Calgary. As famous for its stampedes as it is for its exceedingly chilly winters. But during those famously frosty months, the city transforms into a true winter wonderland. With its much-envied position at the foot of the Canadian Rockies, spectacular vacation spots like Banff and Lake Louise are within two hours reach, making Calgary the perfect gateway to some extreme cold-weather adventures.
But for those hoping to embrace the season of snow right under the city lights, look no further than these suggestions to keep the wonder alive, without the drive.
Lace Up Your Skates
There are few things more Canadian than an ice-rink, and Calgary certainly doesn’t have any shortage of them. The quintessential Canuck winter experience can be found in the heart of downtown Calgary, where Prince’s Island Park offers one of the best outdoor ice rinks in the city, skating au naturel across the frozen expanse of the lagoon.
Here, guests skate to the sound of music, free-of-charge. Off the ice, enchanting fire-pits provide just the remedy for frosty fingers. Further to the north-west of the city, Bowness Park also offers a free outdoor skating space once the lagoon freezes over.
Get in the Olympic Spirit
As one of the more successful cities in maintaining a sustainable Olympic legacy after the 1988 Winter Olympics, Calgary plays an important role in Canada’s winter sports story. Indeed, it is one of the few cities where many of the purpose-built venues are still in use, over 25 years after the event.
So it’s almost a rite of passage to lay down some shapes on the ice at some of those legendary sites, skating on the same rinks as sporting idols. At the Olympic Oval, visitors can try speed skating on the fastest ice in the world, and for an even greater thrill, a ride down WinSport’s luge track is the answer, or maybe hopping in a bobsleigh with an expert pilot would do the trick. Not for the faint of heart, these bobsleighs can reach speeds of over 100 km/hr, so they’re sure to get the adrenaline pumping.
WinSport is also home to the largest tube park of its kind in Western Canada—guaranteed to be a favourite for the kids.
Slip on Some Snowshoes
Calgary sees around 54 days of fresh snowfall a year, so snowshoes are less of an extravagance than an essential for Calgarians. Put yours through their paces and leave tracks across family-friendly routes like The Bow River pathway system, Weaselhead Natural Environment Park, and the west end of Fish Creek Provincial Park.
You can even throw on a pair of cross-country skis and explore local golf courses like Maple Ridge and Confederation. After all, the city becomes the slopes in Calgary at winter.
Enjoy a Couple of Cold Brews
Cooler temperatures may spark cravings for warm, festive beverages—but wintertime also offers a perfect opportunity to sip seasonal stouts and enjoy the company of friends at your favourite local brewery.
For those looking to make it an all-day affair, a Calgary craft beer tour is a great way to learn more about the region’s history, all while savouring a satisfying brew. In late January, tarts, music, and local libations collide for a four-day winter fiesta at the Big Winter Classic.
Touted as one of the most liveable places in the world—and known for its warm western charm—Calgary seals the deal as an incredible base to experience the epitome of the great Canadian winter.
Interested in finding out more about what Calgary offers year round? We’ve put together a list of the city’s finest neighbourhoods.
Photo Credits: Albert Pego / Shutterstock Inc., Teddy Kwok / Flickr, Jeff Whyte / Shutterstock Inc., Greg Rakozy / Unsplash, MaxyM / Shutterstock Inc.