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Old-Fashioned Mountain Activities: Part 3

By Afton Aikens

The third part of this four-week post series will introduce you to the horse-drawn carriage ride—the perfect addition to a winter getaway.

Photo: Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography

Photo: Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography

Magical Sleigh Rides

Historically, sleighs offered a practical (and preferred) way for ordinary people to get around after the snow fell. But today, it’s all about the magic of snuggling in a sleigh and listening to the rhythm of the horses’ hooves as snowflakes scatter the sky.

“It’s easy to lose sight that this was a necessity in past times,” says Mark Zanetti of Banff Trail Riders. “It humbles you by slowing things down, and gives you a sense of what it was like back then.” Banff Trail Riders’ sleigh rides near the Banff townsite include a tour of the barn and a chance to interact with the horses, plus a campfire stop to roast marshmallows and enjoy a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

Old-Fashioned Feel

While dog sleds, snowshoes and skis have progressed over the years, Brewster Lake Louise Stables’ sleighs “are exactly the same as they were 100 years ago,” says owner Kevin Stanton. The cushioned vinyl seats “a titch warmer than hay bales” are the only nod to modernity on these traditional wooden sleighs. Just as in the past, Belgian and Petron draft horses work in pairs to pull the sleighs.

Brewster Adventures traces its roots to 1892 when Bill and Jim Brewster, the sons of pioneer John Brewster, began guiding visitors around Banff National Park. Stanton says that today “people feel connected to the tradition” of authentic activities like sleigh riding.

Stanton’s trips take guests to the end of Lake Louise where Victoria Glacier looms large and it’s calm, cool and quiet. “I never tire of it. I think Lake Louise is the eighth wonder of the world,” he says. During nighttime excursions, “the starry sky, dark mountains and twinkling Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise lights make it pretty romantic.” Fox News recently nominated their tour as one of the top 10 in North America, the only one in Canada to make the list.

>> Read part two: snowshoeing

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