By RACHAEL FREY
Calgary is known as the gateway to the Rockies, but there’s no need to leave the city to find outdoor activities in the winter. World-class Olympic sports facilities and a keen sense of seasonal nostalgia combine to create a variety of family-friendly cold weather fun.
Ice-skating is an integral part of Canadian cold-weather life, and while indoor rinks may be practical, nothing beats gliding across outdoor ice under the vast Prairie sky.
Heritage Park Town Square offers free public skating set against the backdrop of the Haskayne Mercantile Block, a charming set of shops that mirror the village stores of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s and sell everything from homemade fudge to old-fashioned toys. Though skate rentals are not available on-site, Rapid-Rent sports rental store is just two minutes away down Heritage Drive and offers skates in all sizes for $10 per pair. The square’s artificial ice makes a smooth, melt-proof surface that’s perfect for beginners. The rink is open daily between 10 am and 6 pm.
JINGLE ALL THE WAY
Dashing through the snow in a two-horse open sleigh, over the fields you’ll go with an excellent view of downtown Calgary. Horsin Around, the only trail riding facility in the city, employs three teams of mighty draft horses that spend the winter whisking sleighs across snowy ranchland.
The 15-minute rides run every Saturday and Sunday starting at noon and depart every 30 minutes until 4 pm. Back at the stable, guests can warm up with complimentary hot chocolate and a roaring bonfire. Private group rides are available, and packages include a petting zoo and the use of a heated hall. Couples can book an exclusive, romantic ride for two.
SNOW SPORTS IN THE CITY
It has been 25 years since Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics, but Winsport’s Canada Olympic Park (COP), the sport facility built for the games, is bigger and better than ever. Now owned by the Winter Sport Institute, COP features ski jumps, an alpine ski run, freestyle and moguls area, plus a snowboard terrain park and half pipe. As well, over two kilometres (1.24 miles) of groomed cross-country ski trails are lit for night skiing weekdays. Less conventional options include bobsleigh rides—piloted by a professional driver, you can rip down an icy chute with 14 twists and turns, reaching maximum speeds of 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour. If you prefer to slide solo, get a quick lesson from a qualified coach, and hop on a luge sled for a thrilling ride on a purpose-built track.
When you’re done playing in the snow, stop next door at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame for major memorabilia and interactive exhibits on sporting heroes from Wayne Gretsky to Terry Fox.
Nakiska is an excellent destination for a day of skiing in the Canadian Rockies. Just 45 minutes west of the city, the ski area boasts breath-taking mountain views and 71 marked trails ranging in difficulty from novice to expert. Equipment rentals and private or group lessons are available for children and adults.