Outdoor Winter Activities in Alberta

By Samantha Lemna  | 
10/31/19, 8:40 AM
    

An individual cross country skiing through a forest at sunset.

With Alberta winters lasting up to 8 months, it’s critical that we manage to get outside and enjoy ourselves. That can be a tall order when it’s cold and snowy. Luckily, there are actually lots of activities you can do outside in Alberta during the winter, such as:

 

  • Cross Country Skiing
  • Curling
  • Dog Sledding
  • Fat Tire Biking
  • Figure Skating
  • Hockey
  • Ice Climbing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Ice Sailing
  • Northern Light Viewing
  • Ringette
  • Skating
  • Skiing and Snowboarding
  • Skijoring
  • Sleigh Rides
  • Snow Building
  • Snowmobiling
  • Snowshoeing
  • Tubing and Tobogganing 
  • Winter Festivals

 

Cross Country Skiing

Cross country skiing has existed as a form of transportation in colder climates for thousands of years. It’s a great way to get active and enjoy the beauty of winter. Cross country ski trails are found in and out of Alberta’s cities with some groomed and others unmaintained. You can find trails here:

 

This is a fun, accessible activity for people of all ages. If you don’t want to bring your kids in a wagon, age 4 to 6 is a good age to get them started. Sticking to easier trails and ensuring everyone has the right clothes will help set your family up for success. You can check out the Calgary Ski Club or Edmonton Nordic for lessons. 

 

Curling

Curling is a winter sport where players slide stones towards a target with the aim to get the stones closest to the middle or knocking the other team’s stones away in order to get the most points. This “Canadian” sport was actually created in Scotland and brought to Canada by Scottish immigrants.

 

Many curling clubs offer introductory lessons for adults and kids. You can check out: 

 

Curling is a ton of fun for families and adults. Plus, you’re not out in the elements.

 

Dog Sledding

Dog sledding isn’t a cheap winter activity, but it’s one that you should do at least once in your life. The dogs are awesome and it’s pretty darn cool to ride and drive a dog sled. Tours range from half an hour to multiple day adventures. Prices start at $125 per adult (kids are welcome, depending on the tour company there may be restrictions). Here are some of Alberta’s dog sledding companies:

 

Winter fat tire bike parked on a trail in the woods.

Fat Tire Biking

Fat tires make biking in the winter possible - and fun. This activity has exploded in popularity over the last few years. It’s a great option for families or adults looking to get outside and get active during winter. There are even specific trails for fat tire bikes in:

 

You can also ride fat tire bikes on city paths around Alberta, even if the path isn’t plowed. 

 

You can generally find fat tire bike rentals if you don’t have your own. If you want to outfit your family, prices start at a few hundred dollars. Make sure you’re dressed for the weather - goggles will also help! 

 

Hockey

The great Canadian past-time, hockey. With cold temperatures, you can take this sport to outdoor skating rinks to play for fun. There are also a large number of leagues (from minors to adult recreational leagues) to join. 

 

Ice Climbing

Ice climbing is similar to rock climbing, however, the gear and techniques are a little different - and the temperatures are more than a little colder. This is definitely an activity to do with an expert - ice climbing requires skill and can be very dangerous. It’s important that the conditions are right and you have the right gear and knowledge to climb safely. These companies offer guided ice climbs:

 

Different companies will have limits on the age of participants - some will only allow adults only, given the risks. However, this is an exhilarating winter experience and a must-try if you’re a climber.

A fish caught during ice fishing.

Ice Fishing

If you enjoy fishing, why not try ice fishing? You’ll need a Wildlife Identification Number card, a fishing license, and some gear. Here’s a great article to get you started with ice fishing in Alberta. Many Alberta Parks allow ice fishing with the proper license. 

 

Ice Sailing or Ice Boating

Ice sailing or ice yachting is sailing or racing boats specially designed for ice. This sport has actually been around since the 18th century but is most popular in Canada and the US. The Ghost Lake Sailing Club can help introduce you to this exhilarating sport.

 

Northern Light Viewing

We’re lucky enough to get great views of the Northern Lights. For best viewing, head to Alberta’s Dark Sky Preserves in Elk Island, Jasper, Waterton, or Wood Buffalo National Parks or the Cypress Hills Provincial Park Dark Sky Preserve. Alternatively, head out of the cities to get away from the light pollution. Check out Aurora Watch for finding the best times to catch the Northern Lights.

 

Ringette

An alternative to hockey, this game is played on ice with sticks and a ring, with the goal being to score the most points. The first game of the sport was in 1963 in Ontario and it has spread from there. Newcomers are always welcome at the “Come Try Ringette” programs across Alberta

 

Skating

With public skating rinks open indoors and outdoors throughout the winter months, skating is a perfect activity for all ages, no matter the temperature. Many places offer skate rentals and you can also take lessons. 

A family picture of snowboarders and skiers on the hill.

Skiing and Snowboarding

Skiing and snowboarding are a great option for the whole family - and it can be more affordable than you think. There are tons of ski hills in Alberta and you can save money by getting your own equipment (although rentals are available at most hills). 

 

If you don’t know how to ski or snowboard and want to learn, most hills offer lessons (usually half a day or a full day). It’s definitely recommended to take a few lessons so you can enjoy your time at the mountain. 

 

Here are the ski hills in Alberta:

 

Skijoring 

Skijoring is when someone is on skis and is pulled by a horse or dog team. This fun activity is offered by Mad Dogs & Englishmen as a tour. If you prefer to watch, there’s an exhibition and competition called the Skijordue held in Calgary each year! 

 

Sleigh Rides

Sleigh rides are a classic way to enjoy the great outdoors. They’re offered for free or for a small fee at many places around Alberta, especially during events. Bundle up and enjoy the ride!

 

Snow Building

Build those snowmen and snow forts! It’s a silly past time, but a fun one. If the snow is too dry, you can always create snow trail patterns, instead. Here’s an article with great tips on building snow art and structures

 

Snowmobiling

Snowmobiling is another great activity for winter. Keep in mind that if you ride on public land, you’ll need to register your snowmobile, have insurance, have a trail pass, and wear an approved helmet. Safety is critical, especially in avalanche areas.

 

Luckily, there are many companies in Alberta that offer lessons, advanced training, and even tours with guides. Here are a few:

Snowshoeing towards a cabin and woods at sunset.

Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is another popular sport that’s accessible for all ages. You can rent equipment or buy your own for an affordable price. Dress for the weather and head out to the trails found in Alberta’s cities, 46 provincial parks, and national parks. 

 

Many tour companies also offer guided snowshoeing hikes if you’re nervous about going out on your own in the mountains for the first time. 

 

Tubing and Tobogganing

Snow tubing and tobogganing are great fun for all ages in the winter. This affordable activity can be done in city parks with a designated hill or you can venture out to a tube park for even more high-speed adventure. You can find tube parks all over Alberta, including:

 

There may be some age restrictions at tube parks.

 

For more local places to go tobogganing or sledding, check out these cities that maintain toboggan hills:

 

Tobogganing is also allowed in city parks in Red Deer and Medicine Hat - you can even try night tobogganing at Kin Coulee!



In addition to all these activities, there are lots of winter festivals held all over Alberta. Plus, many campgrounds offer winter camping for those who want to experience true peace and quiet in the snow. Check out our guide for winter camping for more details on winter camping!

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