Versus Alberta: 4 Winter Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
SPENCER SPELLMAN, editor-in-chief of the Expedia Viewfinder blog, and I landed in Calgary mere moments before a winter storm would sweep in, strand motorists, and produce a ‘cold snap’ that eventually would bottom out at -36 Celsius.
Our weeklong journey through Calgary, Canmore, Banff, and Lake Louise would be punctuated by plummeting temperatures, and being two jolly travelers from the land of Los Angeles, our thin skin was ill suited for frost gathering. To say we were undaunted would be a half-truth — we were daunted all right, but our mission was to experience a new winter adventure every day, and despite losing feeling in our face (and fingers), we were extremely excited for our week of activities.
Although we were not adventuring with an air of antagonism, it seemed from the start we were beset by nature itself and that if we were to hike, ski, snowboard, fly, mush, and explore, we were going to have to take Alberta head on and ready for a fight — hence, VS Alberta.
This didn’t feel like a mere week of travels — it felt rather like a series of awesome obstacles to be bested below zero and captured with my ever-present GoPro.
1. Dog sledding with Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours
After a short introduction and some safety warnings, Spencer and I acquired our very own dog sled team and were off racing over the snow with gigantic shit-eating grins on our faces. Dog sledding is exactly the way you might imagine it — only infinitely better because the reality of six super-dogs straining through the snow is more thrilling than the visuals could ever suggest.
2. Helicopter tour with Rockies Heli Tours
The Rockies loom large out the window, winking in the late morning light under a fresh dusting of snow. The helicopter banks and I try in vain to hold the GoPro steady while we descend to land next to the Bow River.
3. Johnston Canyon Icewalk with Discover Banff
Everything in Johnston Canyon is frozen. The river, the rocks, the waterfalls — everything. The Johnston Canyon Icewalk is a visit to a land under a spell of ice. The moderate walk (we spent about two hours in the canyon) terminates at a frozen waterfall and ice-encased walls that rise up to meet the cobalt blue sky.
4. Skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort
Lake Louise Ski Resort is incredible. The day we spent skiing was the coldest of our trip, -36 Celsius, a fact that clashes with images of the perfect bluebird day I present to you here — but trust me, this is cold at a scary level. Louise is enormous and has huge views and long runs…between which we ate elk chili in the lodge and commiserated over thawing fingers.
A note on the videos
The first video in this article is a mashup of all 4 VS Alberta adventures and serves as an intro and a jumping off point for the rest of the vids. Using YouTube annotated links1 you may click on each of the adventures as they are introduced by clicking on the annotation box. At the end of each adventure video, there’s a video selection screen that allows viewers to choose a new Alberta adventure to experience.
1 Annotations are info boxes, messages, and links within YouTube videos that have been put in place by the video creator. In this case I use annotation links to let viewers jump between videos.
Josh’s travels were sponsored by Travel Alberta and its partners. Accommodations provided by Kensington Riverside Inn, Rocky Mountain Ski Lodge, Sunshine Mountain Lodge, Buffalo Mountain Lodge, and Deer Lodge.