Beyond Downhill Skiing: Winter Fun at Resorts in the Canadian Rockies

Alpine resorts are having to step up their game with a larger variety of winter activities as more groups and families visit each year, often looking for more than the classic ski package. Couples are looking for special additions to round out a romantic ski weekend, families need afternoon options for occupying the kids once they tire out on the hill, and groups often have at least one member who might not ski at all.

The more activities a resort offers, the longer a group can stay and find something new to do each day. Hit the slopes, and then try some of these other signature resort experiences below:

Beyond Downhill Skiing: Winter fun at Resorts in the Canadian Rockies

One. Take a Historical Snowshoe and Fondue Tour at Banff’s Sunshine Village

Sunshine’s historical snowshoe tour offers a unique experience in Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as guides lead you through pristine powder into Sunshine Meadows and to a small island in the middle of backcountry Rock Isle Lake. The tour finishes with a visit to Sunshine Mountain Lodge where you’ll be treated to a traditional Swiss-style cheese fondue.

Other Snowshoe Tours to Check Out:

Sign up for a guided scenic snowshoe tour at the Lake Louise Ski Resort in Banff and enjoy a sightseeing gondola ride with your tour. Skiers can also register for an evening snowshoe tour after a day on the slopes.

Enjoy the best of snowshoe and chocolate pairing at Kimberley Alpine Resort in the East Kootenay Rockies of British Columbia with a S’mores Snowshoe Tour or a Chocolate Fondue Snowshoe Tour.

Visit Fernie Alpine Resort, also located in British Columbia’s East Kootenay Rockies for the Snowshoe & Dine Package. Guests enjoy a guided snowshoe tour finished off with a pasta & wine pairing experience at Lizard Creek Lodge.

Snowshoeing at Sunshine Village in Banff National Park

 

Two. Visit the Panorama Nordic Centre and Ski up to the Hale Hut

Plan a winter vacation to Panorama Mountain Resort in the East Kootenay Rockies of British Columbia (with ski in/ski out accommodations available in the alpine village) and spend a day at the Panorama Nordic Centre where you’ll find over 12 miles of trails, groomed for classic and skate skiing, with rentals on site. Multi-use trails are also open to snowshoeing and fat tire biking with rentals available for both at the Nordic Centre.

My favourite ski trail leads visitors up to the Hale Hut in a gradual 3-mile climb to a beautiful warming hut located on a scenic bench above the valley.

Other Resorts Recommended for Nordic Skiing:

Lake Louise Resort, Banff National Park – Spend a few days in the Village of Lake Louise and enjoy a variety of winter sports including downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating. (Visit the Lake Louise Tourism website for more information.)

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Golden, BC – Plan a winter trip to Golden and enjoy cross-country skiing at the Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre (with over 20 miles of trails groomed for classic and skate skiing)

Cross-country skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort (The Hale Hut)

 

Three. Go Tubing at Mount Norquay in Banff National Park

Tubing is a great activity for the whole family with no previous experience required. It’s relatively gentle on adult bodies, and you won’t have to walk up the hill at the end of each ride down. There’s always a magic carpet lift to get you (and your tube) to the top of the hill when you visit a resort tube park.

While there are many tube parks in the Canadian Rockies, Tube Town at Mount Norquay is one of the largest (and most thrilling) ones I’ve visited. Visitors can also add a sightseeing chairlift ride on to their tubing pass for a small additional cost to visit the Cliffhouse Bistro for food or drinks on top of the mountain.

For a full review of tube parks across the Canadian Rockies check out this previous story I wrote: Family Tube Park Review (Calgary, Kananaskis, Banff, and Lake Louise.)

Tube Town at Mount Norquay in Banff National Park

 

Four. Enjoy Dining on Top of the World at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

Whether you’re a skier, a hiker, or simply passing through the East Kootenay Rockies of British Columbia on a road trip, no visit to Golden is complete without a meal at the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant on top of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.

Take a gondola to the top of the mountain and discover “Canada’s most talked about culinary experience and the crown jewel of resort dining.” (Quote: Kicking Horse Mountain Resort)

Enjoy lunch, afternoon appetizers, or dinner (with evening reservations available Friday and Saturday nights.)

Other Recommended Sightseeing and Dining Experiences:

Mount Norquay, Banff National Park – “Wine and dine at 7000 feet” at the Cliffhouse Bistro, accessible via scenic chairlift ride.

Sunshine Village, Banff National Park – Ride the Sunshine Gondola to the Upper Village area. At the Village, continue up the mountain and ride the Standish Chairlift to the top of Mt. Standish or ride the Angel Chairlift for great views over the Continental Divide. Finish off your visit with lunch in the Sunshine Mountain Lodge or on the Mad Trappers patio (ideal on a sunny spring day.)

Panorama Mountain Resort – Book a Heli Fondue tour at the Summit Hut for the ultimate après-ski experience (and with a ride both up and down, you don’t need to be a skier to get to the top of the mountain.) Alternately for those who do ski, book a Swiss fondue or raclette experience at either the Summit Hut or the Elkhorn Cabin at the end of the day, and then enjoy a guided ski down after lifts have closed.

Mountain top dining at Panorama Mountain Resort

 

Five. Try Fat Tire Biking at Kimberley Alpine Resort

Kimberley is an adorable German-themed town in the East Kootenay Rockies with a great local ski hill and an alpine village with ski in/ski out accommodations. Beyond downhill skiing though, I’ve really enjoyed the cross country skiing at the Kimberley Nordic Centre (a two-minute drive from the village with over 18 miles of trails and lit night skiing,) and on my next visit, I hope to take a fat biking tour.

Sign up for a Trickle Creek S’mores Fat Bike Adventure and enjoy a 2-hour guided tour through the winding trails of the Trickle Creek Golf Resort forest. Along the way, you’ll stop to warm up by a fire, cook some s’mores, and enjoy a hot beverage. And for those looking for a cool après-ski experience, you can also try the tour at night with headlamps.

Other Resorts that offer Fat Bike Rentals and Tours:

Spend a weekend at the Delta Kananaskis Lodge, a short drive away from the Nakiska Ski Resort (only an hour away from Calgary, Alberta) and sign up for a guided fat bike tour to a gorgeous set of frozen waterfalls with Kananaskis Outfitters.

Try the Thursday evening ride and dine tour at Fernie Alpine Resort or rent a bike from the resort and head out on your own to check out the Nordic trails (super convenient if staying on the hill in one of the ski in/ski out condos.)

Stop in at the Panorama Nordic Centre to rent bikes, and go exploring on the resort’s Nordic trails. The trails are well marked for self-navigating and they even rent children’s plus sized bikes so the whole family can go for a ride together

Fat Biking at Panorama Mountain Resort

 

Six. Skate the World’s Longest Skating Path in the East Kootenay Rockies

The Lake Windermere Whiteway is an 18.7-mile-long track that links the towns of Invermere and Windermere together on the ice. The Whiteway is groomed and tracked for classic cross-country skiing and has four ice skating loops of different lengths as well paralleling the ski tracks. (Combine all four loops if you want to skate the full 18+ mile distance.)

Centrally located in the Columbia Valley of the East Kootenay Rockies, The Whiteway is an easy day trip option from Panorama Mountain Resort, Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, or even from Kimberley or Golden.

Also recommended for ice skating:

Skate on one of the most beautiful outdoor rinks in the world at Lake Louise in front of the Chateau Lake Louise Resort. The lake is cleared with rinks for both leisure skating and for hockey, and if you time your visit right, you’ll get to enjoy the ice castle and ice sculptures created in January’s Ice Magic Festival. (The castle and sculptures are up until they melt.)

Skating on the Lake Windermere Whiteway, world’s longest skating track

 

Seven. Ski or Snowshoe into a Backcountry Lodge at Lake Louise

Skoki Lodge is an amazing backcountry destination for hikers or skiers looking to explore the path less traveled beyond the popular Lake Louise Ski Resort. The lodge is accessed via a seven-mile trail that climbs over two alpine passes and across scenic Ptarmigan Lake.

Once at the lodge, guests receive comfortable lodging in private rooms along with all meals during their stay. Bring your pajamas and a pair of slippers, a headlamp, and your toothbrush for one of the easiest winter camping experiences you’ll find.

When you return to civilization, you can extend your stay with downhill skiing at the Lake Louise Ski Resort or enjoy the trails down at the Village (suitable for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or fat tire biking – with rentals available for all sports.) Visit the Lake Louise Tourism website for more information.

Snowshoeing across Ptarmigan Lake near Skoki Lodge, Lake Louise

 

Eight. Ski and Soak at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

Fairmont Hot Springs in the East Kootenay Rockies is home to a small family ski hill, hotel resort, and mineral hot springs pool. Spend a day on the hill and receive complimentary admission to the mineral hot springs. Alternately, spend a weekend at the resort and enjoy cross country skiing and snowshoeing on local area trails, take a day trip the Lake Windermere Whiteway, or simply spend a day relaxing in the hot pools.

Other Recommended Resorts for a Ski, Play, and Soak Experience:

Panorama Mountain Resort – All overnight stays in the Panorama Mountain Village includes access to the Panorama Springs Hot Pools. Spend your day skiing, snowshoeing, or fat biking, and then soak your tired muscles in the large slopeside hot pools.

Lizard Creek Lodge, Fernie Alpine Resort – Enjoy a slopeside swimming pool and hot tub in this ski in/ski out condo property at Fernie. Spend your day on the hill, or explore the resort trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or fat biking. Fabulous dining at the Cirque restaurant on site adds to the après-ski experience along with a visit to the attached Ice Bar.

Slopeside Pool at Lizard Creek Lodge, Fernie Alpine Resort

 

Nine. Spend a Relaxing Day at a Nordic Spa in Kananaskis Country

The Delta Kananaskis Lodge is located 5 minutes away from Nakiska Ski Area  in Alberta (a one-hour drive from the City of Calgary.) Spend a few days at the lodge and enjoy downhill skiing at Nakiska along with cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or fat biking on the Kananaskis Village Trails. Then when your body screams “enough,” make your way over to the brand-new Nordic Spa, which opened March 2018 at the Delta Lodge.

The spa will take up 50,000 sq. ft. of indoor-outdoor space, and the first phase of the spa will feature three outdoor pools, four steam and sauna cabins, eight indoor treatment rooms, and outdoor fireside lounges.

Day rates will also be available for the spa for those not staying overnight at the Lodge.

Unwind at the Delta Kananaskis Lodge at Kananaskis Village

 

Ten. Take a Snow Cat Snowshoe or Ski Tour at Island Lake Lodge in Fernie

Fernie is a charming mountain town in the East Kootenay Rockies with fabulous ski in/ski out accommodations available at Fernie Alpine Resort. Spend a few days on the ski hill or explore the resort’s Nordic trails. When you’re ready to explore further though, Island Lake Lodge is where you’ll want to head for the ultimate snowshoe or cross-country ski experience.

Book a winter lunch tour at Island Lake Lodge and enjoy a snow cat ride up to the lodge, gourmet 2-course lunch, and time to explore the trails around the lake. Snowshoes and cross-country skis are available to rent at the lodge, and spa treatments can also be added on.

For a truly decadent experience, consider spending a night or two at the lodge with meals included in all overnight packages. Cat skiing can also be included as part of your package for those looking for the ultimate adventure.

Book your own trip to Canada to experience these winter activities for yourself!

Island Lake Lodge, Fernie (Credit: Tourism Fernie and Island Lake Lodge)

About the author

Tanya Koob

Tanya Koob

I am the mom of a spunky 10-year-old boy and I live in Calgary, Canada at the doorstep to the fabulous Rocky Mountains. Our family makes it a priority to get out to the mountains most weekends for big adventures from hiking, camping, biking, and paddling in summer to skiing and snowshoeing in winter. I am the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, www.rockiesfamilyadventures.com.

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