6. Stick to Daylight Hours: "Nearly all snowmobile drownings occurred late in the day or at night."13 No matter what activity you are pursuing, better visibility allows for a better inspection of the ice, helps you keep tabs on members of your group, and will aid in rescue attempts if necessary.
  7. Stay Alert (& Stay Sober): "Alcohol was associated with at least 59% of snowmobile drownings."14 When our judgement is impaired, we may take risks we ordinarily wouldn't and endanger others who will come to our aid. 
  8. Wear a PFD Over Your Coat15: It might look funny, but could save your life! 
  9. Carry Ice Rescue Devices16: Not everyone has an ice pick or ice axe, but at the very least, a rope with a loop tied on the end could come in handy in the event you need to rescue someone. A flotation ring is also helpful if the victim is not wearing a lifejacket. Hiking poles may help if the victim is alert enough to hold on - in very cold water, hypothermia can set in rapidly.
  10. Take the same precautions whether you are in an urban or rural area: 36% of deaths occurred in urban areas17. It is easy to get a sense of false security in town, but ice conditions change constantly, so you need to pay attention. 
  11. Know What to Do If You Fall Through the Ice: Try to stay calm, keep your head out of the water, kick to get yourself up onto solid ice closest to land, then stay low. Shout for help and try to pull as much of yourself onto the ice as you can. Crawl or roll away from the broken ice18.
  12. Know What to Do If Someone Falls Through the Ice: See the LifeSaving Society's document on Ice Rescue here.
A list of outdoor skating rinks in Calgary, may be found here:

Stay informed and stay safe, everyone! 

Love, Mama Bear


1, 2, 9, 13, 14 Drownings and other Water Related Injuries in Canada, The Red Cross
3, 8, 11, 12, 17 Drownings and other Water Related Injuries in Canada, 10 Years of Research, The Red Cross, April 19, 2006
4, 5, 6, 7, 15, 16 Ice Safety Tips, Life Saving Society
10 Water Smart Facts - Ice Myths, Life Saving Society
18 Stay Alive, Stay Ice Smart, Life Saving Society

Monday, November 9, 2015

Children's Snowshoes Reviews (Atlas 17, MSR Tyker, Snowtrek SS14)

One of our favorite winter activities is snowshoeing, so our kids have been on snowshoes since they were one year old. Over the past 5 years, we have tried 3 different brands of children's snowshoes: Snowtrek SS14, Atlas 17, and MSR Tyker (17"). All are in the same price range, $64-70, but different fasteners and features make for a very different snowshoeing experience. In short, we highly recommend the MSR Tyker snowshoes (17") for children aged 4-8 because of their superior traction and straps; full details follow.


All snowshoes were tested on packed snow, fluffy snow, and ice. To account for differences in ability based on age and experience, both girls tried all pairs of snowshoes. On flat, moderately packed snow, they could walk equally well in any pair. On inclines and icy sections, the MSR Tykers and Snowtrek SS14 snowshoes performed best because they have hill crampons in addition to crampons at the toe.

Snow Trek SS14

Snowtrek SS14 Children's Snowshoes
The Snow Trek SS14 snowshoes were the smallest we could find locally. Big POG started on these snowshoes when she was only one and a half. They worked fine on fluffy or packed snow, and icy sections as well as inclined terrain, but the grom bindings have a tendency to get stuck in the front of the snowshoe, so I have to adjust them frequently.


For kids:   30-65 lbs (13.6 - 29.5 kg)
Weight:     2.2 lbs (998 grams)
Length:     14" (35.6 cm)
Fasteners:  Single rachet harness - one on the front and one at the back

What I Liked
  • Short length, rachet system made putting on and removing the snowshoes easy, sturdy aluminum tubing, 4-point toe crampons and hill crampons.
What I Would Like to See
  • Different bindings - The grom bindings (toe cups) kept getting stuck in the front of the snowshoe, so we upgraded these snowshoes after one season.
  • A lighter version - these 14" snowshoes are heavier than 17" snowshoes!

Big POG snowshoeing (1.5 years old)

Atlas Sprout 17

When we upgraded our oldest's snowshoes, the only ones available at Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) were the attractive Atlas Sprout 17s. They are suitable for flat terrain that is not icy. As soon as we hit icy patches or inclines, whoever was wearing the Sprout 17s was slipping and sliding (not an issue in the Snowtrek or MSR snowshoes). Our other issue with these was the heel straps; the straps do not stay fastened.


For kids:     30-80 lbs (13.6-36.3 kg)
Weight:      1.98 lbs (900 grams)
Length:       17" (43.2 cm)
Fasteners:   rubber binding straps and binding heel straps

What I Liked
  • 4-point steel toe crampons.
  • Grom bindings are quick and easy to put on (but they don't stay on unfortunately - see note below).
  • Leaves cute snowflake footprints.
  • Tapered ergonomic V-shape (Should make it easier to walk in, but we couldn't tell the difference as my kids trip over the fronts of snowshoes more than they step on the backs, but after a learning period, they didn't do this as much.).
What I Would Like to See
  • Heel straps that stay in place better - on a 4 km snowshoe on packed snow, I had to refasten at least one heel strap 4 times (one or both kept coming completely undone).
  • More metal crampons and the addition of plastic traction bars to prevent slipping on inclines and icy sections.
Atlas 17 Snowshoes (left) and Snowtrek SS14 Snowshoes in Action

MSR Tyker

Our favorite kids' snowshoes: MSR Tyker


For kids:    up to 80 lbs (36 kg)
Weight:      2.1 lbs (936 g)
Length:      17"
Fasteners:   rubber binding straps and binding heel straps

What I Liked
  • Since my husband and I use MSR snowshoes ourselves (Lightning Ascent - so awesome!), we are familiar with the how the straps work and appreciate how well they fit and stay on. It's also awesome that we can put on or remove the snowshoes with mittens on! 
  • Excellent traction thanks to 3-point toe crampons, 2 3-point crampons in the middle (oriented vertically) for hill traction, as well as plastic traction bars on both sides (left and right) of the snowshoes to provide bite and stability on uneven terrain. 
What I Would Like to See
  • We have no issues with these and when we need the next size, we will purchase MSR again (MSR Shift snowshoes) as they make the most innovative snowshoes on the market.

MSR Tykers on the trail

The Verdict

The MSR Tyker snowshoes had the most secure straps and provided the best traction due to their toe crampons, traction bars and middle crampons. They are the least expensive of the ones reviewed here, so not only are they the best of the bunch, they're also the best value (win-win!).

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Staying Active With Exercise Induced Asthma

Approximately 3 million Canadians have asthma and "60%... view their asthma as a barrier to participating in physical activity"1. Although the risks of asthma can be severe, most individuals with asthma can lead healthy, active lives if they control their asthma with a few lifestyle modifications. As a lifelong asthma sufferer, I know how frustrating and scary it can be to be running or hiking and suddenly unable to breathe, but I also know how much better my life is when I am able to do outdoor activities I enjoy. By avoiding triggers and not overexerting myself, I am able to hike, bike, ski, paddle, and run year round (with the exception of very bad allergy days or poor air quality index days due to pollution/forest fires).

Following are some lifestyle changes that have helped me stay active with exercise induced asthma. Please note that the most important thing you can do for your health is make a treatment plan with your family doctor and stick to it. Your doctor can advise you on preventive and treatment measures based on the frequency and severity of your symptoms. Once your asthma is under control (you are not using your inhaler more than 4 times a week), you can increase your activity level. 

If you have been diagnosed with asthma, please speak to your family doctor before initiating or ramping up an exercise program. If you suspect you have asthma, please see your family doctor.

  1. CARRY YOUR RESCUE INHALER & KNOW HOW TO USE IT. If you start to have symptoms while exercising, STOP what you are doing immediately, use your rescue inhaler, and do not resume exercise until symptoms have ceased. If symptoms are severe, take another dose and call 911 if necessary. After an asthma attack, take it easy for a few days (your airways need rest!).
    Rescue inhaler
  2. IF YOU HAVE BEEN PRESCRIBED CONTROLLER MEDICATION TO BE USED DAILY, USE IT AT THE SAME TIME EACH DAY. Some medications for Exercise Induced Asthma (EIA) work best when taken 12 hours in advance so optimize your meds schedule. If you work out in the morning before work, take your medication before bed. 
  3. USE AN INHALER 10-15 MINUTES BEFORE EXERCISE. Use the one your doctor has advised you to use.2
  4. START WITH ACTIVITIES YOU ENJOY. Yoga, walking, and weight lifting are just a few exercises you can start with (please check with your doctor first, though). If all goes well and your asthma is under control (you are not using your inhaler more than 4 times a week), consider longer exercise sessions or more intense activities. Just listen to your body and remember to STOP activity if you start having symptoms and use your rescue inhaler (Rule #1).
  5. EXERCISE WITH A FRIEND. Committing to a weekly walk/yoga class/etc. with a friend or club means more fun and accountability. It's safer too.
  6. WARM UP SLOWLY. I find it takes me a good 15 minutes to get into a run or hike. If I push it too hard at the beginning, I get wheezy right off the bat and have a much harder time moving at a decent pace. The Canadian Asthma Association also recommends a 10-15 minute warmup.
  7. STAY HYDRATED. Drinking water throughout physical activity (and before and after) will help prevent airways from drying out3 (dryness is an asthma trigger).
  8. PACE YOURSELF.  Although I have asthma, I can still do long hikes with considerable elevation gain; I just have to pace myself. I find going at a steady pace is much easier on the lungs than stop and go hiking.
  9. COOL DOWN. Take a few minutes at the end of an exercise session to slow your pace and your breathing.4 I forgot to do a cooldown after a strenuous mountain bike ride a few weeks ago and had asthma symptoms (choking and phlegmy cough) for the next hour and a half. Remember the apres-exercise cool down; don't stop cold turkey!
  10. AVOID ASTHMA TRIGGERS. Asthma triggers include illness, allergens, cold air, hot air, very high or very low humidity, fragrances, exhaust, industrial emissions, cigarette/forest fire smoke, and chemicals (cleaning supplies, soaps). While we can't control the air quality, we can reduce the intensity of physical activity during the worst times of year or take a break if need be. While some people may be able to work out in a gym during peak allergy season, others may not due to pet dander or fragrances on other gym users.
    • DON'T EXERCISE WHEN SICK. If you have asthma, you are more prone to pneumonia, a cold and flu complication. If you have a respiratory illness, take it easy until you are feeling better. Your lungs are already taxed and need a rest. Asthmatics are advised to get their annual flu shot and should consider the pneumococcal vaccine (pneumonia shot).
    • CONTROL YOUR ALLERGIES. Allergies are a major asthma trigger, so you should be sent for allergy testing if you have been diagnosed with asthma. Your doctor or allergy specialist can counsel you on dealing with allergies, but I have found it best to avoid contact when possible (cats, dogs) and medicate when I can't (ragweed pollen and molds in the fall). There are several effective antihistamines on the market, but if you do not like taking a pill every day, you may wish to consider topical medications (eye drops and nose sprays) as they do not cause drowsiness and tend to have fewer side effects. If you go the topical route, consult with your doctor to ensure you do not use drops/sprays that will cause a rebound effect. A saline nasal spray is helpful in rinsing allergens from nasal passages if you do not like medicated nose sprays. 
    • LOOK AT THE AIR QUALITY HEALTH INDEX (AQHI) WHEN PLANNING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY. The Canadian Asthma Association recommends that people modify exercise plans when the AQHI is 4-10 for the "At Risk" Population, or 7-10 for the general population. If you don't have time to check the index, but can see it is very smoggy, or are having symptoms, take a rest day. The Canadian Air Health Quality index website is
Now, breathe. You can do this! Just start slow and have fun!! And remember Rule #1!


For More Information

Please visit the Asthma Society of Canada's website at

Children with asthma may be directed to The site was developed for kids and has a mission, code word, and games.