20 Reasons Families Love Winter in Calgary

Get out and about with your family this season.

1. Skiing: Getting the family together to go to the mountains can be difficult to squeeze into a busy lifestyle of work and school. Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park (COP) is the convenient and fun solution to that problem.

Hills for all skill levels and a half pipe are all located at 88 Canada Olympic Road SW, just off of the TransCanada Highway. COP is open Monday to Friday 9am to 9pm; Saturday, Sunday and holidays 9am to 5pm.

2. Snowboarding: Not a skier? Take advantage of lessons at COP for individuals of all ages and abilities. Take the initiative with private lessons or family private lessons.

3. Snow skating: Bring the summer fun of skateboarding into winter with snow skating. Most like snowboarding without bindings, this is a fun and exciting way for you and your kids to enjoy the snow. Snow skates can be found in stores that carry skateboards and snowboards, such as Mission and the Source. Remember to be safe and wear a helmet and wrist guards.

4. Zoo Lights and other light displays: Every year, people of all ages head to the Calgary Zoo to enjoy hot chocolate, fire pits, snow bowling and the display of 1.5 million twinkling lights. The Zoo Lights are open every day from 6pm to 9pm (gates close at 8:30pm), November 23 - January 5, 2013 (excluding Christmas day and New Year’s Eve). Admission for adults is $10.00 (includes parking) and admission for children is $7.00.

Monkey Jungle at Zoolights
Monkey Jungle at Zoolights

Or take a family drive to see Merry Christmas written in 17 languages at the 23rd Annual Lions Festival of Lights located at Confederation Park. The display is illuminated daily from 7pm to Midnight until early January.

5. Plus 15’s: Don’t be wary of exploring the streets of downtown Calgary because of the chilly weather. Take advantage of the world’s most extensive pedestrian skywalk system spanning across 16 kilometres and enjoy the snow covered streets without the parkas and snow pants.

6. Calgary Winter Festival: This 11-day festival is held at 11, 634 Avenue SW in early February to commemorate the 1988 Winter Olympics and all other winter activities. Music, entertainment, sports competitions, carnivals and children’s activities can all be found at the Calgary Winter Festival. The festival includes a free Winterfest Carnival at Fort Calgary and a free family fun zone at COP.

7. Winter hikes: Some great areas that are suited for the whole family include Heart Creek Trail just 45 minutes from Calgary. It is an easy half-day hike on mainly flat ground, which follows a creek. Also, Bow Valley Provincial Park located less than an hour west of Calgary is a great way to get moving and enjoy the outdoors.

8. Olympic Plaza: Originally built for medal presentations during the 1988 Winter Olympics and located at 228, 8 Avenue SE, Olympic Plaza is a great place to bring the family to enjoy a day of skating. The rink is open to the public daily from 10am to 9pm until the middle of March, depending on the weather.

9. Chinooks: Calgary’s geography brings a welcomed break from the cold winter weather of the Prairies. Take advantage of the warmth and take the family for a hot dog roast in one of Calgary’s parks.

10. Parks: Many parks throughout Calgary, such as Bowness and Fish Creek Park, are open year-round. Activities are available within the parks such as cross-country skiing, skating and just simply walking the trails and taking in the wildlife. A full list of Calgary parks along with photos can be found at calgaryarea.com/calgary_parks.htm.

11. Hockey: GO Hitmen GO! Bring family and friends out to support our
WHL Calgary Hitmen in their 2012/13 season.                                                             

12. Making Snowmen: Take advantage of the abundant supply of snow that falls in the city every winter and get out of the house and explore your creativity with the family. Build snowmen, snow women, snow children and anything else that can be crafted out of this frozen powder.

A game to give a unique spin to this activity is to have everyone grab five articles from around the house (make sure they won’t be ruined if they get a bit wet).

Write everyone’s names on small pieces of paper, fold them up, and put them in a bowl. Everyone picks a name from the bowl and gives the items they picked from the house to whichever family member was pulled from the bowl. Once everyone has their items, they must use all of their items in some way with their snowman.

Once all snowmen have been made, prizes for most creative snowman, best dressed snowman, and most unique snowman can be awarded.

13. Tobogganing: Get your snow gear and explore some of the many great tobogganing hills located all around the city. Some of the best hills in Calgary are St. Andrews Park near the University of Calgary, which offers 500 ft. rides; Nose Hill Park located in the North West is great for smaller children; and Confederation Park located in the North East.

14. Making igloos: Make use of the chilly winter nights by filling empty milk and juice cartons with water dyed with your favourite food coloring. Leave the cartons overnight to freeze and use them the next day to build your very own igloo or ice fort.

15. Banff: Calgary is located only 90 minutes away from the amazing Rocky Mountains. Take a day trip to Banff and enjoy a ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain on the Banff Gondola, or visit the many stores downtown.

Banff Gondola
Banff Gondola


16. Lake Louise Ice Sculpture Competition: Don’t miss the teams of professional carvers competing in the international ice carving competition at The Fairmount Chateau in Lake Louise. Watch as 12 international teams of two carvers turn 15 blocks of ice weighing 300 lbs. into seven-foot-tall sculptures in just three days. Also enjoy the Little Chippers festival held in Samson Mall of Lake Louise Village where children learn to drive a dogsled, get their faces painted and learn about ice carving.

17. Movie nights: Use the occasional blistery winter night as an excuse to stay in with the family and cuddle up together for a movie or game night. Having troubles figuring out what to watch? Check out the top ten family movies of 2009 at http://movies.toptenreviews.com/list_family_2009.htm.

18. Indoor bon fires: Show the freezing weather who’s boss by building a fire and roasting marshmallows.

19. Schedule a game night: Escape a blistering night by staying in and playing board games like Clue, Taboo, Pictionary and Cranium together. Old favourites such as Monopoly are still a hit but have received new and exciting twists like electronic credit cards.

20. Meals you can make together: Make cooking dinner a family affair and let your child’s inner chef escape. Simple recipes such as making your own pizza on a whole-grain crust allow for a tasty meal to be healthy and fun at the same time. Just spread some tomato sauce on the crust or a whole-wheat pita and set out bowls with various ingredients for your family to choose from such as pineapple, pepperoni, cheese, mushrooms, peppers and onions. Finally, slide your creation into the oven.