Make your own way to Canmore, a charming mountain town nestled in the Canadian Rockies. There are no airports in Canmore, though we suggest flying to Calgary as a number of companies offer frequent shuttles between the two cities (departing Calgary from either Calgary International Airport or major hotels in the downtown area). Your winter adventure officially begins at your Canmore hotel with a welcome meeting at 6pm. Following the meeting, there’s an optional group dinner at a local restaurant where you’ll have to chance to get to know your tour leader and new travel buddies. Otherwise, the evening is yours to enjoy.
Tick the first item off your winter activity bucket list today as you head to Kananaskis Country for a day of snowshoeing. It’s about a 1.5 hour drive to Fortress Mountain, the filming site of several Hollywood blockbusters (such as The Revenant and The Bourne Legacy), and the location of your guided treeline snowshoe adventure. Spend about 4-5 hours taking in outstanding mountain views as you trek through quintessential winter landscapes. Remember to dress accordingly and wear warm (preferably waterproof) boots, a proper winter jacket, hat and gloves. Then return to Canmore for a free evening. A warming cup of hot chocolate from one of the many cafes is a great place to start.
This morning, you’ll have the opportunity to experience a different kind of winter landscape as you embark on an ice-walk through Grotto Canyon. See daredevil ice climbers scaling frozen waterfalls, ancient native pictographs and unusual icy rock formations as you explore the frozen creek bed floor – wearing special hiking crampons strapped onto your boots for grip – with a local guide. Return to Canmore for lunch (not included), then trade in your ice cleats for ice skates for a lesson at the Canmore Hockey Club. Experts will show you the ropes and explain what you need to know to be a professional hockey player. You’ll have the chance don proper hockey gear and practice your new skills on the ice.
In the morning, head to the Canmore Curling Club for an introduction to another adventure on ice – curling. Discover a thing or two about curling rocks and sweeping techniques, then enjoy a free afternoon. There are plenty of winter activities to keep you occupied. Today is one of two opportunities you’ll have on this trip to go dog sledding, cutting through the snow like an explorer of old. Intrepid’s commitment to animal welfare means we have chosen companies that adhere to strict ethical guidelines and can prove the humane treatment of the working dogs. Those who like to cycle might want to hire a fat bike; outfitted with extra-wide tires (for traction on snow-covered trails), hand warmers and modified frames, fat bikes are bicycles tailored for winter conditions. There are plenty of scenic trails of varying difficulty, like the Bow River Loop or Horseshoe Loop, worth exploring. Alternatively, Canmore’s snow-covered trees, majestic mountains and occasional animal tracks provide the perfect backdrop for cross-country skiing.
Banff / Invermere, Columbia Valley
After breakfast, take a short 30-minute drive to Banff, where you’ll have free time to stroll the main avenue and its artisan shops, boutiques and art galleries. You might want to use this opportunity to shop for souvenirs. Though this main drag is undeniably touristy, the ever-present sight of the mountains looming overhead more than make up for it. After lunch, continue west to Canada’s main continental divide (a natural boundary of elevated terrain that separates the drainage basins of the country). This geological phenomenon also happens to separate two provinces (Alberta and British Columbia) and two national parks (Banff and Kootenay). Explore the pristine wilderness of this area on a guided snowshoe hike through ancient forests and lakes. Then continue on to Invermere on the Lake, a pretty lakeside town in the beautiful Columbia Valley.
Invermere, Columbia Valley
Today is a leisurely day in the Columbia Valley. Start the day skating in the great outdoors along frozen Lake Windermere. Measuring nearly 30 kilometres/18 miles long, Lake Windermere has the distinction of being the world’s long’s ice skating trail. Later on, warm up at the Radium Hot Springs. Located in Kootenay National Park, spend time soaking in mineral-rich hot springs surrounded by snow-covered forest for the ultimate in Canadian winter relaxation.
Invermere, Columbia Valley
After yesterday’s afternoon of rest and relaxation, head to the Selkirk Mountains for another active day. Let your leader show you around on a guided snowshoe hike at the Panorama Resort, hire a fat bike and explore the region at your own pace, strap on some skis for some cross-country skiing, or if you’re after a bit more speed, why not hire a snowmobile. There are no shortage of ways to get active and explore the winter wilderness. After your day in the mountains, head back to Invermere and find a comfy pub for some apres ski festivities.
Banff National Park / Lake Louise
Journey back to Banff National Park (about 2 hours), arriving just in time for an all-Canadian lunch at the Storm Mountain Lodge. Dine on meats from Alberta, cheese from Quebec and fish from B.C. in a rustic log cabin while an entirely Canadian playlist croons in the background. There’s even a fireplace and books from Canadian authors if you’d like to brush up on your literature. After lunch, visit Johnston Canyon for an afternoon ice walk. A network of steel catwalks are built into the canyon wall, allowing you to walk right along this cathedral of ice. You’ll see staggering pillars of blue ice and frozen waterfalls towering 30 metres/98 feet above your head. The sheer magnitude of the ice – both above and below you – will leave you in awe.
Today marks your last day in the glorious Canadian Rockies. You have the choice of joining your tour leader on a drive along the world-famous Icefields Parkway to see for yourself why this stretch of road connecting Lake Louise to Jasper is considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world. After travelling through soaring mountain peaks, ancient glaciers, cascading waterfalls and sweeping valleys filled with pine and larch, you’ll stop for what is bound to be a trip highlight – a hike to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier. Alternatively, you can choose to have a free day in Lake Louise for one last fix of winter activities. Ask your tour leader about where you can go for some dog sledding, skating, cross-country skiing or a sleigh ride. Regardless of what you choose, meet up with your tour leader and fellow travellers again in evening for an included farewell dinner at the Station Restaurant. Located in a heritage railway station, serving hearty Canadian favourites, it’s bound to be a memorable final meal.
Journey to Calgary where your Canadian winter adventure comes to an end. Travelers can be transported to Calgary Airport or Downtown depending on their plans. The arrival time depends on each group however If you decide to fly out this day, please don’t book a flight before 3pm.
Fortress Mountain - Guided snowshoe hike
Canmore - Grotto Canyon Guided Icewalk
Canmore - Learn to Be a Canadian Hockey Player
Canmore - Introduction to Curling
Columbia Valley - Guided snowshoe hike at Continental Divide
Columbia Valley - Ice skating on Windermere Lake
Columbia Valley - Radium Hot Springs
Panorama Resort - Guided snowshoeing
Banff - All Canadian Lunch at Storm Mountain Lodge
Banff National Park - Johnston Canyon Guided Icewalk
Icefields Parkway - Hike to toe of Athabasca Glacier