Watch brave souls climb frozen waterfalls at Maligne Canyon. // © 2014 Thinkstock
When it comes to adventure, there is nothing “provincial” about Alberta, Canada. The four seasons destination, which includes five national parks and the Canadian Rockies, offers a sophisticated selection of outdoor experiences to suit any client’s definition of “adventure.” Clients can take it easy on a mountain gondola or in a cozy rustic cabin; test their limits skiing, ice climbing, cycling, rafting and hiking; or explore the world by playing paleontologist or astronomer. Following, three seasoned Alberta adventurers share their favorite activities.
Bart Donnelly has been selling Alberta since 1993, when he worked retail in Banff and in sales at the Lake Louise Ski Resort. Since then, he has become the director of travel trade, North America for Travel Alberta. Though he loves dogsledding and hiking, his favorite way to spend the morning is by downhill skiing.
“Alberta provides various locations for skiing, but my favorites are in the Canadian Rockies: Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village or Lake Louise Ski Resort in Banff National Park; Marmot Basin in Jasper National Park; and Castle Mountain Resort, a small hidden gem in Pincher Creek that is a bit of a local’s favorite," said Donnelly.
Alberta’s long ski season goes from mid-November to the start of May, with the best skiing from early February until the end of April.
Each year, Anderson Vacations sends more than 15,000 clients in and around Alberta on customized itineraries. And with 20 years of experience selling Alberta, CEO Corey Marshall knows a thing or two about what he calls an “adventure playground.” His favorite way to take in the area’s scenery — “bar none” — is by cycling along the mountain passes of the Canadian Rockies.
“The best place to cycle is on the Highwood Pass, a legendary route from Kananaskis to Longview," said Marshall. "The ultimate time to ride is when the road isn’t opened to cars in late spring, but anytime between June and September is also great.”
When riding on the Highwood Pass, it’s best to overnight in Canmore or Kananaskis pre-ride.
Master travel planner for Travelstore, Pam Jacobs has no shortage of Alberta recommendations. Her itineraries include spotting the Northern Lights at the dark sky preserves in Jasper and Wood Buffalo national parks, driving along Icefields Parkway in search of ice formations, looking through the glass floor platform at the Glacier Skywalk and discovering the dinosaur past of the Canadian Badlands. A lifelong train enthusiast, she also highly recommends the area for rail travel. But for adventure plus breathtaking beauty, Jacobs swears by Alberta’s ice walks.
"The pristine Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park is the deepest canyon in the park and contains frozen waterfalls that have every shade of blue in them," said Jacobs. "You can watch the ice climbers go right up the waterfalls. I’m not brave enough for that, but it’s really cool to watch."
Bring your real camera in the winter, as smartphones may stop working at about 10 below. Or, head to Alberta in the summer, when wildlife is abundant and activities include horseback riding, whitewater rafting, camping, golfing, fishing and train travel.