Let’s be real: you're no average winter sports enthusiast. While the rest of us are sauntering down the mountain anticipating the chalet, you're bombing down black diamond runs with reckless abandon. While most of us are fine with the bunny hills, you'll do anything in search of undisturbed powder. If we've got you pegged, here’s a news flash — Alberta offers a variety of extreme winter sports guaranteed to satiate your constant need for adventure.
Imagine hanging from a 30-foot ice wall with only an ice hammer and a set of crampons keeping you aloft. There's no more literal way to overcome your fears and personal barriers than powering your way up an ice face. Plus, when you're done, there's no greater sense of accomplishment (can you say “Bragging on Facebook”?) and you get to achieve it amid a truly one-of-a-kind view of the Rocky Mountains. But don't think ice climbing is reserved for only the most extreme among us; the Rockies offer some of the best and most varied ice climbs in the world, whether you’re an expert on a heli-trip or a beginner with a certified guide in Banff.
There’s a rugged appeal to seeking adventure off the beaten path. And nothing says “off the beaten path” more than places that are only accessible by helicopter. Areas like Kananaskis Country and Jasper National Park feature amazing opportunities for heli-snowshoeing, where you are airlifted to an out-of-the-way location and left to hike around on snowshoes to your heart’s content. There’s something exhilarating about stalking around an area that has been almost untouched by others, with only the sound of the wind and the occasional wild animal sighting to distract you. Also, “via helicopter” is by a wide margin one of the coolest ways to make an entrance, so you’ll have that going for you as well.
For those that dream of running the Iditarod, there's no better place to train than Alberta. It's an embarrassment of riches because Banff, Jasper, Canmore and Lake Louise all have run-loving huskies waiting to take you on a tour of the best the Alberta wilderness has to offer. Learn to become the pack leader and control six to eight dogs with the power of that familiar word — “Mush.” Experience true synergy between man and beast in a way only the hunter-gather societies of old once did. Oh, and if you don't actually want to control the dogs, you can feel the wind whip past you on the sled while an expert musher takes control.
Controversial opinion: Snow tubes are superior to toboggans. Not only does riding on a pillow of air beat sitting on a contraption of wood and metal, but tubing allows you to bring your whole family along for the ride! If you’re in the mood to tube with your loved ones, head over to Banff's Mount Norquay or Lake Louise to for some of the best tubing in the country. Mount Norquay's Snow Tubing Park is full of large sliding lanes and extra long rope tows, so you can experience the specific joy of being tied to another tube as it speeds down a hillside. You’ll never look at a toboggan (or one of those Magic Carpet sleds) the same way again.
The newest thrill in extreme sports takes skiing and snowboarding to a whole new level by harnessing you to a kite and letting wind propulsion provide the speed and lift necessary to get as close to flight as possible without permanently leaving the ground. You can get snowkite certified on Banff's Spray Lakes where thick ice, great snow, and breathtaking scenery provide a natural terrain park that you won't want to leave when it's over. Just don’t fly too close to the sun, hot shot.
For further winter inspiration for your inner action hero, visit Travel Alberta!