Our Top 13: Winter Road Trip Alberta Highlights Canadian Rocky Mountains – The year of Canada’s 150th anniversary is the year of our first gay travels to the biggest North American country. Our first trip to Canada brought us to Alberta, the western Canadian province famous for the Canadian Rocky Mountains, incredibly beautiful nature, the world-famous scenic Icefields Parkway, and its amazing food scene. But also for the well-known cities of Edmonton, Calgary, Banff, and, of course, Jasper. The destination of our 14-days Gay Road Trip to the Canadian Rocky Mountains in March was Jasper. The small mountain town is well-known for its annual Jasper Pride Festival, with a gay pride parade on the hills of the ski resort Marmot Basin.
Winter Road Trip Canadian Rocky Mountains
Starting with the energetic city of Calgary and its center for winter sports, we took the Trans-Canada Highway 1 with stops in Banff and Lake Louise over the Icefields Parkway all the way up to Jasper town. Lucky us, we planned enough time for all the Canadian (natural) wonders we encountered on our way north. Special moments like staying at the famous Fairmont Banff Springs “Castle in the Rockies“, taking a selfie in front of the beautifully frozen Lake Louise, skiing and snowboarding in Canadian powder snow and hiking frozen waterfalls like the Athabasca Falls or Maligne Canyon just made our first Canada Road Trip the best we could have ever imagined to experience. Enjoy our 13 top highlights of our Ga Winter Road Trip to the Canadian Rocky Mountains from Calgary all the way up to Jasper and see the beauty of Alberta through a couple of men‘s eyes!
#1 Take a 125 km/h Ride in a Bobsled at Winsport Calgary
Leaving the suburbs of Calgary in the direction of Banff and the Rocky Mountains behind, we passed by one of the well visible landmarks of Calgary. The Canada Olympic Park was built in 1988 for the XV. Olympic Winter Games. Today, also known as WinSport, the winter sports park is offering training and development facilities to Canada’s Olympic athletes, supporting their chances of participating in the Olympic Games. Right next to the Hall of Fame, where the Canadian sportsmen and women have their place, a huge sports complex offers facilities for ice-skating, bobsleighing, and a gym. The sports halls are located in front of a ski hill with a lift and freestyle park. Right next to the ski hill, the outdoor bobsleigh track was waiting for us. Together with Simon Dunn, Australia’s Bobsled number one who was training at WinSport before moving to London, we raced down the Olympic track with an unbelievable fast 125 km/h. A high-speed experience not to miss! More about Winsport >
#2 Drive through a heavy Rocky Mountains Snowstorm
Especially Karl loves the snow but even Daan fell in love with the unbelievable soft Canadian powder snow of the Rocky Mountains in Canada. Lucky us, we made our road trip to Alberta last March when a cold front with loads of snow hit the Canadian Rockies. But we had our schedule made to visit all the lovely places around Alberta. Thus, it was put about to take a deep breath and get to it! Karl as an outstanding driver brought us safely through one snowstorm after another. Now and then, the snowfall was so heavy, we didn’t even see the street, not to mention the surrounding mountains anymore. And still, we loved it as it turned into a serious Canadian winter adventure. Karl’s tip: stay focused, do not suddenly speed up or move the wheel too rough in one direction. And if the snowfall gets too heavy, take a break in beautiful Kananaskis, Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise, or off the main road in a safe parking lot. And enjoy the beauty of the winter at its best!
#3 Stay at the “Castle Hotel” of the Canadian Rocky Mountains
Just a Hotel? No, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is considered to be the hotel highlight in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It was built in the style of a Scottish Knight’s Castle overlooking the Bow Valley in the middle of the Rockies at Banff National Park. Enjoy your stay at the gay-friendly 5-star hotel in Banff.
#4 Hit the slopes for SnowTubing at Mount Norquay in Banff
Three fantastic ski resorts, also known as SkiBig3, are easily reachable from Banff after a reasonable drive by car or a shuttle bus from the hotels. While Lake Louise Ski Resort is a 45 minutes car drive away, you can reach the bigger ski area Sunshine Village Ski & Snowboard Resort within 30 minutes. The closest and also relatively low-lying family Ski Resort Mount Norquay is literally just around the corner. And it has something, the other ski areas don’t have: the first snow tubing park in the Banff area! Equipped with a magic carpet, we didn’t even have to walk all the way up the hill. The view of the surrounding mountains is incredible. But the fun begins the way down in one of the 6+ large sliding lanes. Definitely, one of our winter road trip highlights of the Canadian Rocky Mountains!
#5 Take a Selfie in front of the (frozen) Lake Louise
Just a half an hour drive more north, we stopped at the world-famous Lake Louise. Nestled in the middle of an impressive valley with snow-topped mountains, the emerald blue lake is simply one of the most beautiful places in the Rockies. Although the waters of the Rocky Mountains are frozen until June, the frozen lake is not less stunning during wintertime. Especially when walking through the magical blue ice sculptures on the lake. Plan enough time to have a hot chocolate at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Resort Hotel while enjoying the lake and Mountain View. Just on the other side of the Valley, the Ski Resort Lake Louise (a member of the BigSki3) offers winter sports fans around 100 km ski slopes with deep snow off-piste options.
#6 Feel the Canadian Powder Snow on the Hills of SkiBig3
Highlights number 10 is definitely something for real Winter sports fans. As it is a breathtaking experience to hit the slopes for a day in fresh Canadian powder snow. The Skiing Region SkiBig3 with its resorts Lake Louise, Norquay, and Sunshine Village are offering diverse winter sports possibilities with a snow guarantee until May. For Karl, a dream came true! He was able to finally go snowboarding on the ski hills of the Rocky Mountains and carve around trees and through deep and fresh powder snow of the three big ski resorts of Alberta. Seriously thrilling and an unforgettable experience of our Winter Road Trip through the Canadian Rocky Mountains! Check the video and see Karl going downhill on his snowboard at Jerry’s Jungle at Ski Lake Louise.
#7 Stop at the Summit of Icefields Parkway at Peyto Lake
There are countless viewpoints along the Icefields Parkway. But nothing as spectacular as the top of The Summit, at least for us. While in summer, Peyto Lake is turquoise blue water nestled in between the Rockies, the view over the dense dark green and white-topped valley of the Icefields Parkway is incredibly beautiful. Especially, a moment in total silence when the snowfall started to come down the surrounding mountains, it felt like a magical dream come true, so beautiful. Good to know: In summer, the road to The Summit is free all the way up to the higher parking slots. From here, you can walk in minutes to the viewpoint right above Peyto Lake and the valley of the Icefields Parkway. In winter, only the lower parking area is considered to be free from snow. You have to make your way through and through deep snow to reach the ice and snow-covered viewpoint. Worth the exertions, trust us…
#8 Hike the Frozen Athabasca Falls at Jasper National Park
The famous Athabasca Falls is a highlight all year around. But only during the coldest winter days you can do what we were able to experience: hiking over the frozen Athabasca River, captioning the almost falling tree high above the narrow canyon. We had to be careful, though, not to fall into the icy water and not to slide over the frozen rocky path down to the water. But it was worth every thoughtful step. Alternatively, you can join a tour exploring the frozen Maligne Canyon in Jasper, as we did during Jasper Pride Festival. And if you are brave enough, you can learn how to do ice-climbing at one of the frozen waterfalls in Jasper National Park.
#9 Take the Banff Gondola to the top of the Canadian Rocky Mountains
To reach the top of the Candian Rocky Mountains in Banff was easier than we thought. The only thing we had to do was to jump into the Banff Gondola and drive all the way up to 2,281 meters above sea level. Here we could gape at the incredible view over the Rockies, with vistas in literally every direction from the observation deck. Additional to the view, visitors can learn at the family-focused interactive exhibits about the alpine ecosystems and culture of the Banff region or can have dinner with a stunning view over Banff. If you have more time for this mountain attraction, take the 1 km long Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk to Sanson’s Peak, the mountaintop we are looking at in the 4th picture with the Canadian flag. Read more >
#10 Attend the Proud & Free Jasper Pride LGBTQ+ Festival
In 2017, we were able to attend the award-winning Jasper Pride Festival, the third-largest Pride Celebration in Alberta and the only Winter Pride Festival in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The compact mountain town transforms into a rainbow-colored LGBTQ+ winter paradise celebrating the free and proud way of life.
#11 Meet & Greet with Bear, Wapiti, Mountains Hare & Sea Eagle
We were super excited to explore the nature of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, including the mountain forest’s residents. Already on the road driving towards Jasper, we passed by a huge grey wolf standing out of a sudden on the road by dusk. But it should get even better! Around Jasper town, we encountered several herds of Wapitis, some of them equipped with impressive antlers. And yes, we even met a black bear crossing the Icefields Parkway as if one had all the time in the world. Fantastic moments on our journey through the wilderness of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Alberta. Thus, keep your eyes and ears open, and you might spot the same beautiful beings we encountered throughout our whole trip!
#12 Take a Swim in the outside Pool with Rocky Mountain view
It is and will remain one of the legendary accommodations in the Canadian Rockies. The Jasper Park Lodge, also known as JPL is located just outside Jasper town at the lakeside with its cozy cabins that are made for a winter holiday in Alberta’s nature. Take a dip in the hot whirlpool with a view over the Mountain View!
#13 Explore Alberta’s Culinary Scene: Taste beef & beer in Calgary
Highlights number 13 of our Road Trip to Alberta, Canada is, of course, about the delicious food and beer of the Rocky Mountain area, especially in the city of Calgary, where we spent our first days in Canada. Kinda reinventing itself in the last couple of years as a culinary center, the biggest city in Alberta is known for its beef and upcoming brewery scene. Something for us, of course, as we love to discover the best burgers, vegetarian hot spots, and the best beers in town. We started our culinary tour around Calgary in the east village restaurants of the Simmons building having breakfast at Sidewalk Citizen Bakery and a wonderful coffee tasting at Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters. For dinner on our first evening, we decided to attend an Alberta Food Tour around Calgary’s restaurant scene together with a bunch of curious and hungry visitors, where Karl had his first Poutine.
On evening number two, Restaurant Cibo was on our food bucket list, where Daan had some delicious vegetarian dishes. And what about the beer? Of course! It all began in 2013 when the government changed the law lowering the amount of beer a brewery is required to produce to be legally allowed to become a brewery. The boom of the Canadian smaller microbreweries started to kick off in the last few years and is expected to continue its success story in 2018. And we could not agree more. Before we started our road trip to Jasper, we visited two microbreweries in Inglewood in East Calgary, the Cold Garden, and High Line Brewery to taste delicious hand-crafted beverages. Cheers, and enjoy your meal!
Our Top 13 of our Gay Winter Road Trip Canadian Rocky Mountains
Although these points are definitely our highlights, there were even more great things to discover in Calgary, Banff, Jasper, and the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The former oil metropolis Calgary for example, or the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Dinosaurs in Drumheller, or the Star Trek city Vulcan. The Canadian province of Alberta exceeded all our expectations with amazingly friendly people, the interesting history of the First Nations, and the natural wonders we are still dreaming of. If you have never been to the Western part of Canada, put it on your bucket list and do it. As one of the most gay-friendly destinations we visited so far, we can only recommend booking your Canada adventure! For us, the next Canada adventure is already in planning. Next January, we will depart to Vancouver to hit the Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains slope for the 26th Whistler Pride & Ski Festival in 2018.
Karl & Daan.