The hubby and I had an amazing weekend getaway last month in Canmore, Alberta, Canada. Canmore is ~100km from Calgary, or just over an hours drive. Although I had done quite a bit of research before our trip, we only had 2 things “scheduled” – cross-country skiing and snowshoeing – anything else would come as a surprise.
The hotel was amazing! I typically start my getaway searches with finding a hotel, cross-referencing Expedia.com, TripAdvisor.com, Hotels.com, etc. For this trip, I knew exactly what I wanted…as this was the recommended hotel from various friends. I checked out the stats on TripAdvisor, and was SO EXCITED!!! It was a one-bedroom, full bath + shower, living room, dining room, and kitchen layout…just perfect for a 3-night/4-day stay! It also had a washer and dryer in the room, heated underground parking, and a heated outdoor pool. The downsides…if any…was that there was no “restaurant” on site…merely a lil’ cafe. Not a big deal. The other, is that this hotel is located JUST OUTSIDE the main downtown area. I’m talking less than 5km…but if someone was looking to be in the midst of things, I just thought I would throw it out there. The check-in was effortless…the staff very friendly and accommodating. When I asked if my room had a mountain view, the lady looked at me with sad eyes, and said, unfortunately, no…but let me see what we can do for you. And within 3 minutes, she set me up with a room with a STUNNING view!!!
I have just 3 words to describe this – “WHAT A WORKOUT.” And by that I really mean – WOW – what an experience!!! It was suggested that they hubby and I go to Canmore Nordic Centre, which is supposed to be an excellent place for beginners. It was, indeed, a great place for our first time. We rented our skis/boots/poles from the rental shop on site, and were given very simple directions on 1) how to snap our boots on to our skis, and 2) to stick to the yellow and/or green paths. Ok then….we were off! We loaded our backpack with a second set of gloves each, water, and a map. We made it about 200 yards before we started watching other skiers and realized there were “tracks” that one could slide into to help glide and get up the rolling hills. We stuck to the green trail (Banff) and were sweating within 30 minutes! There were a few falls here and there while trying to navigate the hills (it’s a bit more icy than regular snow skiing), but overall, we had a BLAST. We made it to the Meadow, which I thought might be our turn-around point…but we decided to keep pushing on, and ended up making it to the end of the Banff Trail. Oddly, the trail just ends at around 5.5km and you have to turn around to get back to the lodge. Total length is 11km – and we completed it in about 2 hours and 20 minutes. After a brief break at the lodge for a potty break, refueling, and refilling water bottles, we decided to head back out for a second loop. We made it back to the Meadow (about 3km) and decided that we were plum wore out!!!! So we decided to head back and call it a day. All in all, another 6km in about an hour. Enjoy my photo recap below!
Distance: 10 km roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 300 meters
Time: 3-6 hrs
Location: Follow signs up to Nordic Center in Canmore, then go past for 38km down the Spray Lake Road (Smith Dorien Trail) until you see the Chester Lake parking lot across from the Burstail Pass parking lot (approx. 10 mins past Mount Engadine Lodge).
First thing I feel the NEED to mention, is that the snowshoes aren’t the Paleolithic tennis rackets fastened to your feet with ratty leather and rusty fasteners like one would imagine! The shoes we rented from Gear Up Mountain Sports were easily affixed to our feet and can seemingly accommodate any footwear you happen to be wearing, although snow boots are preferable. They also have snow-gripping teeth on the bottom that allow you to tackle ice or inclination fearlessly, which was quite handy as we hiked up a few steep paths of the mountain trail.
My favorite parts of the trek: being surrounded by the fresh scent of evergreens…the sight of tiny trees holding back HUGE snowdrifts…the most gratifying solitude and “in the present” feeling one could imagine…the alternating views of dense forest trees and wide open mountain ranges…and the absolute childish fun of making snow-angels and snowmen and digging snow holes!
Here’s a photo recap of our journey – ENJOY!
We got really lucky in having personal escorts on our first snowshoeing adventure! Friends (and co-workers) from the area were delighted that we wanted to take the challenge, and offered to meet us for the day to show us one of their favorite trails. They have a 3.5 year old son, who was an ABSOLUTE delight on the trip – singing songs to keep us smiling and giggling while digging out a snow hole. The father had a backpack carrier for him…and I was amazed that he could so easily carry a lil’ person along for the hike. Our friends suggested the Chester Lake Trail…and although we did not make it the entire way (probably took path almost up to Chester Lake. (Maybe 3.5 – 4K of 5K path), it was an experience we will forever treasure – our first Canadian Snowshoeing Experience!
Chez Francois (Website HERE)
To be honest, this place came recommended for lunch/dinner, so it wasn’t even on my radar for breakfast! The morning before our big x-country skiing adventure, we decided to drive around and find somewhere good for breakfast. As we drove by this place, it was quaint and cute, with lots of cars parked outside! (<–Always a good sign!) When we stepped in, we were immediately greeted and placed at a table in the front of the restaurant, with an amazing view of the mountains. Server was extremely friendly, and offered us drinks immediately. The menu is quite extensive – from “a la carte” items to “full-blown meals.” The hubby chose a meat omelette, which was quite large, and came with home style potatoes, fresh fruit, and toast! I chose the American Breakfast, which was eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, fruit, french toast, and a mini pancake. Lots of families with lil’ ones came in during our time, and the kids menu seemed to be perfect for them! Also thought the pricing was reasonable. HIGHLY recommend.
The Iron Goat Pub & Grill (Website HERE)
This place came recommended by at least 3 friends, so it made it to the top of our “To Try” list…and we absolutely LOVED it. We stopped in after a full day of x-country skiing around 4:30 pm. The place had a few people, but it wasn’t swamped yet. We were asked if we had reservations (Ooops…No!)…but they accommodated us anyway. We were led to the table to by the large stone fireplace overlooking the mountains. Beautiful view. Our waitress was very friendly – provided excellent recommendations – and seemed to “sense” when we needed service and when we wanted to be left alone. Menu has lots of selections, including some vegetarian meals. We chose to share the Blue Crab and Lobster dip for an appetizer. It was amazing! I was torn between the Alberta Game Meatloaf and the Blackened Chicken Carbonara – waitress recommended I try the meatloaf – which was DIVINE…and also very popular among other guests that evening (came with mac’n’cheese and veggies). The hubby tried the Alberta Baby Back Ribs (with a side of shrimp), and said they were some of the best he’s ever eaten…literally fell off the bone. We tried some of the beer that the waitress recommended, and we both loved our orders!!! Went back the next day after snowshoeing, and once again, were immediately accommodated. We munched on the raved about “Chipotle Mango Duck Wings” and downed a few beers. Highly recommend!!!
La Belle Patate (Website HERE)
This place was a nice lil’ surprise!!! To be honest, I don’t think the hubby and I would have tried it on our own, as we are new to Canada, new to Canmore, and new to Poutine…but the friends we went snowshoeing with RAVED about this place. After our all-day hike, they brought us here, recommended the Original Poutine, Large size to share, and it was AMAZINGLY good! They told us that you can get other flavors, aka – meat, but that it changes the flavor of the poutine, and that first-times should start with original. They were not wrong. Upon ordering, our friend asked for a beer, but was told that the restaurant is under new management, and the beer/liquor license did not transfer to the new owner. We were slightly disappointed, but it does not affect the service, food, or atmosphere for the place at all. Food was prepped in under 10 minutes, and the place was CROWDED (<–but in a good way!). Highly recommend for first-timers, or anyone craving real poutine.
Pizza Construction Co.
We accidentally came across this place when our hotel “neighbor” had dropped a receipt outside their door. After a full day of snowshoeing, we were craving pizza anyway and thought we would give it a try…and it was delicious! The delivery was accurate and quick – and the delivery guy was super friendly! They quoted 45 minutes on Saturday night…and we got it in 40. Tasted like homemade pizza dough with fresh toppings. Definitely a great local place to try if you are craving pizza!!!
Have you ever been x-country skiing or snowshoeing? Is there another unique winter activity you recommend?? Have you tried Poutine???