Travel Alberta / Ryan Bray
Short days of winter got you feeling blue? Try these nighttime outdoor adventures that take place after the sun goes down!
Let’s face it, winter in the Canadian Rockies is dark. With the sun setting around 5 pm in December and early January, it can feel like the days are too short for all the amazing activities that winter has to offer. Just because the stars are out doesn’t mean it’s time to call it a day! We made it our mission to discover all the ways you can play outside in the dark. Here are some of the ways we like to enjoy the mountains at night.
1. Get a Headlamp!
Headlamps can turn any daytime activity into an evening one with the addition of one simple accessory. Workshops such as Light up the Night at artsPlace teach cyclists how to properly light their bikes for safe winter riding. Group fatbike rides from Rebound Cycle often run at night with the use of proper lights. Sundog Tours offers nighttime icewalks in stunning Maligne Canyon, the deepest accessible canyon in Jasper National Park.
What we tried: Evening Icewalk with Discover Banff Tours.
Why we loved it: Our interpretive guide told us about the history and geology of Banff National Park while the frozen waterfalls sparkled under the light of our headlamps. We enjoyed a snack of hot chocolate and cookies before walking back under the light of the stars. It’s rare to experience this canyon all to yourself, and the starlit sky added a magical touch to the whole experience.
2. Light it Up
Sometimes to enjoy nighttime outdoor adventures, you just have to get under floodlights. Many of the free outdoor skating rinks in Canmore, Banff and Jasper are lit at night, so you can enjoy skating or a game of hockey well into the evening. The Canmore Nordic Centre has 6.5 km of illuminated tracks for cross-country skiing after dark. Mt Norquay has lit ski runs on Friday and Saturday nights, providing extra time on the slopes.
What we tried: Night tubing at Mt Norquay.
Why we loved it: Tubing is fast! We loved spinning down the groomed runs under the light of the floodlights while music was pumpin’ from an old snowcat. It was a cool party under the stars that everyone enjoyed. Nearby, skiers and boarders got in some nighttime runs and it was fun to watch them take on obstacles. The chalet was open for refreshments and to warm up. A mid-evening hot chocolate boosted our energy so we could enjoy tubing well into the night!
3. Gaze at the Stars
Jasper National Park is the second largest dark sky preserve in the world. That means the light pollution is minimal, making conditions ideal for exploring the night sky. Want to learn more? Try the interpretive programming at the Jasper Planetarium. Looking for a unique way to gaze at the stars? Try a sleigh ride! Banff Trail Riders and Brewster Adventures offer nighttime sleigh and cutter rides under the stars. Lacy Caldas of Brewster Stables recommends moonlit sleigh rides for “a little more romance.” With the snow on the mountains reflecting the starlight, you’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of the Rockies while bundled under a warm blanket.
What we tried: Alpenglow at the Banff Gondola.
Why we loved it: The mountaintop is a whole new experience after dark! It was great to watch the town of Banff fall asleep and stare up at the amazing starlight from 2281 m/7486 ft. The walk to Sanson’s Peak was chilly, but we warmed up with a hot drink by the fire pits when we returned. For a complete experience, reserve a table at Sky Bistro and start your evening with a delicious meal.
4. Celebrate the Season
Mountain towns love winter, and they celebrate the season long after the sun sets. New Year’s Eve brings Torchlight Parades to Sunshine Village and Mt Norquay. Watch professionals ski down with lit torches in celebration of the new year. Head into town for skating and a pyrotechnic show in Banff, or enjoy the fireworks display in Canmore. Jasper in January is a 3-week festival that celebrates all things winter! In addition to a number of daytime activities, nightlife includes free concerts, restaurant deals and pub specials. In Lake Louise, the Ice Magic Festival celebrates the season with ice carving competitions and beautiful ice sculptures displayed until they melt. At night, they are lit to provide a twinkling display of outdoor art.
What we tried: Banff Christmas Market at Warner Stables.
Why we loved it: This annual event seems to grow every year. It was a great way to get into the holiday spirit! We explored the outdoor and indoor vendors while enjoying a warm drink and some popcorn. We warmed up by one of the outdoor fires while listening to the carolers sing holiday classics and admiring the festive decorations. This market brought out the best of the beginning of winter!
Which nighttime outdoor adventure will you try? No matter where your mountain vacation takes you this winter, make the most of your time by getting out and living the night!