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  • Elaine Philbrick


Spectacular Canadian Rockies views, world-class ski resorts, reliable good winter conditions, comfort and convenience.

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The only place in the world we’re aware of that allows you to walk freely with a purebred wolf with no barriers, and even have the wolf jump on your back for an amazing photo op(!!), is at the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre.

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The Bowness Skating Trail is one of the few skating trails in the world. It’s an amazing experience to travel so far on ice, with ever-changing views beside a river.


Calgary Tower

Catch an early morning flight to Calgary and arrive in the afternoon. Stop at an ATM for some Canadian dollars at the airport and pick up your rental SUV. Then drive to the Fish Creek Park Ice Caves and Ice Falls for a chance to stretch your legs and admire the scenery. When entering the park’s free parking lot, drive all the way to the end and park beside a gold painted clapboard Victorian building (former bunkhouse), and with the building on your left take the trail that is straight ahead. A short distance there will be a bridge, and you can take the trail to the right immediately before the bridge following the river for the best view of the Falls. If you take the trail immediately after the bridge along the river you will walk to the caves and even along the river edge to the Falls, but you would need a photographer on the opposite bank. It’s a pleasant and easy 0.5 mile walk with nice prairie views.

Majestic Canadian Rockies right from your bedroom window!

If the skies are clear, head next to the Calgary Tower in downtown where you can look over the endless Alberta prairie, and to the west even see the start of the Canadian Rockies. Then stop and take photos by the Wonderland Sculpture, which is a symbol of the city, and the Peace Bridge if you have time. Check into your hotel and have a very Canadian dinner at the downtown restaurant The Shoe & Canoe Public House. If you have the energy, you can go at night to the colorful Calgary Zoo Lights and skate on the Zoo’s ice rink which offers free rental skates before heading to bed.

Incredible views just driving!

TUESDAY Rent skates or ice bikes(!) at the Boat House in North Glenmore Park and go on the 1.6 km Bowness Skating Trail. It’s an absolutely amazing skating complex that includes an extensive ice skating sidewalk next to a river and a paved bike trail. They also have several curling and crokinole rinks to try. To warm up, drive back to downtown to the Devonian Gardens with tropical botanical gardens like palm trees and fishponds inside a shopping center. Then drive two hours to Lake Louise through Banff, Canada’s first national park. To get through the park gate and enter the park use the multi-day Banff Park Pass bought online (cannot buy park tickets at a park gate when coming from Calgary). Park in the indoor garage which allows direct access to the Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise and check in around 4:00 pm to have time to see and explore its stunning setting. Rent ski equipment at Chateau Ski & Snow to the right of the front desk (between 5:00 pm and 6:30 pm) and put in either the hotel Ski Valet next to ski shuttle stop or the standard Valet desk. At hotel pick up the pre-ordered SkiBig3 lift tickets at the Concierge desk along with a ski map and immediately secure the tickets on your ski jackets. For your arrival dinner enjoy fondue at the hotel’s Walliser Stube with its wood-panelled walls and Alpine theme. After dinner, visit the ice bar outside on the lake for unique views of the colored lights on the bar and ice castle gate.

Ice Castle on Lake Louise
Stepping off the trail the snow was up to our hips!

WEDNESDAY After breakfast, dressed fully in ski gear (and having collected boots, skis, helmets, and poles from Valet) wait for the ski shuttle which leaves every 30 minutes and takes about 15 minutes. They can usually take everyone in line even during the Christmas break, so no need to get there early. An appreciated unusual touch is that the shuttle driver takes your skis from you when loading on and off, and you can keep your ski poles with you. Enjoy skiing all day at Lake Louise Ski Resort with the most spectacular views of the Continental Divide in Canada! For lunch, a perfect mid-mountain stop is Whitehorse Bistro which serves gourmet food with a stunning view. For dinner, try the Fairview Dining Room, Louiza for Mediterranean, or the more casual but excellent Alpine Social. You can swim in their indoor pool and hot tub (though both are fairly small), or if you still have energy you can rent skates (and even hockey sticks and buy a puck) at the ski rental place and skate on the hotel’s frozen lake lit up by floodlights surrounded by mountains, one of the most beautiful and highest natural ice rinks in Canada. It even has two separate rinks - one just for playing hockey!

Skating on Lake Louise - hockey rink on the left

THURSDAY Check out, then drive 2 hours to Toby Creek Adventures where anyone from age 16 can drive their special performance mountain sleds! Starting at 9:00 am, ride for 4 hours with a stop on the trail at a trapper’s cabin for a BBQ lunch at 8,000 feet, and a stop to hike to a frozen waterfall. They even give you some play time to ‘boondock’ in a powder bowl! Drive 2 hours and check into the famous Fairmont Banff Springs, the oldest of Canada’s grand railway hotels. Have your arrival dinner at the “gemutlichkeit” (cozy German) Waldhaus Restaurant, which is in the former golf club house and is a short free shuttle drive away. The best way to relax after an active winter day is to swim in their dramatic outdoor pool with stunning views of the Rocky Mountains, and the large jacuzzi beside the indoor pool.

Banff Springs pool

Powder bowl play area.

Snowmobile stop
Snowmobile stop by the trapper's lodge


Yes, that's a real wolf on her back!

Wait to have breakfast until you arrive in Golden, British Columbia, at the Wandering Fern Café which not only has sofas and a good restroom, but amazing avocado toast, lattes, and smoked salmon breakfast sandwiches. It’s an hour and a half drive from Banff. A short drive away from the Cafe is the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre (cash only). Make sure not to wear any real or fake fur on jackets, hats, boots or gloves! You will be able to visit two packs of wolves through their enclosures, and then you have the rare chance to have a private walk with a pure-blood wolf completely free through the woods. Speaking to, touching, or approaching the wolf is not allowed. However, on our walk the wolf was comfortable enough to come close enough to touch, and observing her in nature with no barriers in the snowy woods was thrilling. At the furthest point of the walk, if the wolf is in the mood for treats, the wolf will even jump on your back for a only-place-in-the-world-this-could-happen photo op!!

Stop for lunch at the Island Restaurant which has great food, service, fun décor, and big sunny windows. Then drive back to Banff, but on the way stop at Johnston Canyon for the most popular hike in Banff. Don’t forget your ice cleats! The boardwalk in the canyon and frozen waterfalls are well worth your time. Upon arriving back at the hotel, rent skis from Chateau Mountain Sports (closes at 6:00 pm) which is at the far end of the hotel. (The shortest distance from hotel lobby is to walk outside in a straight line to the statue and stores beyond.) Store them in the ski locker that is accessible directly from outside by an automatic sliding door before the main revolving doors. If you have time to do a sleigh ride around the property, it’s absolutely beautiful in winter. Highly recommend having dinner at Costello Italiano inside the hotel.

Johnston Canyon walk - bring your ice cleats!
Johnston Canyon walk


Banff Springs had beautiful Christmas decorations

After a quick breakfast at Stock Food & Drink, dressed in ski gear take the shuttle from the hotel to Banff Sunshine Village Ski Resort which leaves every hour. The bus can usually take all hotel guests, but will be making multiple stops in town and cannot take everyone. Everyone loads and unloads their own ski gear and poles are not allowed on the bus. A good place for lunch is the Sky Bistro at the top of the gondola. If this vacation is during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, then this night is the hotel’s big New Year’s Eve Gala in their main dining room with lots of food and dancing!!

SUNDAY Catch the bus early to Mt. Norquay Ski Resort and have breakfast at the mountain lodge. The views from the slopes of Mt. Norquay are also spectacular. For dinner we can recommend the Balkan Restaurant which serves authentic quality Greek food and is justly popular. You’ll want a last swim in the amazing outdoor pool again!

Mt. Norquay views
More Mt. Norquay views

MONDAY Check out of hotel and catch your flight home.

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