Off to the Rocky Mountains! We made our way to one of the most beautiful regions in Canada again in winter 2018/19. Besides four of Alberta's finest ski resorts we have also tested some off-piste activities for you this time. Here is everything we saw and did for 11 days in Canada!
Take-off in Munich
Munich – Toronto – Edmonton
Air Canada took us all the way from Munich to Edmonton via Toronto. This airline's biggest plus: you don't have to pay extra for your ski luggage.
Once we had made it to Edmonton, we found ourselves a car from „Budget Rent a Car“ and drove to Matrix Hotel situated in the town centre. We fought the urge to give in to the jet lag and went for dinner at Wishbone Restaurant right after check-in.
Our anti-jet lag tip: adapt to local time right away, no matter how tired you are.
Sightseeing in Edmonton
Cool – Cooler – Ice Castles
As we were still a bit knackered from the long trip, we decided not to go straight to the first ski resort, and to explore Alberta's capital for a bit. A special highlight was the gigantic Ice Castles, a great adventure for the young and the old. Our tip: go there in the evening, when the ice formations are illuminated with colourful lights!
Old Strathcona Farmers' Market
Only a 10 minutes' drive away from the Ice Castles you find Old Strathcona Farmers' Market, Edmonton's largest indoor weekly market. Every Saturday it features exclusively locally produced goods. The Old Strathcona quarter is full of fun graffiti and always worth a visit.
Lunch and Guided Tour at Situation Brewing Company
Later we made our way to Situation Brewing, only a few streets away. The restaurant features a number of different beers, all of them brewed on-site. Don't miss out on a guided tour through the brewery after you've finished your meal.
Visit of West Edmonton Mall
Before finally going on to Jasper we stopped at the impressive West Edmonton Mall, North America's largest shopping centre. Besides almost 800 shops and more than 100 restaurants it is home to Galaxyland amusement park, a swimming pool, an ice rink, and many further facilities.
Edmonton Oilers vs Arizona Coyotes
The night before we travelled to Jasper we had the opportunity to watch the local NHL team Edmonton Oilers play against the Arizona Coyotes at Rogers Place. Hockey is the most popular national sport in Canada. If you ever get the chance, don't miss out on the experience of watching a match. The atmosphere is amazing, and the breaks are filled with exciting shows.
On to Jasper
After a great time in Edmonton we moved on towards the Rocky Mountains. First stop: Jasper, situated at Jasper National Park near the border between the provinces Alberta and British Columbia. We stayed right in the centre, at Crimson Hotel.
As a special welcome, an actual wapiti elk was waiting for us at the car park – now we must really have arrived in Canada! And this was not the only elk we came across on our stay. However, the locals advise great caution. You should not get too close to the animals!
Skiing at Marmot Basin (Alberta)
Marmot Basin ski resort is located in Alberta's west and is one of Canada's highest ski resorts. To get to the resort, you need a national park pass (available in Jasper or at the checkpoint to the resort). Under amazing weather conditions we got to start our skiing tour, and our expectations were definitely met! Varied runs, two terrain parks as well as the back-country area "Tres Hombres" provided enough space for a diverse ski day against the backdrop of a beautiful mountain panorama. Culinary tip: we recommend filling up with a bison burger or a bison cheese sandwich on the sun deck of Caribou Chalet at the base station.
Here is our video from Marmot Basin
Ascent to Marmot Peak
On our second skiing day at Marmot Basin we ventured all the way to the summit of Marmot Peak. Depending on your fitness level the ascent takes 30 to 45 minutes. The effort is rewarded, however, with a stunning view of the Rocky Mountains. Afterwards, we enjoyed the dry Canadian powder on the black runs „Suzie's“ and „McCready's Choice“ (No. 43 and 42).
Jasper has more in store than skiing and snowboarding at Marmot Basin. We tried our hand (and foot!) at ice climbing on Tangle Falls, a 35 metre waterfall right by the legendary Icefields Parkway. Rockaboo equipped us with the necessary gear and introduced us the the climbing technique, and off we went.
Bottom line: exhausting for beginners, but the feeling once you've made it to the top makes up for the effort. Maybe this video makes you want to try it as well:
Another great option in Jasper is a visit to the planetarium. On a comfy chair you listen to the stories of an astronomy expert before you get to watch the stars through a telescope. Later we even got to grill some marshmallows by the bonfire and warm up with hot drinks. A great experience – but don't forget to wrap up warmly!
Jasper For Foodies
We dined exquisitely at Evil Dave's Restaurant. The menu leaves nothing to be desired.
We'd also recommend a visit at Jasper Brewing Company. We are still dreaming about the juicy bison steak we had here. Furthermore, you get a great variety of different beers here of course. If you're into sports you will like the large flat screens broadcasting a number of sports events.
Fancy a pizza? Then Famoso is the place to be, where pizzas are made in an original Italian oven. Traditional Neapolitan pizza – thin and crispy – a delight!
Skiing in Lake Louise (Alberta)
On our way to Kananaskis we stopped for a little visit at Lake Louise. Lake Louise Mountain Resort is a famous World Cup venue and located in the middle of Banff National Park. At 1700 ha it is one of the biggest resorts in North America. Again, our expectations were met entirely. At the highest point of the resort, Mt. Whitehorn, we enjoyed the beautiful panorama before making our way down along diverse slopes.
Lake Louise in 60 Seconds For You:
Skiing in Nakiska (Alberta)
After checking into Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge the night before, we were excited for Nakiska, the next ski resort on our list. Nakiska hosted the Alpine races of the Olympic Games in Calgary in 1988. Due to its predominantly easy runs, this ski area is especially popular with families. Intermediate skiers can show off their skills on the Monster Glades, and if you're looking for some action you should check out Najibska Rail Park. Furthermore, Wanidu Tube Park right by the base station is a great spot.
Skiing at Castle Mountain (Alberta)
After our last drive of 3 hours and 20 minutes we had made it to Castle Mountain Resort. The last ski area of our Canada tour is located at Alberta's south west, around 270 km south of Calgary. According to us, Castle Mountain is the epitome of skiing in Canada! Conservative lifts, seemingly endless back-country possibilities (cat skiing!), steep slopes, and all of that in a great environment.
We stayed at one of the huts of Castle Mountain Resort. The cottages for self-caterers are super cosy, but if you need mobile phone reception you'll be disappointed. The only place at the resort with working wifi is the restaurant at the base station.
Cat Skiing at Castle Mountain
All our powder dreams came true when we went cat skiing on our last ski day. After an introduction about avalanches in the morning we got our equipment, and the snow cat took us up Mount Haig. Depending on the group's ability you overcome between 5 and 8 back-country slopes. Furthermore, a photographer takes great souvenir pictures of all participants.
Bottom line: Definitely try it for yourself! Our cat skiing video is a little taste:
Once more, Canada was an impressive journey. Besides the wonderful skiing conditions we will remember the stunning landscape of the Rocky Mountains as well as the Canadian hospitality.
A trip to Alberta should definitely be on everyone's bucket list!