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Outdoor Winter Activities in Calgary

By RACHAEL FREY

Photo: courtesy Fotolia.com

Photo: courtesy Fotolia.com

Those who are looking for winter fun in Calgary usually head straight to the city’s Olympic facilities at WinSport for downhill skiing, speed skating, bobsleigh, and other high-performance activities. But that’s not all Calgary has to offer for enjoying the snow:

SNOWSHOE BUNNIES
While the beauty of a snow-covered field may inspire you to take an invigorating winter walk, getting through the snow can be tough unless you strap on a pair of snowshoes. A lightweight, latticed frame that straps to your boot, snowshoes ease the struggle of walking in snow by distributing body weight over a larger area, which prevents you from sinking into the snow. A bit of technique is required, but snowshoeing is a beginner-friendly activity that is suitable for a wide range of ages and abilities.
Rentals: The northwest University of Calgary Outdoor Centre rents snowshoes, snow boots, and ski poles. They also offer lectures and courses for beginners along with guided snowshoe day hikes in Kananaskis Country. In the southwest, visit Rapid-Rent to rent snowshoes and other outdoor gear.
Where To Go: Nose Hill park in northwest Calgary has small hills, flat expanses, and is kid and dog friendly. There’s also a spectacular view of the city, and on a clear day you can see all the way to the Rocky Mountains. In south Calgary, head to Fish Creek Park. As one of the largest urban parks in North America it provides a true nature experience within city limits. You’re sure to see winter birds flitting among the trees, and with sharp eyes you may even spot rabbits, deer, and other wildlife.

TOBOGGAN TIME
The thrill of sliding down a snowy hill, mittens clenched tight to your sled, wind in your face—winter just isn’t winter without a good toboggan ride. Calgary has 18 designated sledding hills, chosen for their lack of obstacles and safe run outs. Make sure to dress warmly!
Rentals: There aren’t many places in Calgary to rent a toboggan, but the easiest solution is to stop off at a home store such as Canadian Tire, where you can buy a basic sled or “crazy carpet” for as little as $5.
Where To Go: Calgary’s most popular tobogganing hill is St. Andrew’s Heights in the northwest—and with good reason. It’s the perfect steepness to be thrilling but not terrifying, it’s long enough to make the climb back up to the top worth it, and it’s wide enough to safely accommodate all the sledders who flock there after a big dump of snow. Go to www.calgary.ca and search “tobogganing” for a list of all approved locations.

JOURNEY CROSS COUNTRY
Cross-country skiing is an ancient form of travel, practiced for thousands of years in Scandinavia and China. Rather than racing downhill and letting gravity do the work, cross-country skiers provide their own locomotion. The difficulty depends on the terrain, but there are several places in Calgary where tracks are set by machine, making grooves in the snow that keep skis straight and make it easier for less experienced skiers.
Rentals: Stop off downtown at Mountain Equipment Co-op to rent a cross-country package, which includes skis, boots, and poles. It’s also the place to be if there’s any other outdoor sporting equipment you need to buy or rent, including winter-appropriate clothing.
Where To Go: During the summer Shaganappi Point Golf Course is devoted to golfers, but in the winter it transforms into a cross-country skier’s paradise. Close to downtown and the 69th Street C-train line (disembark at Shaganappi Point station), there’s plenty of space and the trails are free to use. Visit calgaryskiclub.org to check if trails are open.

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