By Naomi Witherick
Before hotels and ski hills, the Canadian Rockies were known, loved and lived in by First Nations. Frozen lakes were their hunting ground, snowy foothills their home. Connect with the mountains like the first inhabitants with unique experiences that resonate Aboriginal heritage.
Indigenous people have traversed Canadian landscapes for centuries. From Inuit nations in the north to the Plains tribes in southern Alberta, each had their own beliefs and traditions that are still alive.
Experience Aboriginal life-ways for yourself. From museum visits and snowshoeing to sleigh riding and dogsledding (below) there are loads of ways to connect with native heritage in the Canadian Rockies.
Sleds and Sleighs
When travelling long distances in extreme conditions, horse-drawn sleighs were the go-to mode of transport for Stoney Nakoda families after the arrival of Europeans.
Jasper Riding Stables gives you taste of the experience. Cosy up in a horse-drawn sleigh that glides along the snowy, pine-forested trails by Pyramid Lake. “We go along the sunny side of the lake and turn at the boardwalk to Pyramid Island,” says the stables’ Mary Fuller. “It’s a really magical winter experience.”
Brewster Lake Louise Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides operates tours to the end of the famous lake, in the shadow of Victoria Glacier. Or take a sleigh ride with Banff Trail Riders. Their trip follows the icy course of the Bow River and includes a fireside warm-up stop to toast marshmallows and look for wildlife.
In northern parts of Alberta, the Woodland Cree tackled the winter terrain on dog sled. Their flat-bottomed toboggans slid effortlessly through the snow while the dogs warded off predators.
“Dogsledding gets you back in touch with nature,” says Amanda Sinclair from Cold Fire Creek Dogsledding. ”Travel into the heart of the wilderness in the company of man’s best friend.”
Learn about Jasper’s history and sip hot apple cider on the Moonshiners of Whiskey Creek tour. Amanda says it’s a chance to step back in time and “surround yourself with beauty and freedom.”
Or dash through snow-coated plains near Canmore with Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours, where you can get up close and personal with a classic dog team. “We have traditional breeds like the Seppala Siberian, which has been used in dogsledding for generations,” says the company’s Carlin Kimble. “The opportunity to drive your own dog team makes it feel very authentic.”
See more Age-Old Adventures.
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