Winter in Alberta can be brutal with -40 degree weather. But it’s not always that bad! In fact, this winter we’ve seen a few chinooks roll through causing the temperature to rise above zero. And then there are the mountains. Growing up in the Caribbean, I’m the first to admit that I’m not a fan of winter, but there is definitely something magical about driving west on Highway 1 and seeing the snow-covered peaks in the distance. Canmore and Banff turn into winter wonderlands: snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and dogsledding (which is still on my list!). There’s also Lake Louise Ski Resort, which was just named the most scenic ski resort in the world by USA today and described as “unsurpassed with postcard perfect beauty“. What a great shout-out for Banff National Park and the resort!
This past weekend was the 20th anniversary of the Ice Magic Festival in Lake Louise. Speaking of anniversaries, I’m approaching 5 years of living in Alberta (omg…) and I had yet to attend this event. A few of us decided it would make a great day trip, so we drove out on Sunday. It dawned on me: I had not seen Lake Louise or visited the chateau in the winter before! I tried skiing at the resort once, but regarding the lake itself, I’m used to its emerald glacial glory. The festival did not disappoint with enough to see and do for anyone attending:
- International Ice Carving Competition: Many people flock to Lake Louise during the ice festival to see some of the best carvers in the world work their artistic magic during a 34-hour competition. This year’s theme was “Freeze Olympic Fever!” in celebration of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. The sculptures were crazy impressive, and the blocks of ice used to create the sculptures were huge!
- Ice-skating: There’s a frozen area on the lake for ice-skating. We rented skates for $11 for 2 hours and skated around an ice castle for about 40 minutes. It has been years since I had strapped on ice skates. I forgot how fun it was!
- Horse-and-sleigh ride: While we didn’t do this, there were many families bundled up on the sleighs enjoying the ride and the spectacular views around.
- Walking: Why not just walk on the lake? Stay away from the thin ice signs, but along the shores you can walk closer and closer to the glaciers in the distance. Admittedly, it felt no different than walking on snow, but knowing that it’s ice makes all the difference…
- Cross-country skiing: They even track-set on the lake!
- Hot chocolate: After all that chilly outdoor fun, settle in with a hot chocolate at the Chateau Lake Louise or grab one to go for the road. It made for a warm drive back to Calgary.
The weekend reminded me of something. My goal for 2014 is to fill the year with as much travel as possible. But travel doesn’t always mean a far-off exotic destination. Calgary is a great city and I am fortunate to live so close to world-renowned mountains. People from across the globe travel here for their vacations, especially in the winter for skiing. Sometimes I forget that experiencing something like the Ice Magic Festival and ice skating on Lake Louise make for a great day-trip experience on par with anything I could do abroad.
As we drove back to Calgary, I also wondered why more friends and family haven’t visited me yet. Summer hiking. Winter snowboarding. Year-round adventures.
So friends and family: What’s the hold up??