I love snowshoeing. I also love the mountains covered in thick, fresh powder and the amazing scenery of the backcountry. So when I was discussing different tours with the wonderful staff at White Mountain Adventures, I asked what they had for an adventurous snowshoe: something you couldn’t get “in town”. Their immediate response: The Snowcat Snowshoe Adventure. A full day of backcountry snowshoeing at Fortress Mountain, with access to hidden terrain by a bus and a snowcat. Awesome.
Mountains and fresh deep snow from the Snowcat Snowshoe Adventure

Spoiler Alert: It was awesome!

My day started at the Coast Hotel in Canmore, because White Mountain picks you up! Our van arrived and I met our friendly guide, Marc. He made sure everyone on the tour was dressed correctly: winter boots, coats, snow pants, warm hats and mitts/gloves are required. They tell you all about this when you register. We already had a couple people from Banff and we picked up four more at the Stoney Nakoda Resort. Then it was off to Kananaskis! Marc stopped to put on snow chains before unlocking the gate at Fortress and heading up the hill. You know it’s a good day when the driver has to chain the tires! The sun was just beginning to rise, defining the mountains with angled shadows. “The snow is like makeup for mountains,” said one of the guests, “it defines their features and brings out their beauty”. The combination of the fresh snow and the early morning sunshine definitely made for some stunning scenery as we drove past the old ski lodge at Fortress Mountain.
Close up of a tire with snow chains from the Snowcat Snowshoe Adventure with White Mountain Adventures

You know is going to be a good day when these babies go on!

Marc gave us all snowshoes and double checked that we had the necessary clothing. We actually didn't want too much this day. Because the day was sunny and relatively warm, we ran the risk of sweating. Marc explained, “You don’t want to sweat. Your body cools down by sweating, but if we have to stop for some reason, your sweat will cool you down too fast and you could get hypothermia. If you are starting to sweat, remove a layer so your body doesn’t overheat.” Our snowcat operators gave us a quick safety rundown before we loaded into the machine. They had a lot of experience with different movies filmed at this location, including The Bourne Legacy, Inception and The Revenant. They were preparing to shoot a film, which meant they would be doing some avalanche control during the day. We could expect to see helicopters and hear the bombs. With any luck, we might spot a few avalanches as well. Then we were off! For anyone who hasn’t experienced a snowcat before, it is the ultimate machine for moving through deep snow. With a large track underneath and a plow out front, there was nothing that could stop us as we were transported to the best area given the day’s conditions.
A KPOW Snowcat and mountain scenery

Nothing can stop a Snowcat!

We stopped at the top of a rise, 2300 meters above sea level. The snowcat drivers pointed out where different film sets used to be. They also shared some juicy stories about actors and directors as we put on our snowshoes and prepared to set out. They wished us well before heading back to the lodge to meet the incoming helicopters. We were on our own for most of the afternoon. We had about three feet of fresh powder in the trees, which was our playground. The new snow had piled high on the branches, creating the perfect winter wonderland to explore. We were long past cell service at this point. There’s something special about disconnecting in the wilderness surrounded by trees and mountains.
Heavy snow on trees

It was a winter wonderland!

We had lots of photo opportunities as we bounded through the fresh powder. Marc told us about the different trees in the area as well as any tracks we discovered. He showed us the basics of snow layering and avalanche safety, although he assured us we would not be venturing into avalanche terrain during our trip. We went through the trees and followed no set trail. Marc asked that we stay together, but we could venture on our own lines if we wanted. Most of us were happy to let him break trail and follow where he led. The further back along the line, the easier the trek becomes as the people in front work to pack down the snow. I broke trail in a few places, but I was also happy to let Marc take on the hard work! Everyone had a few moments of falling in the snow, and we all laughed as we struggled to regain our feet in the deep powder.
A person on snowshoes stands on a rock overlooking the mountain scenery. This is our guide on the Snowcat Snowshoe Adventure

Our fearless guide, Marc!

About halfway through our adventure, we stopped for tea, hot chocolate and cookies. It was a delicious snack that refuelled us for the rest of the afternoon. Marc explained that the best way to ward off the cold was to “feed the fire,” or feed ourselves in this case. As we stood around enjoying our snack, we could feel the cold creeping up after our exertion. It was a warm, sunny day and we were all sweating a little bit. We were also wet from falling in the snow on difficult sections. Because everyone in the group had experienced snowshoeing before, and we were all game for an adventure, Marc was able to take us to some pretty incredible places. The “wall” of Fortress Mountain was certainly impressive. We could easily see how this place got its name. A few remnants of movie sets still decorated the terrain. Most of them were completely dismantled after filming, however. There were some open areas for cat-skiing, which some enthusiasts still do at the resort. At the moment, the lifts are eerily still, a reminder of what was once a favourite ski hill for many locals.
Chairlifts are frozen in front of mountain scenery at Fortress Mountain

Chairlifts frozen in time.

In the afternoon, the helicopters arrived. Although they were bombing far from where were snowshoeing, the explosions echoed throughout the valley. We could see the helicopters and a few of the explosions, although the avalanches were tumbling on the other side of the rise. As we made our way down a ski run to the snowcat at the end of the day, the helicopter circled overhead. At the cat, we watched as they triggered avalanches in the area where we started our day. We learned a lot about avalanche bombing from Chris “Chevy” Chevalier, the president of the K-POW team, who picked us up in the snowcat. After the excitement of the helicopter action, we all piled into the snowcat to head back to the van. We were smiling from ear to ear with the excitement of the adventure. On our way down, we were starting to feel the cold creep up once again. We added some extra layers back at the van before settling in for the drive back to town. We all shared stories of different life adventures on the drive back. Marc kept us entertained with some of his wild backpacking stories and advice on excellent summer backpacking trips. We returned home feeling tired from the exertion, but otherwise elated from having experienced such an amazing adventure.
Snow covered trees and mountain scenery from the Snowcat Snowshoe Adventure

We were all elated from our adventure.

Bottom Line: if you’re looking to experience the beauty of the backcountry in the Canadian Rockies, try the Snowcat Snowshoe Adventure from White Mountain Adventures. You will experience some of the best backcountry snowshoeing that the area has to offer with zero hassle. They provide the transportation, equipment and expertise. All you have to do is have fun!
Winter has arrived! It’s time to get outside and play in the snow. Whether you’re hitting the mountain slopes or exploring the untouched backcountry, you won’t last long without the right winter gear. Luckily, you can find everything you need right here in the Canadian Rockies. Where will your adventure take you?

Snowboarding

Snowboarding is all about personal style. From freeriding through untouched snow to throwing down tricks at the park, show your best self on every ride.
A snowboarder on a blue and white background does a trick

Photo by Damian Lamartine. Model: Kate Cruickshank

The Helly Hansen Powderchaser Lifaloft Jacket uses LIFALOFT™ insulation, which is a lightweight, extra warm insulation, perfect for the slopes. This jacket also features zipper vents, oversized cuffs and RECCO® Advanced Rescue system. Helly Hansen’s Powderqueen Bib Pants are waterproof and breathable with two layers of HELLY TECH® Professional fabric. Accessorize your look with a Baclava from Smartwool, Juniper Gloves from Helly Hansen and a Smith Allure Helmet with fleece lining. Shop this look at Helly Hansen in Banff with snowboard and winter gear rentals from Chateau Mountain Sports in Canmore.  

Alpine Skiing

Whether you like fresh powder or hitting the groomed runs, downhill skiing is all about staying stylish and warm.
An alpine skier on a blue and white background

Photo by Damian Lamartine. Model: Luke Bergmann

The Rossignol Rapide Ski Jacket is designed for performance. High-loft synthetic insulation and heat-sealed seams make this jacket waterproof and breathable. The fit is designed to move with you as you carve up the slopes. These Ski Pants from Rossignol are waterproof and breathable with built-in gaiters to seal out the snow. The removable suspenders and adjustable waist make sure these pants fit just right. Accessorize this look with Hestra Gloves, a Smith Quantum Helmet, and a Baclava from Smartwool to keep you warm, dry, and ready for any slope. Love this look? We got it all – including the ski rentals – at Chateau Mountain Sports.  

Fat Biking

From breezy downhills to cardio-inducing uphills, mountain biking is not just a summer sport! Keep warm and don't overheat with natural materials designed to move.
A woman on a fat bike on a blue and white background

Photo by Damian Lamartine. Model: Kate Cruickshank

Layer up with a Merino 250 Baselayer Crew Shirt and Smartloft-X 60 hoodie from Smartwool. Merino wool is a sustainable, lightweight insulator that compresses easily and works when wet. The Hurry Up Leggings from Lolë are ready for winter! The water-repellent and windproof fabric will keep you warm and dry as you work up a sweat climbing those mountains. Accessorize this look with a Power Fleece Gaiter from Bula made with Primaloft polyester micro fleece, a Chill Knit Beanie from Helly Hansen, and Merino Sport Wind Mittens from Smartwool. Love this look? Get it at Smartwool and Lolë in Banff. Rent this fat bike from Rebound Cycle.  

Nordic Skiing

Get your heart pumping! Moisture-wicking base layers and lighter, breathable outerwear will keep you going all day long.
A model in cross country ski gear on a blue and white background

Photo by Damian Lamartine. Model: Luke Bergmann

The Menali Mens Quilted Jacket features an athletic fit and has stretch panels under the sleeves and on the back so you can move with ease. The synthetic insulation keeps you warm, even when wet, and compresses when you need to pack the jacket away. The Craft Core Trim Thermal Midlayer uses thermal fabric with a brushed inside for extra comfort. The Salomon Softshell Pant is designed for highly active sports. The front has windproof and water-resistant technology while the back is designed to move with you and shed extra heat. Protect your eyes with Vision Lightweight Goggles. These technically advanced goggles are adjustable at the nose pad and temples. The lens is equipped with Hydro Lens Tech, so you’ll have clear vision in any weather! Accessorize this look with a Lightweight Swift Toque, perfect for winter aerobic activities. Get this entire look, including expertly fitted Nordic ski gear, from Strides in Canmore.   No matter your taste for adventure, you can get the winter gear you need from local mountain stores right here in the Canadian Rockies!
Armed with a brand-new satellite communication device from Canmore's own Valhalla Pure Outfitters, a practical yet fun Christmas present, we needed an excuse to test it out in the “real world” of no-cell-service. So off to Kananaskis we drove! Since much of this area is outside of network coverage, it was the perfect opportunity to test the device’s check-in and messaging capabilities while going on a little winter adventure. We geared up for the cold, packed our snowshoes and ice fishing gear, and hit the road. The weather was unseasonably warm, but a recent dump of snow meant the trails were in the perfect condition for a mid-day snowshoe to explore a new fishing spot. We weren’t disappointed. The drive was magical. The trees were heavy with the snowfall and everything sparkled in the sunshine. We timed our adventure to work against the traffic, and the morning-goers were leaving as we were arriving, which made for an easy drive. Along the way, we pulled over to send check-ins to our family back east. With the pandemic dragging on and adding to the time we couldn’t spend together, we found this to be a surprisingly interactive form of communication. They were able to track our journey into the woods and chime in with some not-always-helpful advice along the way. Despite the recent 40+ centimetres of snow, the trails were well-used from people taking advantage of winter holidays and sunny, warm conditions. We loaded the gear into the sled and set off on foot. The walk through the trees was easy enough, and the wind-swept lake made the snowshoe across the ice light and breezy. We paused for a few photos along the way, and of course sent our check-ins back home for our families to follow along. We spent the afternoon drilling holes, loading fishing lines and trying to get a bite. No luck. You get skunked sometimes, especially when trying new areas based on previous knowledge, depth charts and a lifelong study of fish behaviour. But we didn’t feel cheated in any way. It was a wonderful afternoon for a beautiful snowshoe into the backcountry of the Canadian Rockies. And as an added bonus, we got to play with our new Christmas toy! If you’re heading into the mountains this winter, we strongly recommend getting prepared with avalanche safety training. Check the weather and the trail conditions before you go, and make sure someone knows where you are, who you’re with and when you’re expected to return. For more safety tips, check out this article, written with help from Lisa Paulson, Visitor Safety Specialist for Parks Canada.
The luxury treatment at the Fairmont Banff Springs isn’t just for humans! VIPs (very important pets) also get to relax in comfort at the beautiful, pet friendly Castle in the Rockies. Each $50 pet fee includes a cozy bed, a water bowl and tasty treats for your furry family member. A portion of this fee is also donated to the local Bow Valley SPCA, Canada’s first no-cage, no-kill adoption centre. Since the partnership began in 2018, the Fairmont Banff Springs has donated over $45,000 to the shelter. These funds directly help abandoned dogs and cats find their forever families.
Grover, a mastiff from the Bow Valley SPCA, sits in front of the gardens at the pet friendly Fairmont Banff Springs

Grover from the Bow Valley SPCA sits in front of the gardens at the Fairmont Banff Springs.

“This is a very important relationship for us,” says Joseph Potts, chair of the Funding Development Committee at the Bow Valley SPCA, “The generosity of the Fairmont Banff Springs has allowed us to continue to provide individualized care to each and every animal in our shelter, whether it’s extra veterinary care, behavioural therapy or basic training. At the centre, we meet each animal where they are, and we work with them using 100% force-free methods to bring out their very best so they can be happy in their forever homes.”
A black kitten explores the gallery suite at the pet friendly Fairmont Banff Springs

Scarlet from the Bow Valley SPCA explores the gallery suite at the pet friendly Fairmont Banff Springs.

In addition to pet friendly rooms, the hotel also offers pet-sitting through their babysitting service for an additional fee. If you don’t have a pet, Canine Ambassador Bear is ready to meet you! This beautiful black lab is a graduate of the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind program. He loves meeting new people, getting belly rubs and showing guests around the trails in Banff. If you’d like to meet Bear and take him for a walk, talk to the VIP Concierge Desk.
A dog from the Bow Valley SPCA sits on a throne in Mount Stephen Hall at the pet friendly Fairmont Banff Springs

Matilda from the Bow Valley SPCA in Mount Stephen Hall.

Enjoy the royal treatment with your pet at the Fairmont Banff Springs while helping abandoned dogs and cats find their forever homes at the Bow Valley SPCA!  
Snowflakes are falling, the mountains are calling and it’s time to break out the skis. If you love winter, chances are you’ve been waiting to dust off your skis for another year. If you don’t love winter, maybe it’s time to give skiing a try? Skiing is one of those activities the whole family can enjoy, and it doesn’t have to break the bank. So whether you’re seeking the slopes, craving some cross-country, or begging to get to the backcountry, your next ski season adventure begins here in the Canadian Rockies.  

All about Alpine

An alpine skier enjoys ski season

Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Reuben Krabbe / SkiBig3

The Canadian Rockies are world famous for alpine skiing, also known as downhill skiing. From Nakiska in Kananaskis, to Norquay, Banff Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Ski Resort in Banff National Park, and Marmot Basin in Jasper, the Rockies are home to some of the best slopes and best powder in the world. Practice your skills on Nakiska’s family friendly slopes or learn something new with the ski school at Norquay. Enjoy fresh powder stashes and Delerium Dive, the local’s favourite off piste, at Sunshine Village. Find some peace and quiet on the mountain slopes at Marmot Basin. For something completely new, cruise around the huge terrain expansion at Lake Louise! Take a ride on the brand-new lift and get lost with over 480 acres of new terrain to explore! Alpine skiing doesn't have to break the bank. For the savvy shopper, there are plenty of deals that will get you on the slopes without ruining your bank account. Take advantage of ski deals like the Flex Pack from Ski Big 3, which allows you to explore the slopes without a firm time commitment. Mountain Collective has passes for resorts all over Alberta and BC, while each ski hill has discount cards, usually with no blackout dates. For the best time on the slopes, try going mid-week and read up on your hill's latest Covid-19 safety protocols.  

Nothing but Nordic

Three people enjoy Nordic ski season in front of mountains

Travel Alberta / Matthew Clark @stirlandraephoto

Nordic skiing, also known as cross-country or XC, is the original form of skiing and was developed in Norway as a means of transportation. In the mid 1800’s, it became a sport with competitive races. Nordic skiing encompasses any form of skiing where the boot is attached at the toe and the heel is free, and it can be done on groomed trails, fresh powder and as a means of exploring the backcountry. The Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park was built for the 1988 Winter Olympics and is a world-class facility with over 20 km of groomed trails, including 6.5 km of lit trails for night skiing. On-site Trail Sports has ski rentals, lessons and biathlon lessons. In Kananaskis, popular areas for skiing include Mount Shark by Mount Engadine Lodge, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and Kananaskis Valley. In order to offset provincial cuts and maintain track setting in these areas, Nordiq Alberta is running a pilot program to offer parking passes to recreational users. $10 a day or $50 for the season can help maintain these trails for everyone to enjoy. Other areas that are popular for Nordic skiing include the Cascade Valley and Healy Creek near Banff, as well as Moraine Lake Road and Tramline in the Lake Louise area. There are also great trails along the Bow Valley Parkway, including Castle Junction and Baker Creek. In Jasper, try the easy trail to Moab Lake, or more intermediate trails in the Leach Lake area. For trail suggestions and descriptions, see our print or digital magazine (p 39 or p 77).  

Talk about Touring

A woman ski touring in the mountains

Travel Alberta / Jamie Walter @jwalter1337

For hardcore enthusiasts with a solid skillset, ski touring promises the ultimate adventure. Ski touring brings exploration to the backcountry, with untouched snow and no patrols in sight. It often involves a combination of Nordic and Alpine techniques and crosses over with mountaineering skills to reach untouched areas. Ski setups for this type of journey vary, but they’re usually more sturdy than a typical Nordic ski, while not as restricting as an alpine ski setup. Some ski touring enthusiasts have the option to secure the heel, but many use a sturdy Nordic style called Telemark, which allows the heel to swing free but still has enhanced support and edges for steep hills. This gear is ideal for rolling terrain. Ski touring requires everyone involved to be excellent skiers, and to have advanced avalanche safety training. Because areas accessed by ski touring enthusiasts are off the grid, it’s important to bring a satellite communication device, in case of emergency, and an avalanche kit with a beacon, shovel and probe. Just as important as carrying these items is knowing how to use them, and how to read the terrain so you can avoid high risk areas in the first place. For the best experience, consider hiring a guide. You can connect with ACMG certified guides from Cloud Nine, Yamnuska or Rockaboo. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to embrace ski season and start exploring what the Canadian Rockies have to offer!  

Want to try skiing without committing to the cost?

Rent some gear to see what suits your style!
  • Chateau Mountain Sports has Nordic and Alpine gear rentals and sales.
  • Strides has demo gear and Nordic ski sales.
  • Snowtips rents Nordic and Alpine gear.
  • Trail Sports at the Canmore Nordic Centre rents Nordic skis for use on their groomed trails.
  • GearUp is Canmore’s largest rental store with quality equipment for Alpine, Nordic and Touring.
  • Wilson Mountain Sports rents Alpine, Nordic and Touring gear as well as avalanche safety kits.
  • Ski Big 3 and the ski hills rent Alpine gear to use on the slopes.
  • Pure Outdoors rents, sells and services Alpine and Nordic gear.
  • Totem Ski Shop has rentals, sales, try-before-you-buy and servicing for Alpine and Nordic skiing.
 
Everyone knows the Canadian Rockies have world-class skiing. But if you’re not looking to hit the slopes, or you want to try something else this weekend, here are 15 of our other favourite winter activities. There is so much to do in the mountains this winter!  

1. Try Tubing

You don’t have to go down the slopes on your skis! Tubing is fast, it’s fun, and it’s a family friendly activity that everyone can enjoy. Check out the tube parks at Lake Louise, Mount Norquay, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and Nakiska.  

 2. Ride in an Open Sleigh

There is nothing quite as majestic as a team of heavy horses pulling a sleigh through the pristine snow surrounded by mountains. Sleigh rides are perfect for everyone of all abilities. Try a sleigh ride with Brewster Adventures, Banff Trail Riders or Jasper Riding Stables and just hear those sleigh bells jingling!  

 3.  Learn to Mush

Learn about the area and make some new furry friends with a dog sledding tour. Drive  the team or relax in the sled. Try dog sledding in Kananaskis with Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Howling Dogs or Snowy Owl. In Lake Louise, Kingmik has dogsledding tours within the national park. Just outside of Jasper, Cold Fire Creek offers trips from one hour to overnights.  

 4. Walk on Water

Icewalks are an excellent way to learn about the history of the National Parks and experience some of the most unique scenery that simply isn’t accessible in the summer. Explore Banff’s Johnston Canyon with Discover Banff Tours or Jasper’s Maligne Canyon with Sundog.  

 5. Hurry Hard

While curling is not technically Canada’s national sport, there are few things more quintessentially Canadian than the polite game of curling. Take some lessons at The Fenlands or learn some skills with a workshop at Canmore Golf & Curling Club. At the Jasper Activity Centre, try a clinic or drop-in night with the Jasper Curling Club.  

  6. Get Snowed In

Fresh powder isn’t just for the slopes! Hit up the trails and go the distance in snowshoes. For the best experience, try a guided tour at the top of the mountains with Lake Louise Ski Resort, or join White Mountain Adventures at the top of Banff Sunshine Village. In BC, try snowshoeing on or off the mountain at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.  

 7. Chase the Waterfall

Ice climbing is fun, exhilarating, and an excellent way to get the most unique views of the surrounding mountains. Even if you’ve never climbed before, there are guides and programs to show you the ropes! Try ice climbing with Rockaboo in Jasper or Yamnuska in Kananaskis.  

 8. Fatten Up

Biking isn’t just a summer activity! With wide tires, a hefty frame, and the features of a well-tuned mountain bike, fat bikes are designed to handle the snow. Rent your fat bike from Snowtips in Banff, Rebound Cycle in Canmore, Kananaskis Outfitters or the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, and Jasper Source for Sports.  

 9. Reach New Heights

Chairlifts aren’t just for skiers! Catch a ride to the mountaintop for sightseeing, dining, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The Banff Gondola has panoramic views of Banff and beyond, with interpretation and mountaintop dining. Banff Sunshine Village offers sightseeing, 360° views, snowshoeing and more. Mount Norquay and Lake Louise Ski Resort also offer sightseeing from their lifts.  

 10. Learn the History

The mountains are full of stories, from the resident wildlife to the First Nations guides who showed this place to the early European explorers. Learn about these stories from the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Canmore Museum, Jasper-Yellowhead Museum or the Golden Museum and Archives. Many museums also offer virtual exhibits during this time.  

 11. Curl up with a Good Book

Discover the best trails in the mountains or get carried away with a good story. Find something to tickle your funny bone at The Tin Box. Bacchus Books in Golden has new and used books with an upstairs café. Café Books in Canmore has local authors, kids’ books and used books in their tearoom.  

  12. Shop ‘til you Drop

The mountain towns in the Canadian Rockies have excellent shopping to satisfy all of your needs! Find your style at Lolë in Banff or Jasper, Qiviuk, and Bolder Menswear. Get glamourous with Pandora, Stratton’s Jewellery or Jasper Rock & Jade.  

 13. Fuel the Fire

The Canadian Rockies have some of the best dining around. Refine your dining experience at the new Rundle Bar at the Fairmont Banff Springs or Orso Trattoria at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Enjoy local’s favourites like Grizzly House, Mountain Restaurant, Famous Chinese, Eleven22 or Whistle Stop Pub. While many places may be temporarily closed over the holidays, many are offering takeout and delivery of all your favourites!  

 14. Get Cultured

The mountains have a long and deep connection with the arts. From local to internationally renowned artists, the Rockies have it all! Find contemporary Canadian artwork at the iconic Canada House Gallery or discover Wild and Sacred Places at Mountain Galleries in Banff and Jasper.  

 15. Relax and Unwind

Take advantage of the award-winning spas throughout the Canadian Rockies! The Willow Stream Spa provides luxurious treatments in their recently expanded salon and spa. Work out those tensions with a massage from Meadow Spa. Rejuvenate at The Spa at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. The holiday spa closures are temporary, and these places can't wait to welcome you back this winter!   No matter how you like to spend your winter days, the Canadian Rockies are waiting!  
This year saw the tourism industry in the Canadian Rockies turned on its head. Borders closed to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and both the National Parks shut down for months at a time. The communities were hit hard by the pandemic. With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time to support the local businesses that keep these mountain towns alive. Let's show our love so they can continue to be here when this is all over. Here at Where Canadian Rockies, we encourage you to shop local. And here are some great places to start:  

Action & Adventure

A woman on alpine skis on a very steep slope. Shop local for ski tuning this winter.

Travel Alberta // Tourism Jasper

If getting outside is in your future, you’ll want the best gear to get you there. Locally owned and operated Smartwool in Banff gave back to the community this summer with their Goods for the Greater Good campaign. Soft, moisture-wicking, sustainable, odor-neutralizing and thermoregulating, merino wool will keep you warm when it’s cold, and cool when it’s warm. The brand is so sure about their quality and your happiness that they even offer a 2 year, satisfaction guaranteed return policy. Shop sustainable merino wool products this winter! Find stylish and professional quality outdoor gear at Helly Hansen’s locally owned and operated store in Banff. Their products are designed for mountain adventure. They have a great store with everything you need, including styles for children and adults. They also feature excellent deals and specials that support the community, including donating winter coats to those in need. We love their looks so much, we put one on the cover of our magazine! Lolë began in Montreal to provide a stylish alternative to women’s technical and travel clothing. Because of its Canadian roots, Lolë has clothing designed for -40, +40 and everything in between! Their mindfulness approach means their products are created by sustainable manufacturers who use recycled materials wherever possible. Their pieces are also timeless, so you won’t have to buy a new style year after year. Find your next favourite piece at locally owned Lolë stores in Banff and Jasper. In Lake Louise, Banff and Canmore, you can shop the best brands and get the best gear at Chateau Mountain Sports. Check them out in the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Banff Springs. Also see their huge new store in the Shops of Canmore, which has all the rental gear you need for your favourite winter activities! Get set for Nordic skiing or winter running with Strides in Canmore. They have all the best gear including demo products so you can take a test drive. Their expert staff are trained to help you with fitting and they know the best gear for any conditions. You’ll find your next outdoor adventure at Strides. New to Jasper’s downtown shopping scene, Puur Athletics carries ethically produced clothing for yoga, dance, swimming and surfing. All of their fun and unique designs are made in North America. Many of the brands they carry also support local charities. You may be excited to hit the slopes, but is your gear ready to take you there? Proper ski tuning can completely change your experience on the hill. From ski tuning to edge sharpening, boot fitting, binding adjustments and more, visit locally owned Totem Ski Shop or Jasper Source for Sports.  

All that Glitters

shop local soap wrapped in paper with lavender accent With the snow-capped mountains an arm’s reach away, it’s hard not to feel the holiday spirit with every visit to Banff. And when you’re looking for bits and baubles to amp up your tree, there is no better place to shop than Spirit of Christmas. With thousands of ornaments, and a mini-Christmas village display that will have your holiday heart a-flutter, you will be sure to leave with a memorable treasure that you would be proud to pass down. When Covid-19 struck and the health regulations for shopping safely changed, it was time for a change of scenery for Pandora Jewelry. Now in Harmony Lane, Pandora is in a new and improved retail space! “It’s four times the size of the previous location,” says local owner Janet Conners. “It has enormous windows, a 12-foot ceiling and it’s a much larger space.” They even have great new landlords. “When we received a beautiful flower arrangement and a card saying, ‘Welcome to the Harmon family’, I knew we were at home. It’s great to be a part of the family!” If you’re looking to refresh your seasonal wardrobe this winter, make sure to stop into Banff’s locally owned Avenue Road Clothier where they believe if you look good, you feel good… And if you feel good, you do good! The shop carries a wide array of fashion brands from well-known and emerging Canadian designers with price points to suit every budget. In Canmore, the streets are lined with one-of-a-kind shops and galleries that will have you filling your car with dozens of special finds. But for those who have limited time to browse, Stonewaters is a must for one-stop shopping. Furniture, candles, textiles and decor are just a small part of what’s inside this massive shop. They also stock a comfortable collection of award-winning chocolates from Jācek Chocolate Couture as well as creations from other Canadian purveyors. And if you’ve purchased more than your arms (or car) can carry, Stonewaters offers free delivery in Canmore! They can also arrange shipping across Canada. Canmore is also home to some pretty notable Canada-wide brands. You can shop them right in their mountainous home turf. Be sure to check out Rocky Mountain Soap Co. and their 100% natural body care line including their newest collection of Nomad Hand Sanitizers. And for those looking for a few sips and snacks, The Grizzly Paw has concocted an unbelievably delicious collection handcrafted sodas and suds available to sample right in their tasting room!  

Delectables

A woman in Alberta's Own Marketplace with unique, shop local gifts

Alberta's Own Marketplace // Travel Alberta // Mike Seehagel

If you were a kid in the 80’s, memories were made at the gas station as you picked through the one, two and five cent candies. Nowadays sugar shopping has become more glamourous with walls of sweets in the candy shops of Banff. Both Banff Candy Store and Banff Sweet Shoppe have not only curated collections of sweets from our past, they’ve also brought international treats and hard to find varieties of our classic faves. If you’re looking to shop the mountain region’s local artisans, Project A offers a New York curated vibe in the heart of Canmore. Offering a stylish array of handmade goods and art including ceramics, jewellery, clothing, kitchen, homewares and more. You’re sure to find those one-of-a-kind items you won’t be able to pass up. And don’t forget to pop into Alberta’s Own Marketplace to stock up on the sassiest scented candle collection from Shame Candle Co. Furthermore, Canmore’s beautiful Main Street is home to many unique shops that sell everything from fine jewellery to children's toys and even top name brand clothing. Stop at Hi Jinx and Armadillo for toys, games and crafts for the young and young-at-heart. Farther down the street, Valhalla Pure Outfitters has all the technical outdoor gear you need to get outside and play in the mountains this winter. One block farther, Stratton's Jewellery has a uniquely curated selection of fine jewellery while Bolder Menswear has the best menswear brands to complete your look. Jasper may be a small mountain town with an adventurous atmosphere, but it also has a huge art scene! Local and regional artists often showcase their talents at the Jasper Artists Guild gallery. This gallery focuses on artists at the beginning of their career. There are a lot of hidden gems! At Mountain Galleries, seasoned artists capture the essence of the wild and sacred places around Banff and Jasper National Parks. Find paintings, sculptures and traditional works from First Nations’ artists.   No matter your budget or your tastes, there’s something in the Canadian Rockies for you! So we encourage you to shop local this holiday season. Let’s keep small businesses around for years to come.  
‘Tis the season to be merry. Even though things look a little different this year with the ongoing pandemic and the changing health restrictions throughout the province, this is still the time to celebrate the warmth and magic of the season! We’ve rounded up 7 ways to safely enjoy the holidays in the Canadian Rockies.  

Santa on the Mountaintop

Take the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain and meet Santa at the Mountaintop Christmas celebration. Decorate cookies, take photos, roll your own maple taffy and watch a Christmas movie. This family-friendly event runs weekends throughout December and all of Christmas break! The event is designed with safety in mind. Click here for full safety details.  

12 Days of Christmas at Stoney Nakoda Resort

Show your ID for a chance to win at Stoney Nakoda Resort! Each night from December 13-24, the resort will draw a name to win a teddy bear with a mystery gift. Gifts include cash, hotel rooms, gift certificates and more. For bonus entries, show your Winner’s Edge card, your hotel room key, or your same-day receipt from The Ridge or Sidelines Bar. Get all the details, here.  

Festival of Christmas

Join the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and celebrate the holidays in style! From letters to Santa, to arts, crafts, fine dining and family photos, the lodge has an excellent holiday package waiting for you. Enjoy activities like ice skating, tobogganing, cross-country skiing and more. Look for the current safety measures and the full list of festivities before booking.  

Christmas at the Castle

Watch the Fairmont Banff Springs come alive with holiday cheer during their annual Christmas at the Castle celebrations. Enjoy activities like crafts and storytimes with Mrs. Claus, photos with Santa, festive dining and outdoor activities like skating on the lawn. As always, the castle will be decked out with some of the most beautiful decorations around. At this time, the hotel is only open to registered guests and those with dining or spa reservations. For a full list of events and activities, click here.  

Ski with Santa

During the holidays, even Santa himself unwinds with some time on the slopes! Ski or snowboard with the north pole’s favourite celebrities, including Santa and Mrs. Claus, at Sunshine Village this season! Get your photo with them or grab a candy cane as they make their way down the slopes and relax during their busiest time of the year.  

Dashing through the Snow

With sleigh bells jinglin’ and snowflakes flying, it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride. Book your Christmas sleigh ride with Banff Trail Riders and enjoy the mountain meadows with hot apple cider. Or explore beautiful Lake Louise with Brewster Adventures and get into the holiday spirit!  

Beautiful Ballet

During the week before the big day, Lux Cinema will be screening the Christmas classic ballet The Nutcracker. This presentation was previously captured live at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto. Make sure to book your tickets in advance.