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Old-Fashioned Mountain Activities: Part 2

By Afton Aikens

The second part of this four-week post series will introduce you to snowshoeing, a fun, low-impact and low-cost old-fashioned winter activity. Snowshoeing requires little planning, simple gear and no experience. Luckily, here in the Rockies there’s no shortage of powder to sink those snowshoes into! Join a local operator on a guided tour, or rent snowshoes and be your own guide.

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Photo: Banff Lake Louise Tourism

An Authentic Sense of Winter

“Snowshoeing is the fastest growing sport in North America,” says Mark Zanetti, sales manager at Discover Banff Tours. “People from all walks of life try it out and to their surprise find it not difficult at all. We tell guests that if you can walk, you can snowshoe!”

Discover Banff Tours offers a four-hour guided snowshoeing tour through magical Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park. Explore the wonders of this 40-metre deep limestone gorge, see trapping tools and snares once used by fur traders and end on a sweet note with hot maple taffy made in the snow by your guide.

Wood and rawhide snowshoes that resemble tennis rackets are an iconic image of the sport’s ancestry. First Nations hunters wore them on long treks. But snowshoeing has transformed from a necessity of winter life to a favourite fresh-air activity. Nowadays, the shoes are lightweight and made of metal alloy or polymer frames. They have hinged bindings with claws that assist with walking uphill. Participants are “connected to the natural environment, and to the history of the mountain parks,” Zanetti notes.

Gordon Stermann of White Mountain Adventures says his Snowshoeing on Top of the World tour, which includes Sunshine Village gondola and chairlift rides to peak-studded terrain above treeline, leaves participants happily tired. “You get to play in the soft deep snow and just let go,” he says. “Views are out of this world and there’s an authentic sense of winter.”

Our Favourite Trails

Banff/Lake Louise:

  • Johnson Lake (easy; 2.8 km loop/1-2 hrs; no elevation; Map 3, 5G): trace the shoreline with Mt Rundle and Cascade Mtn views. Park at the day use area; start past the picnic area.
  • Lake Louise Lakeshore (easy; 4 km/1-2 hrs return; no elevation; Map 2, 14N): the family can enjoy the Victoria Glacier view and icefall en route. Start at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Danger: don’t go beyond the end of the lake; this is avalanche terrain.

Canmore/Kananaskis:

  • Chester Lake (moderate; 7 km/2-3 hrs return; 287-m elevation gain; Map 1, 8H): branch off the ski trail just beyond the trailhead. Climb through the trees to an open view of majestic rock faces and peaks. Start at the trailhead off Smith-Dorrien Spray Tr.
  • Village Loops (easy; 2.5 km loop/1 hr; no elevation; Map 1, 8I): two connected loops near Kananaskis Village are perfect for families. Opt out after one loop for a hot chocolate at the resort. Start at the field parking lot.

Check local visitors’ centres for condition and route details. Keep off x-c ski tracks on shared trails.

>> Read part one: dog sledding

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