Where do you imagine you’ll take your next vacation? If you’re in love with the idea of the Great Canadian Winter, you can have fantastic experiences that will last a lifetime among the natural beauty of the province. From adventure-seekers to novices, from the history aficionados to the artists, there’s always something for everyone in the snowy, beautiful landscape of Alberta in the wintertime.
Get in touch with your Canadian history: Head-smashed-in-Buffalo jump
History buffs will love this living slice of Canada’s past. Head-smashed-in-Buffalo jump is located at the foot of the Rockies, its sprawling lands once used by the Canadian aboriginal peoples for sustenance and massive buffalo herding and hunting. Christened as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Head-smashed-in-Buffalo jump is one of the most enduring and recognizable historical sites in the country, especially because of its huge legacy as an Aboriginal spiritual location. The Buffalo Jump was used by Canadian Aboriginals since antiquity (seriously; the site predates the pyramids) as key location in the bison hunt. Few moments will help you put things in perspective like standing in the middle of a millennia-old hunting ground and knowing that serious history occurred under your very feet.
Wistfully on the Albertan express: Half-day train tour
Want the full winter scenery experience without having to leave your comfy chair? Yeah, we get you; sometimes you just want to enjoy a beautiful snowfall from inside a heated room. Then, imagine this: You hopping on a train, sitting in a compartment with your hands wrapped around a hot chocolate while the great wilderness of the Canadian prairies passes you by. Shining lakes, snow-tipped mountains, miles of evergreen forests surrounding your view — and you won’t need to set a single foot outdoors! Travel by train allows you to relax and take ownership of your trip in ways that driving or flying can’t match. Trains truly are the scenic option of travel, and there’s no better backdrop for enjoying the majesty of nature than the Albertan wilderness. It’s literally the best of both worlds, and who doesn’t love a good train ride?
Reconnect with your artistic side: Ice on Whyte
This award-winning festival was simply started by local sculptors who carved icy works of art that drew a crowd, and voila; Ice on Whyte was born! Since its humble start in 2003, the festival has expanded to have children’s areas and local artisan goods as well as sculpture gardens, and grew big enough to host an international ice sculpting contest in 2009. The festival has grown to become a wintertime hit across all ages (with many family-friendly activities on hand), making it one of the few events that locals will brave the winter weather to attend en masse. This is a perfect event to attend with your family, as it will give you all a host of life-changing memories and good times to reflect on going forward. Just be sure to make this festival a priority: It only runs from January 23rd to February 1st in 2015, so get planning!
For those longing for a simpler time: Snowshoeing
Canada’s aboriginal peoples had the right idea when it came to this distinctive footwear. Walk a mile in their snowshoes while exploring the natural beauty and wildlife of snowy Alberta. You get yourself a guided tour, an up-close and personal view of the finely preserved national parks, and a hearty winter workout; who needs the elliptical when you can hit the hills? There is no better way to lose yourself in the majesty of nature, and doing it on your own two feet adds an element of DIY simplicity to the whole occasion. How often can you say that you’ve been somewhere that has gone untouched by human hands for years? If you want to add another level of intense beauty to the event, sign up for the guided dusk snowshoe tour in Elk Island Park, and prepare yourself for the beauty of a snow-covered landscape painted by a setting sun.
A view that will change your life: Northern lights
Athabasca is home to an observatory that studies the aurora borealis (better known to laymen as the Northern Lights), so you know that even scientists consider this location (along with the fantastic views to be found at Fort MacMurray) a prime spot to observe and track these beauties that brighten up the winter skies at night. Our fascination with the Northern Lights goes back millennia and crosses cultures; Canadian Aboriginal spiritual beliefs state that the lights have healing properties, and Inuit leaders would embark on spirit walks towards the lights to gain wisdom and rescue troubled souls from death.
If you’re ready to seek out the lights yourself, you might need to keep in mind that the intensity of the northern lights can vary on a day-to-day basis. While the lights might not be on the most defined schedule, there’s nothing you can’t do with a snowmobile and a little bit of research.
Little house on the prairie: Cabin camping
There’s something to be said for stepping out of a cozy cabin and walking into a snowy, scenic view. If you’ve always wanted to try winter camping but were never sure how to actually do it, there are plenty of campsites that will offer you several choices to get you started. And once you have a safe ‘home base’ at a campsite, the rest of the time is yours! Get out there and seek fun winter activities on or off camp. At the end of the day, you can still come back to a warm, heated cabin to cozy up (a snow-covered tent isn’t for everyone, we know). The main draw of a cabin is just how away-from-it-all it can be; many cabins can only be accessed by cross-country skiing, so won’t have to worry about noisy neighbours or nearby traffic. If you’ve had a serious lack of Me Time lately, there’s no better venue for serious reflection and relaxation than a snowy cabin.
If you're ready to have the winter trip of a lifetime, then it's time to visit Travel Alberta and start planning today!