Moraine Lake Banff

Embrace an icy getaway in Alberta

Moraine Lake Banff

Moraine Lake in Banff National Park is one of the sights that never disappoints, no matter the weather in Alberta. (Julia Pelish/

Story by Jenn Smith Nelson Contributor

For most of Canada, the winter of 2015 will go down as one of the most brutal in recent years. But that doesn’t mean you have to let the cold stand in the way of enjoying your weekends or free time. For Albertans or visitors to that province, there is plenty of sights and activities to take advantage of, no matter the season.

If you are travelling to or live in or near Calgary, consider a staycation. Pair an excellent meal with some outdoor activities and a luxurious hotel visit, and you won’t regret this city escape.

New and Hip Eats in Calgary

First off, a must for any city getaway is nourishment, and Calgary’s food scene has become synonymous with fine dining. Plan to check out one (or more) of these recently opened hot spots, which offer both cosmopolitan ambience and delicious fare.

Corbeaux Bakehouse: Found in Calgary’s Beltline neighbourhood, Corbeaux opened in late December 2014. It has quickly gained popularity for its “bakery meets bistro meets bar” mix. Sit down or take out, but don’t miss Corbeaux’s world-class pastries and baking from renowned American chef Keith Luce.

MARKET: One cannot help but love the herbal-inspired, terrarium-filled atmosphere of MARKET, which ranked 47th on the 2014 Top Restaurants in Canada Guide. Not only are all fresh ingredients par for the course, the restaurant is home to an Urban Cultivator, which harvests more than 16 varieties of heirloom seeds year round. At the helm is executive chef Dave Bohati, who is also the Gold Medal Winner for Calgary’s Gold Medal Plates.

The Workshop Kitchen + Culture: Adventurous diner with an open-minded palate? Try an improv dinner at the Workshop – you will be in good hands here. And with a menu that changes daily, visiting more than once is recommended. This spot located at Theatre Junction Grand features a juxtaposition of deconstructed industrial meets vintage theatre interior.


Among the lunch finds at MARKET that you’ll enjoy is the delicious and inventive deconstructed chicken pot pie. (Julia Pelish file photo/

Winter Wonders in Southern Alberta

A great way to leave that inner office worker behind is to take full advantage of nearby outdoor activities and all that white stuff that seems to be sticking around. Here are a few ideas to embrace the ice.

Did you know you could ice fish within 30 minutes of the city? Bow River Fly Fishing Adventures in Chestermere can outfit you with everything you need to spend a day trying your hands at reeling in a northern pike. Whether you are a first-timer without equipment or an experienced fisherman, some fishing R & R is a good way to spend a winter’s day outdoors.

If reeling in a jackfish isn’t your idea of fun, lace up your ice skates and head to Prince’s Island Park or the Olympic Plaza to enjoy downtown views, while getting some exercise in out on the ice.

Or if speed is more your style, Winsport at Canada Olympic Park is open to the public and offers visitors the chance to try out Olympic sports such as luge and bobsledding — 120 km/h, 5 G forces and 14 twists and turns, make this an experience you’ll never forget.

Après IceAfter a long day facing the elements, it’s time to relax. Float your cares away and completely zen out at Urban Escape. Its 850 pounds of magnesium salts allow you to gently and buoyantly drift away. The unique experience will leave you feeling rejuvenated and de-stressed.

Hotel Escape in the City

Pamper yourself with a suite stay at the luxurious, ultra-modern boutique hotel, Le Germain, located across the street from the Calgary Tower. Impeccable customer service (they can say hello to visitors in 20 different languages!), and a beyond comfortable interior can be expected. Before heading off to sleep, be sure to stop in at the lobby bar — Lounge Central 809 — for a nightcap.

Beautiful Banff Beckons

Only an hour outside of the big city, Banff is a no-brainer option for those who can spare a few days away.

Kick start your road trip with a high-flying heli-snowshoeing adventure before you even make it to Banff. Located just outside of Canmore, at the Highway 40 junction to Kananaskis, is Rockies Heli Tours. Enjoy awe-inspiring views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains as you combine a 100-mph, 20-minute helicopter flight with a mountain-top snowshoe. While you weave through forest along the trail keep your eyes peeled for animal tracks.

Mount Rundle Banff Alberta

Mount Rundle is one of the enduring landmarks visitors always enjoy seeing during their trek to Banff. (Julia Pelish file photo/

Banff Dining Higlight: If you truly have an adventurous spirit or a deep love for fondue, a stop at Banff’s famous Grizzly House is in order. Food choices range from local beef to exotic meats (think rattlesnake and shark). Or, you can stick with renowned cheese, meat, fruit or chocolate fondues.

[box_light]Read more about the Grizzly House here[/box_light]

Where to Sleep in Banff: Make your way up Tunnel Mountain to the luxurious boutique property Mountain Buffalo Mountain Lodge. Spacious rooms complete with claw-foot tubs and wood-burning fireplaces invite you to unwind and enjoy a night in the woods. Rest up before heading out for another full day of adventure.

Enjoy Yamnuska Mountain AdventureWhat may seem a daunting experience is actually one that most any person, in reasonable shape, can do. Hike your way through beautiful Johnston Canyon, accompanied by a Yamnuska Mountain Adventure guide (who will fully equip and outfit you). Once you reach the beautiful blue ice of the Upper Falls, you will be in safe hands as you take a beginner’s course on how to climb the frozen waterfalls. Feel a sense of achievement as you reach the top and look around to take in the tremendous surroundings. This is a five-hour excursion so be sure to fuel up before heading out.

Après ClimbNothing beats a massage after a half-day excursion. Hit up the newly opened Cedar & Sage and indulge in some après-wellness. Chill in their serene and chic lounge while sipping away on a freshly squeezed juice from their juice bar. Then enjoy a 60-minute massage to work out any kinks on your freshly worked muscles.

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