6 winter activities to enjoy in Alberta Parks near Calgary

By Sarah Sussman

Instead of staying cooped up indoors this season, get outside and enjoy some action in the great Canadian outdoors. Regardless of whether you’re a complete newbie or seasoned outdoor enthusiast, the great outdoors have plenty to offer – especially in the Alberta Parks near Calgary. From skijöring and ice fishing to skating and snowshoeing, here are six outdoor winter activities to try this year. [Photo credit: istockphoto.com/RelaxFoto.de]

6 winter activities to enjoy in Alberta Parks near Calgary

Dog sledding

Everyone should try dog sledding at least once. It’s equal parts serenity, adrenaline and history lesson. Dog sledding was the original form of transportation used by the Inuit people of Canada as well as the early settlers around the Canadian Rockies. There are numerous dog sledding companies in Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise including Howling Dog Tours, Snowy Owl Tours, Kingmik Dog Sled Tours and more. And the best part is you can get as hands-on or hands-off as you please.

Most tour companies will let you assist in harnessing and hooking up the dogs as well as mushing (i.e. driving the dogs). For a lower-key adventure, sit back and let the pros do the work while you enjoy the scenery (and dog cuddles, obviously).

Another option for canine lovers, skijöiring is a Scandinavian hybrid sport that combines dog sledding and skiing. It’s only recently started to gain traction (literally) within Canada, but Mad Dogs & Englishmen offers lessons and rentals for anyone who’s curious. And yes – you can BYOD (bring your own dog).

Wildlife viewing

Mountain lions, cougars and bears – oh my! Alberta’s five national parks and 250 provincial parks are home to nearly 600 specifies of protected wildlife including moose, wolves, lynx, cougars, bison, elk, grizzlies, black bears, mountain goats and more. If you want to get some (safely distanced) face time with Alberta’s wildlife, the Rockies are the place to be.

When viewing wildlife, Alberta Parks recommends staying back at least 100 metres from bears and 50 metres from all other large animal species. You might be dying to get that perfect snap for Instagram, but safety always comes first.

If you want to see bison without going all the way up to Elk Island National Park, you should drop by Banff National Park. The park recently acquired a small herd of bison being looked after in a 45-acre pasture. The bison were relocated from Elk Island earlier this year as part of a plan to restore a wild herd to Banff National Park.

If you don’t want to DIY and have a few extra bucks to spare (and the patience for a bit of a drive), Sun Dog Tours in Jasper offers a Winter Wildlife Discovery experience. The tour includes nearly four hours of animal viewing throughout Jasper National Park and you’re guaranteed to see some rare, hard-to-find species.


It’s one thing to go skating at a rink in the middle of the city. But going for a skate in the middle of the great Canadian Rockies is on a whole other level.

Lace up your skates and head out to Sheep River Provincial Park’s Sandy McNabb Campground or Kananaskis Village to enjoy a scenic and serene skating experience. And if you’re heading over to Lake Louise, skating on the lake is a must. Once you’re finished, head over to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for a luxury meal. Dig into some fondue at Walliser Stube or grab a drink at the Lakeview Lounge.

If you don’t own a pair of skates, you can rent them in Calgary at Rapid Rent or Sports Rent as well as at Gear Up in Canmore, Wilson Mountain Sports in Lake Louise or Banff Adventures Unlimited in Banff.

Ice fishing

A popular pastime for many, ice fishing in Alberta can be very bountiful. Lake and bull trout, walleye, northern pike, perch and arctic grayling are all found in Alberta’s lakes during the winter. Some of the most popular spots for ice fishing near Calgary are in Spray Valley Provincial Park and Peter Loughheed Provincial Park. Note that an Alberta angling licence is required for both Alberta residents and non-residents.

If you want to hone your technique and learn from the pros, get in touch with Banff Fishing Unlimited, Wapiti Sports or Ice Fishing Alberta. Ice Fishing Alberta offers two-hour ice fishing lessons for beginners at a cost of $100 per person, as well as day trips on Chestermere Lake starting at $350 per person. All trips include transportation, gear and instruction. All you have to bring is yourself (and your warmest winter attire).

And here’s a cool little insider tip: if you happen to catch something, many restaurants (including the Fairmont Banff Springs) will gladly cook up your fish for you to eat. How cool is that?


Snowshoeing feels like the winter equivalent to walking on a sandy beach. The snow slightly gives out under your feet and you have to walk with your legs raised higher in stride.

Snowshoeing is a great outdoor activity for beginners because it doesn’t require special gear or clothing except the snowshoes themselves – which are readily available for rent at most outdoor rental stores.


More fun things to do this winter in Calgary:



One of the best things about being a snow bunny in Calgary is you don’t have to look hard to find a good ski hill.

A short 45-minute drive from the city, Nakiska Mountain Resort boasts an easy family-friendly and beginner-friendly hill. It’s small, simple and totally accessible.

If you want to experience the quintessential Alberta skiing experience, Lake Louise Ski Resort has some of the best views in the country and a massive terrain. It’s the go-to spot for many and is almost always busy, but the crowds and long lineups are well worth it.

And if you’re only looking to go on a couple of runs, Norquay in Banff National Park offers discounted lift tickets during its last hour of operation. The hill offers more challenging terrain for intermediate to advanced skiers. Snow tubing is also popular on the hill for a daily rate of $30 per person.

With so much to see and do this winter, get out and enjoy the beautiful Alberta Parks near Calgary. Whether you want a lower-key adventure or an adrenaline rush thrill, there’s something for everyone to enjoy – from skiing and skating to dog sledding and ice fishing.

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