The Best Spring Hikes in Kananaskis

Where to hike now!

Keeping Warm in Spring

The best spring gear plus proper fuel and hydration will keep you warm.

4 Great Spring Hikes in Banff

Try one of these family-friendly spring hikes in Banff!

The Top 5 Spring Things to Do in Kananaskis

Bike, hike, or go fishing in Kananaskis this spring!

5 Tips for Spring Hiking

Gaiters and microspikes for the win! Learn more.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Destination: Castle Mountain Resort, Alberta

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains southwest of Pincher Creek, Castle Mountain Resort is a hidden gem. It's the kind of place where the stormcam tells you to get your snorkel, people smile and hold doors, and your kids beg to never, ever leave.


Over the three days we skied at Castle, we met regulars from all over Canada and as far away as Germany! Castlemen and Castlewomen return year after year for the epic natural snow (910 cm annually!), exciting terrain, and community feel. It was our first time there, and my husband's first time in a while, and we were instantly taken with the friendly, chill vibe. Fellow snow seekers greeted us in the lodge with a cheerful "Good morning!", waved us ahead of them in line so they could chat with friends just skiing out of their chalets, and told us about a hugging liftie! Skiers "go up blue just for the hugs!" from Marie Cameron, a Pincher Creek resident who has worked at Castle for more than ten years (Source). We hope to meet her next time!

The Castle experience is all about amazing snow and people, but not too many people. Liftopia just awarded Castle a Best in Snow Award for Least Crowded! If you want to ski powder without lineups, Castle's your mountain. Here's more of what we loved about Castle and why we'll be back!


Diverse Terrain

While Castle is best known for its champagne powder and steep, continuous fall lines, you don't have to be an expert skier to have a great time there! First-timers and experts alike can find fun at Castle with 79+ runs on 3 mountains including bowls, chutes, and glades; terrain parks; and cat skiing. As intermediate skiers, my husband, 7 year old, and I were able to ski runs off every chair lift, but did the most family skiing off the Huckleberry and Sundance (Blue) Chair Lifts. We also made good use of the Buckaroo Carpet and Green Chair with our 5 year old.

Skiing above the clouds!

Beginner Terrain

The magic carpet area is very gently graded and is perfect for the first time skier. Although it isn't too big, it was never really crowded, so my youngest was able to get a lot of practice stopping and turning.

Buckaroo Carpet, Castle Mountain
Those who have mastered their pizza (snowplow) can try beginners runs off the Green Chair. With only 49 m elevation gain, kids can get used to a chairlift, and start getting more speed. I would spend some time here making sure everyone can turn and stop well before heading to the other chairs where the runs are considerably longer.

The Green Chair is conveniently located beside the Magic Carpet.
Next up is the Huckleberry Chair (330 m gain). The Huckleberry Chair is great for families as it doesn't load too fast and the bar comes down low. Another cool thing about this area is that there are blue runs and green runs side by side! Families with kids of different ages/abilities can split up, then meet at the chair lift. There's a terrain park and glade skiing (advanced) here too.

For a long, cruisey ride, take North Run from the Sundance Chair (445 m gain). The views are beautiful!

Heading up the Sundance Chair (aka Blue Chair)

Intermediate Terrain

There are several fun runs for intermediate skiers and riders at Castle. The easiest blue runs from the Huckleberry Chair are Pony Express and Lone Ranger. From Sundance Chair, try Easy Street and Sundown; and on Tamarack Chair, try High Noon and North Run. Once you've mastered those, you can move on to pitchier runs like Harker's Highway or head into South Bowl. Our favorites were Easy Street, Centre, and Lone Ranger.

Feeling tall on Pony Express
Gorgeous view from Easy Street

Advanced Terrain

Advanced skiers and riders will be in heaven at Castle with all the chutes, glades and bowls. Ask the lifties where to find the most powder!

For a truly epic adventure, try cat skiing! Get first tracks on the cat skiing exclusive side of Haig Mountain with experienced guides. Check out my story, Powder Stagecoach Cat Skiing at Castle Mountain, for details!

Cat Ski with the Powder Stagecoach at Castle Mountain!

Amazing Snow

With an elevation of 1410 metres (4626') at the base to 2273 metres (7463') at the top, you are pretty much guaranteed amazing snow at Castle! Fellow cat skiers told us they'd skied in 6 feet (1.8 m) of powder before at Castle! I was actually relieved there wasn't that much when we were there as I'm so short I'd probably have gotten lost in it!

On our visit, there wasn't as much pow as usual due to abnormally warm weather (that brought rain instead of snow a couple days before), but we found some powder stashes cat skiing on Saturday and then were treated to 10 cm of fresh snow on Sunday. It was so fun, we didn't want to leave!

Did you know Castle gets a whopping 910 cm of snow per year? That's about the same as Sunshine Village (914.4 cm)!

Little ripper taking a breather

Super Snow School 

Castle's Snow School is well designed for kids of all ages and levels. Big POG (7) received two 2-hour lessons, while Little POG (5) got two 1-hour lessons and some play time in the children's play zone. The amount of ski time for each of them was just right! They learned a lot and had fun!

When I asked my big girl what she learned, she said "Not much. We mostly just skied. He showed me how to ski backwards and in circles." The next day, however, she pointed at the glades and asked, "Can we ski in there? I skied there yesterday and it was so fun!" Turns out she also learned to ski moguls! Between "skiing bumps" and movies, she had the best day ever! Thank you, Victor!
Big POG and Victor heading up Huckleberry Chair
Little POG also improved over the course of the day. After her second lesson with Serena, she was almost skiing parallel! It helped that there was only 1 other student in the class and Serena was all smiles. Thanks so much!

Great On Mountain Accommodation 

Castle Mountain is a true ski-in, ski-out destination. There are beautiful condos, cabins, and chalets that sleep 4-18 people, that are at the base of the mountain, as well as hotel/hostel accommodations a short walk from the Day Lodge.

Castle Mountain Lodge and Hostel was our home away from home for 3 nights. It was clean and comfortable with a games room, coin laundry, sauna, and shared kitchen in the common area. We loved being able to walk to our room after a day on the slopes. Stay tuned for our review of Castle Mountain Lodge!

Coziness at Castle Mountain Lodge - 1 Queen, 1 Bunk Bed Room
If you want to keep costs down, you can even camp at Castle Mountain! Unserviced sites are available for a minimal fee.

For more information, please visit Castle Mountain Accommodations.

Affordable Dining

Castle Mountain Day Lodge puts together a hearty breakfast or lunch.  We enjoyed the french toast with cream cheese frosting, and grilled ham and cheese.

T-Bar Pub and Grub is your place for tasty, thin crust pizza and a pint, and live music most weekends. Carnivores will love the wings and mountain of meatloaf.

Portions were generous and prices were reasonable, which was a nice surprise at a ski resort!

For your morning java, visit Joe's Cafe. They make all the fancy coffees you need to recover from a night at the pub. ;)

Tucking in to meatloaf, pizza, and wings at T Bar Pub & Grub

Alpenland Pro Shop - Rentals / Sales / Service

If you forgot anything (goggles, gloves) or need to rent gear, Alpenland Pro Shop is your one stop shop. Besides high end skis and snowboards, they can hook you up with sweet fat skis for cat skiing. We loved the loaner skis we got; they cut through the hard stuff and floated on powder! The staff were knowledgeable and super nice too! Alpenland is conveniently located beside Castle Mountain Day Lodge.

Alpenland Pro Shop at Castle Mountain
Our sweet rental skis for cat skiing!

Loads of Fun Activities in the Area

From live music to guided snowshoe tours and cat skiing, there are lots of things to do at Castle!
  • Free daily resort tours with lift ticket purchase - see schedule by the Day Lodge
  • Snowshoeing along Castle River
  • Guided Snowshoe Tours at Castle Mountain Resort
  • Powder Stagecoach Cat Skiing at Castle Mountain Resort. Check out our review here! It's resort based so you can check in on your kids throughout the day.
  • Playground beside the Huckleberry Chair
  • Cross country skiing at Syncline Cross Country Ski Area on 15 km of groomed trails. See ski report here.
  • Live music at T-Bar Pub & Grub
  • Snowmobiling
  • Night skiing at Pass Powderkeg
Snowshoe here from the resort in just a few minutes!

Promotions and Special Events

Fun upcoming events include a Ladies' Retreat on February 2 & 3 and Men's Retreat on February 9 & 10. For more information on these and other events, please visit Castle Mountain Events.

If you live in the Livingstone – Macleod Area, & Okotoks – High River area, check out the SnowKids Next Door Program that gives K-6 Students a Castle Season's Pass for $5!

This fall, pick up a Cruisin' the Castle Card to ski free on your 1st, 4th & 7th days, save $20 on other days, and save $30 on Thursdays!

You can also use your Lake Louise Plus Card at Castle Mountain!! See details here.

In Closing

I have yet to meet a mountain I didn't like, but Castle Mountain is one of my new favorites. Sure, it has epic pow and chutes that should be in pro ski videos, but the amazing atmosphere is second to none. Now that I've been, I get why people are so passionate about the place. More than once, I'd heard "Nah, Castle's better." when someone says which mountain is the best. Why are Castlemen and Castlewomen so happy? Is it the geography? Lack of crowds? Friendly locals? If you figure it out, let me know! In the meantime, let's keep this our little secret. 

Disclosure

Castle Mountain Resort generously hosted us for 3 days (Thank you so much!!), but as always, all words and opinions are my own.

Related Posts

Monday, January 23, 2017

Fun Family Skiing at Mount Norquay & Family Ski Day Giveaway

Mount Norquay is a family-friendly ski resort just minutes from Banff with fun runs for the whole family, an amazing ski school, great on-hill dining, and a wicked tube park. Best of all, there aren't long lines for the lifts so you can spend more time shredding! Ski here, then head into town for dinner or a soak in the hot springs for a perfect day.


"And now I'm going to take you to the best viewpoint in all of Norquay," Gord tells me and my husband. The winter scene that unfolds before us is undeniably gorgeous with Cascade Mountain to the left and Rundle straight ahead. It's hard to believe we're mere minutes from the town of Banff! 


Mount Norquay Ski Resort
Gord Fielding, Director of Mount Norquay's Snow School, is our guide and instructor for the morning while the kids are in ski school. He goes on - between dispensing invaluable pointers on skiing technique - to share some of Norquay's rich history and his favorite runs. We learn that many of the runs have been renamed to honor local legends: Giv'er Grandi, Rob's Run, Wiegele's, Monod's Legacy, and hEaD Hunter to name a few. If you're lucky, you might see some of them on the slopes! (I'm pretty sure Mr. Eddie Hunter told me where to find the best snow on our visit!)

At Mount Norquay
The morning passes quickly, but we notice an improvement from when we started. A few key things are sticking and it feels good! We decide right then and there that this is something we need to do more often. Over the past several years, we've focused so much on teaching the girls that we haven't advanced our own skills. Plus, it's pretty fun to ski kid-free once in a while!

Mount Norquay Magic Carpet Area
Our girls are enjoying their lessons too. Big POG (7) is tailing instructor Mike, jumping on her skis and beaming; and Little POG (5) is perfecting her pizza (snowplow) with Lou's patient tutelage. They are pleased as punch with their first-ever ski lessons and conspiratorially tell Gord that ski school is way better than Mom and Dad lessons! It's clear that the instructors are carefully selected and well trained, and Gord reveals they all must have experience working with kids. (Note: Little POG simply completing the lesson was a huge win! She's very shy and has bailed on classes in the past because she was scared of the instructor, but Lou was very friendly and non-threatening. Thanks, Lou!)

Little POG heading to her first ski lesson!
In high spirits, we make our way to Lone Pine Pub to refill our tanks. Big POG, our little connoisseur, orders salmon and corn fritters off the kids' menu. Little POG goes for  chicken tacos, my husband gets the salmon burger, and I order the steak sandwich.  Everything is delicious and Liz takes great care of us. While we could comfortably lounge all afternoon - there's good stuff on tap and the sunset is beautiful from Cascade Lodge - the mountain is calling.

Lone Pine Pub Chicken Tacos
After a few more fantastic runs, it's tubing time! A hot spot at the end of the day, the tube park line moves surprisingly quickly with many people riding down in groups. We soon experience the biggest vertical drop of any tube park in Alberta. It is breathtakingly FAST, but so much fun! We can't get enough and shut the place down. For more information and a video, please see Tubing at Mount Norquay's Tube Town.

Mount Norquay's Tube Town has a sweet view of Mount Rundle
Fifteen minutes later, we're choosing sweets at the candy store on Banff Avenue. It's the perfect ending to a perfect day! Gotta love a great ski hill so close to town!

Yumminess at the Banff Sweet Shoppe

What We Love

  • Location: Leaving your hotel in Banff at 9:15 am and getting to the ski hill at 9:30 am is awesome (especially if you're not a morning person)! Mount Norquay is only 6 km from the town of Banff so there are tons of nearby options for lodging and dining. See my Where to Stay and Where to Eat pages for ideas.

  • Short Lines: We never had to wait long for the chair lift. Spend more time skiing!

  • Small class sizes for group lessons make it easier to learn! Little kid classes (3-5 yrs old) max out at 2 students while 5 year old classes have 3 students. Big kid classes (6-12 yrs old) have no more than 6 students, but usually have only 3-4!

  • Terrain for all levels. There's a magic carpet area for first-timers, and green runs off Cascade Chair and lower half of the Spirit Chair (you can get off halfway). Intermediate skiers will enjoy skiing blue runs off the high speed Mystic Chair before easing into more advanced stuff. For more of a challenge, check out the Norquay 90 Glades, terrain park, and expert runs off the North American Chair!

  • Friendly staff! Everyone was awesome from management to ski instructors, lifties, and pub staff. The tube park guys even said hi to us in downtown Banff! 

  • Great On-Hill Dining Options: Grab a quick bite at the deli/cafeteria in the Cascade Lodge or North American Lodge; or dine at Lone Pine Pub. The pub has a great kid's menu, selection of craft beers, and delicious  For the best view in Banff, head up to the Cliffhouse Bistro. I recommend the charcuterie platter and game & fig flatbread!

  • Norquay's Toonie Days (ski for $2!) are a great way to check out the mountain before you commit to a season's pass. If you plan on skiing a few times this season, the Big Drop Card gives you your 1st, 4th and 7th ski days free with discounted visits in between for the price of one day ticket.
View from Mount Norquay

Mount Norquay Fun Facts

  • Norquay's Snow School is the longest running and most reasonably priced snow school in Banff! Children's winter programs fill up in September, so mark your calendars! 

  • Mount Norquay's tube park has the biggest vertical drop in Alberta so it's super fast and super fun. Read about our experience: Tubing at Mount Norquay's Tube Town.

  • Norquay's Terrain Park has just been upgraded with more fun features!

  • The only night skiing in Banff is at Mount Norquay! Fridays and Saturdays from 5 pm - 9 pm January 2 - February 25.  Fridays from 5 pm - 9 pm the rest of the season. 

  • Mount Norquay is Banff's first ski resort! It turns 91 in 2017.

  • Black Magic is one of the steepest runs in Alberta!  

  • The sightseeing chairlift is open year round! Enjoy the view from the lookout, then visit the the Cliffhouse Bistro for an amazing lunch. Please see this story for details: Experience Mount Norquay's Sightseeing Chair Lift and Cliffhouse Bistro.
Cliffhouse Bistro Charcuterie Platter

Disclosure

Mount Norquay generously hosted us for a day of skiing and tubing, including ski lessons and lunch, but all words and opinions are my own. A special thank you to all the friendly staff who made our day great! 

Mount Norquay Ski Resort

Giveaway

Now is your chance to win a Mt. Norquay Quality Time Family Package valued at $149! This package includes Ski Lift Tickets for 2 Adults and 2 Children/Youth (up to 17 yrs.). For complete details, see Mount Norquay Deals.


Fine Print: Contest is open to Canadian residents only, however, the winner must be able to pick up the prize at Mount Norquay. The Mount Norquay Quality Time Family Package is valued at $149, must be accepted as is (no cash value), and expires at the end of the 2016/2017 ski season. A winner will be randomly selected via the Rafflecopter app. This contest is in no way affiliated with Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.  Contest closes January 30, 2017 at 11:59 pm MST! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Related Posts

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tubing at Mount Norquay's Tube Town

Did you know Tube Town at Mount Norquay boasts the biggest vertical drop of any tube park in Alberta? The lanes are FAST, wide enough to ride with all your friends, and daredevils can request a spin before they shove off!  


With a speedy magic carpet and even faster ride down, you can ride again and again with minimal wait times. We were able to slide 4 times in half an hour on Sunday afternoon, and would've gone more, but it was closing time (go on Friday and Saturday for night tubing 'til Feb 25th)! We loved how the lanes start out super fast, before levelling off and going uphill, so you slow down naturally rather then crash into crash pads. 


Mount Norquay's Tube Town
There are 7 lanes altogether - with 2 slightly shorter lanes for first-time tubers. Each lane is a little different, so ask the lifties which one is fastest/slowest/best for groups. If you have a need for speed, go with a friend, or bunch of friends! More weight makes you go faster!! My daughter and I rode together holding each other's tubes and had a blast. Check out our video below!




Tube Park at Mount Norquay - view from the throne
Snow throne at the end of the tubing lane
Children must be 4 & up and over 1.1 m (42") tall to use the tube park, but there's a fun play area at the bottom of the magic carpet for little ones. My kids loved the mini tube ride, swing set, and snow mountain with a tunnel and slide. If you need to warm up or get a bite to eat, there's a deli & cafeteria in the North American Lodge adjacent to Tube Town. Lone Pine Pub in Cascade Lodge is also a short walk from Tube Town.

Kids' Play Area - Norquay Tube Town
Kids' Play Area - Norquay Tube Town
Kids' Play Area - Norquay Tube Town


Know Before You Go

Please check conditions (under runs/tube park information) before you go to see how many lanes are open! 

Regular Tube Town hours are 10:30 am - 4 pm, however, night tubing is available from 5 pm - 9 pm on Fridays & Saturdays from January 7 – February 25. Ski all day and tube at night!

No ski boots allowed in the tube park. Please change to snow boots for your comfort and safety.

Minimum height is 1.1 m (42").

Helmets recommended.


For More Information

For pricing and other tube park rules, please visit Mount Norquay Snow Tubing. You can purchase tubing tickets only or ski & tube tickets.

For a special treat, Experience Mount Norquay's Sightseeing Chair Lift and Cliffhouse Bistro. The chair lift requires its own ticket, but the fine dining at the top is reasonably priced and the view is amazing! 


Disclosure

Mount Norquay generously provided us with tubing tickets, but all words and opinions are my own.


>>Stay tuned to win a Family Ski Day at Mount Norquay!<<


Related Posts


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ski the Birkebiener - Viking Fun For Everyone!

Channel your inner Lagertha or Ragnar and get your loppet on! Translation: Join the epic Viking-themed Birkebiener cross country ski race! When you ski the Birkebiener, you are re-enacting the true story of winter 1206 in which baby Prince Haakon Haakonson of Norway was carried 55 km over two mountain passes to safety, by two Birkebiener warriors, during a civil war. You may ski the 55 km course with a 5.5 kg pack symbolic of the princeling, or without; and if 55 km is too long, there are shorter, less painful courses. There is even a 2.5 km "tour" perfect for kids where you can ski alongside costumed Birkebieners! Ski the legend and don't forget your Viking helmet! While Viking attire isn't mandatory, it sure adds to the fun.


What the Heck is a Birkebiener Anyways?

The original meaning of Birkebiener is "birch bark leggers." 800 years ago, Norweigan warriors wrapped and tied birch bark around their legs as gaiters and armor. In later times - when birch bark was replaced with other materials - Birkebiener came to mean "a person strong in adversity, never daunted by trial and hardships." (Source)


Event Details

The Canadian Birkiebiener - aka Canadian Birkie - takes place outside Edmonton, Alberta at Cooking Lake - Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, and Elk Island National Park. Plan to spend two nights in Edmonton so you can attend the Nordic Fair the day before the race and post-loppet Vikings Feast (feast tickets required).

When & Where

  • February 10, 11:45 am - 8 pm: Opening Ceremony, Nordic Fair and Registration Package Pick Up at Strathcona Community Centre. You MUST pick up your package on February 10!
  • February 11: Race Day & Vikings' Feast! There are different starting locations and times based on the distance you are skiing, so please review your registration information carefully! After your ski, enjoy a buffet dinner and live entertainment at the Vikings Feast (Note that admission to the Vikings Feast is NOT included in Birkebiener registration fee. Purchase a ticket in advance here).

For more information, please see Canadian Birkie Event Details.

Courses

No matter how long you've been skiing, there is a Birkebiener course for you! Recreational skiers and hard core athletes alike participate in the Birkie for the fun and personal challenge. My husband will be accompanying our kids on the Ole's Tour (2.5 km or 4 km) with costumed Birkebieners and I will be skiing Erika's Tour (31 km). We can't wait!

For your safety and enjoyment, there are drinks and snacks at the start and finish lines in addition to feeding/medical stations along the routes, spaced 8 to 10 km apart (finish line food by donation). It is recommended that you grab a drink and snack at each feeding station so you don't bonk. Mingling with your fellow skiers is a big part of the Birkie experience too! Make some new friends and support each other on the trail! Please be sure to thank the friendly volunteers - over 500 volunteers make the Birkie possible! See Canadian Birkie - What to Expect for more info.

The terrain is rolling with lots of little hills. The finish line is slightly higher than the start, so pace yourself; the last 5 kilometres are the hardest. Courses wind through aspen forest and around small ponds.



The Birkebiener terrain is a lot like this.
For details and maps of each course, please see The Canadian Birkie Ski Events. Brief descriptions of each course follow:
  • 2.5 or 4 km Ole's Tour presented by E Construction  - Fun, untimed ski that kids and parents can do together alongside costumed Birkebieners! Choose your distance on race day!
  • 13 km Global Mini Birkie - This loop course is perfect for young or new nordic skiers. Be a part of the fun without overdoing it. 
  • 29 km Bergan's of Norway Skate Ski - Skate on a course just for skate skiers! Note: this is the ONLY skate ski course at the Birkie.
  • 31 km Erika's Tour - More experienced skiers may challenge themselves with this longer course that shares a lot of the 55 km route.  
  • 55 km Spencer Environmental Birkie Lite - The ultimate challenge! Times are recorded by age categories. 
  • 55 km Torskeklubben Birkebeiner with pack - Carry the Birkie Baby to safety! Fortunately you don't have to go over any mountain passes.
Which one will you sign up for?

See you there!

Register

Register for the Canadian Birkebiener here. *Discounted pricing available until January 18!*
The Final Deadline for registering is Wednesday, February 8, 2017 at 11:59 p.m.

For More Information

Visit The Canadian Birkie WebsiteThe Canadian Birkie Blog, or download the Canadian Birkebiener brochure here for more information.

Disclosure

As an Alberta Parks Ambassador, my registration fee for the Birkebiener was waived, but all words and opinions are my own.

Where to Train For the Birkie

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Family Guide to the Ice Magic Festival in Lake Louise

The Ice Magic Festival is an annual international ice carving competition at Lake Louise with fun for all ages. Observe master ice artists and snow sculptors in action, skate around an ice castle with Mother Nature and Old Man Winter, learn to snowshoe, and enjoy the boundless recreational activities of the area.

When to Go

If you're a festival seeker... The official Ice Magic Festival dates are January 19-29, 2017 with several events taking place Thursday to Sunday each week (details below).
  • Tickets are required to view the ice sculptures and attend events in the ice carving competition area at the Lake Louise Lake Shore on Saturday, January 21/28 and Sunday, January 22/29 from 10 am - 5:30 pm. Purchase tickets for 1.5 hour time slots here. Ticket holders get VIP access to the shuttle buses.
  • Peak times are 11 am - 3 pm. Stay in Lake Louise if possible, so you can get an early start and miss the lineups.

  • It's free to view the ice sculptures on weekdays and Saturdays/Sundays before 10 am or after 5:30 pm. 

  • Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the least busy days, but there are no events on these days.
If you just wanna see the Ice Castle and ice sculptures... go now or in February to avoid the crowds! The ice castle is up from early January until mid March (weather dependent) each year. During the festival, it's free to view the ice sculptures from Monday-Friday, or January 21-22 & 28-29 before 10 am and after 5:30 pm.
Meghan Ward of Adventurous Parents says, "I've found the best time to go is in the evening when you can drive up to the lake yourself and view the completed sculptures... they light them up beautifully, it's really cool."
Skating around the Ice Castle at the Ice Magic Festival

Ice Magic Festival Events

Families will enjoy skating on Lake Louise, learning to snowshoe, sledding, and checking out the ice and snow sculptures. We have never purchased tickets as there are so many free events! Go on January 19 & 20 to watch the ice carving competition for free!

FREE EVENTS AT LAKE LOUISE LAKE SHORE
  • Ice Magic Sculpture Viewing is free on weekdays (January 19, 20, 23-27) and Saturdays and Sundays before 10 am and after 5:30 pm.
  • Snow Magic Sculpture Viewing is free on January 26 & 27 (all day)and January 28 & 29 before 10 am and after 5:30 pm.
  • Skate with Mother Nature and Old Man Winter on Lake Louise. Skate around an ice castle on one of the world's most beautiful outdoor skating rinks. Friday, January 27 & Saturday, January 28 from 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm. Bring your own skates and helmets or rent from Chateau Mountain Sports (at Chateau Lake Louise). 
  • Learn to Snowshoe. Learn how animals use snowshoes, then give it a try. Saturday and Sunday, January 21-22 and 28-29, from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm at the Parks Canada booth on the Lake Louise Lake Shore.
  • International Ice Carving Competition Days #1 and #2. Observe two teams as they transform 300 pound blocks of ice into art! Thursday, January 19 & Friday, January 20 from 8 am - 10 pm. 
Canoe With Three Warriors by Team Sakha, Russia

FREE EVENTS AT OTHER LOCATIONS
  • Ice Carving Demo at Deer Lodge (next door to Chateau Lake Louise): Each carver will have one hour to carve one block of ice into a one-of-a-kind sculpture. Vote for your favorite! Friday, January 20 from 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm.
  • Ice Carving Demo at Lake Louise Ski Resort (in front of the Lodge of the Ten Peaks). Two ice carvers will race the clock to carve a masterpiece in just one hour. Sunday, January 22 from 10 am - 11 am. More details here.
  • Snow Magic at Lake Louise Ski Resort. View giant snow sculptures from January 19-22.
Ice Castle at the 2016 Ice Magic Festival, Lake Louise
TICKETED EVENTS

Tickets are required for events in the ice carving competition area (Lake Louise Lakeshore) on January 21-22 & 28-29 from 10 am - 5:30 pm. See details here.
  • International Ice Carving Final Competition Day: Watch ice artists transform 300 pound blocks of ice into sculptures depicting this year's "True North" theme! Saturday, January 21 from 8 am - 2 pm. 
  • Ice carving demonstrations:  January 28 & 29, 10 am - 4 pm (note: carver will be on break from 12 pm - 1 pm)
  • Snow Magic (snow sculpting demonstrations): on January 21-22 and 28-29 from 10 am - 5:30 pm. 
  • Ice Magic Awards Ceremony: Vote for the People's Choice Ice Sculpture then attend the Awards Ceremony on January 21 at 4:30 pm.
OTHER EVENTS (not included in Ice Magic Tickets)
  • Guided Snowshoeing Trips: January 21 & 22, 11 am - 3 pm.  $64/person.
  • Brewster Sleigh Rides: For rates and information, contact Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Ride the sleigh to majestic ice falls!

Getting There

WEEKENDS - Plan to take the free shuttle bus

Early birds can park right at Lake Louise. I recommend staying in Lake Louise, or nearby Field, so you can get an early start. 

After 9:30 am, expect to park at Samson Mall, Lake Louise and take the free shuttle bus up to the lake. The shuttle bus leaves every 20 minutes starting at 10:30 am and the last bus to Samson Mall departs Lake Louise at 6 pm. Please note that pets are not allowed on the shuttle.

After 3 pm, you can often get parking at the lake, but be prepared to take the shuttle bus if the parking lot is still full (i.e. pack a backpack with everything you need for the day).

WEEKDAYS - Drive to the lake

Park at the lake on weekdays or ski up from Samson Mall!

SELF POWERED TRANSPORTATION

It's possible to hike, snowshoe, or cross country ski to Lake Louise from Samson Mall, but note that there's a fair bit of elevation gain to the lake!
  • Skiers can take Tramline Trail: 4.8 km one way with 195 metres elevation gain. For more information, see The Best Beginner Cross Country Ski Trails in Lake Louise. Uphill is not recommended for Chariot towing.
  • Snowshoers and hikers should take Louise Creek Trail: 2.8 km one way with 195 metres elevation gain. Please stay off ski tracks for everyone's safety. 
Cross country skiing Tramline Trail, Lake Louise

What to Bring

Warm clothes are a must! Bring skates and helmets as the skating at Lake Louise is magical!

If you're able to drive up to the lake, bring a sled/stroller and snowshoes or cross country skis! There's a great tobogganing hill beside the Chateau and several beautiful winter trails to explore.

Pack snacks or dine at Chateau Lake Louise.

Ice Sculpture at Ice Magic Festival, Lake Louise

Where to Stay

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Deer Lodge, Mountaineer Lodge, Baker Creek Chalets, Storm Mountain Lodge, and Castle Chalets provide free Ice Magic tickets with your stay. See details here.

Other options in Lake Louise include Lake Louise Inn, Lake Louise Hostel, and the Post Hotel.

Great Divide Lodge is an economical option 11 minutes away; the town of Field is only 20 minutes away and has several bed and breakfasts and condos to choose from; and Banff's hotels are 40 minutes away.

See my Where to Stay page for more information.

Snow much fun at Lake Louise!

Share your photos with hashtag #playoutsidegal so I can see how much you had at the Ice Magic Festival!

Activities in the Area

Skating on Lake Louise

Snowshoeing to Fairview Lookout, Lake Louise