16 Winter Experiences You Need to Have in the Canadian Rockies Before You Die

Canada Student Work Outdoor Insider Guides Hiking
by Matt Mosteller Jan 20, 2016

1. Eat chocolate from the only “bean-to-bar” company in Canada.

Do yourself a favour and indulge at Bean Pod Chocolate on the old main street in Fernie, BC. They make chocolate bars the traditional way and are only one of a few in the world.

2. Powder your face.

We get 50 feet of the white stuff a year (hence the name “Powder Highway”). Rogers Pass in BC is the stomping grounds for followers of the deep. Immerse yourself with your new friends pushing back Nasty Habit from Mt. Begbie Brewing Company, talking about their last ripper on Grizzly Trees.

3. Join the apres crowd.

Give your tongue a sleigh-ride at the Griz Bar, a Canadian beer institution in Fernie. Warning: Don’t sit at the long wooden community table after 8pm unless you are prepared to lift your beer quickly as naked bodies may barrel down the table.

4. Soak in natural hot springs.

The Canadian Rockies is riddled with cool places for a hot soak. But wild is always best. Lussier Hot Springs is one such spot and easily accessible by car in the summer months (4×4/chains recommended in the winter depending on snow conditions). The tiered pools go from piping hot at the top to ice cold as it meets the Lussier River.

5. Sample the craft beer.

Tasty stops to wet your whistle include: Fernie Brewing Company (Fernie, BC), Grizzly Paw (Canmore, AB), Arrowhead (Invermere, BC), and Jasper Brewing Company (Jasper, AB).

6. Attend the Banff Mountain Film Festival.

Happening every November in Banff, plan to meet some of your action sport and mountain culture heroes (like Alex Honnold and Will Gadd) in person.

7. Climb ice.

The Canadian Rockies offer some of the best ice climbing in the world. Let the professional mountain guides at Yamnuska Mountain Adventures show you the ropes.

8. Ski the classic Wapta Traverse.

Ski touring in North America got its beginnings here. The University of Calgary Outdoor Centre offers courses that include this classic route through glaciers near the Icefield Parkway.

9. Summit a peak on skis.

Get high in the Canadian Rockies with University of Calgary Outdoor Centre’s Ski Summit Series to bag a classic peak. That will fuel you for further mountain inspirations and you might even sink your knees into some duff.

10. Get in the backcountry.

Ski resorts serve their purpose, but there’s no substitution to the backcountry for untracked turns. For cat skiing look into Chatter Creek Cat Skiing (Golden, BC) and Island Lake Cat Skiing (Fernie, BC) for two of the best. Get wings with Purcell Heli Skiing (Golden, BC) as they are one of the few that offer single-day heli-skiing at a rate that a treadmill turkey could gobble up. For longer excursions turn to Canadian Mountain Holidays, the “largest heli-skiing and heli-hiking operation in the world” — in the winter they access 11 lodges in BC and Alberta.

11. Sleep in the wilderness.

Choose from the many backcountry huts operated by the Alpine Club of Canada for your mountain escape. Affordable but amazing places that for the most part you have to work hard to get to. Slog it in to places of history like Stanley Mitchell Hut, located in Yoho National Park. For shorter trips check out little known Elk Lakes Provincial Park, for a ski or snowshoe tour to a wild place that few visit in winter.

12. Explore Johnston Canyon

A rushing creek in the summer that rams its way through the rock, churning, splashing and pouring over. In winter it all comes to a smashing frozen and erringly beautiful halt. 30 minutes out of Banff.

13. View the wildlife.

There’s plenty of it in the bars in Banff, Canmore, Golden, and Fernie but I’m talking about the animal kind. Your drive from Kimberley to Radium will provide great opportunities see elk, moose, deer, and bighorn sheep. Even in town keep your eyes peeled, you may see a set of antlers roaming the streets.

14. Head to the top of Kicking Horse resort for panoramic views.

Even if you don’t ski hop in the Golden Eagle Express Gondola to take it all in from the mountain top at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, the mountain top restaurant, makes a perfect spot to kick back. Insta moment here.

15. Go cross-country skiing.

Cross Country skiing is everywhere here. Head to nordic centres like Kimberley, Golden, Fernie and Canmore to strike out on any big wild valley for your own adventure.

16. Stargaze.

Jasper National Park — one of the world’s largest dark sky preserves — is home to the annual Jasper Dark Sky Festival in October.

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