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If you’re like most Albertans (including us), you’re already thinking about a winter getaway and setting your OOO email response, if even just for a few days.
The best thing is you don’t even have to leave the province for a memorable and magical winter wonderland experience. Nestled in the Crowsnest Pass of the iconic Rocky Mountains is a collective of five towns — Bellevue, Blairmore, Coleman, Frank, and Hillcrest — each offering something extraordinary.
Whether your definition of a vacation involves downhill skiing, cozy bistro dining, tranquil snowshoeing, edgy ice climbing, or snowmobiling through dense forest, there’s something to exceed your expectations during winter in Crowsnest Pass (locally known as The Pass).
To show you, we’ve curated a winter weekend itinerary for The Pass containing some of the most astounding attractions and experiences that are just beyond your doorstep.
Go ice skating on Crowsnest Lake
Spanning 119 hectares and surrounded by mountains and forest, Crowsnest Lake is a sight to behold year-round. In winter, the glistening lake freezes over to create the most spectacular natural ice skating rink imaginable. If you wish to skate over this frozen lake of legends from times past, be sure to wrap up in your warmest winter apparel and bring your skates with you. Can you think of a better way to start the morning of your trip?
Try ice climbing at Star Creek Falls
If you’re an avid adventure seeker, you could head over to Star Creek Falls in Coleman next in pursuit of an afternoon of ice climbing or a little hiking (it takes just 12 minutes to get there by car from Crowsnest Lake). This lightly trafficked scenic loop features a fun (and short) waterfall that photography enthusiast Chad Helfenbein says is great for beginners or experienced ice climbers (when frozen solid, of course). Equipped with your protective gear, enjoy the short scenic hike to the falls from the Crowsnest Community Trail. Need to stock up before your adventure? Visit spry active for everything from avalanche safety equipment and helmets to boots and outdoor doggie gear.
Walk in a winter wonderland
If you desire an escape into nature with both feet on the ground, consider taking the picturesque walking (or snowshoeing) path around Crowsnest Lake, which is roughly five kilometres in length. Another option for snowshoeing is The Miners’ Path — a route that dates back to 1909 when used by local Coleman miners on their way to work. This trail is suitable for all skill levels and can be accessed from the far end of Flumerfelt Park.
Dine at a local smokehouse
After a day of discovering hidden Albertan gems, you’re going to want to tuck into a feast fit for royalty. And for that, we suggest the Limber Pine Smokehouse & Taberna in Coleman. This local favourite serves up seasonal dishes made using fresh ingredients in a setting that few restaurants could match. Take a seat in the upstairs area, order the brisket chilli with homemade cornbread, and look out at the unparalleled snowy views of the valley.
Sleep peacefully at a local B&B
When it comes to quaint accommodations located nearby, the pet-friendly York Creek Bed and Breakfast (a five-minute drive from Limber Pine) — a rustic log home with covered decks, a fire pit, a hot tub, and more at affordable rates — is an excellent choice. The same goes for The Kanata Inns – Blairmore Hotel located along Highway 3 (also a five-minute drive away). This affordable hotel is all about Canadian hospitality and has spacious guest rooms.
Indulge in a sweet breakfast treat
After waking up refreshed and ready to take on the second day of your winter vacation, visit the newest bakery in Blairmore, The Cherry on Top Bakery and Koffie Shop, for a hot cup of Joe and unforgettable pastries. This cozy spot is known for its drink features (pumpkin spice lattes included), breakfast crepes, smoothies, and home-style soups and sandwiches. Would it be a bad idea to buy some snacks for the road? Absolutely not — especially given your next activity.
Hit the unspoiled slopes
Skiers and snowboarders keen to traverse new terrain in Alberta, say hello to Pass Powderkeg. Located less than two and a half hours from Calgary, this exceptional ski area has been around since 1938 but remains a gem to this day with over 27 epic trails. Ticket pricing is affordable, too, with ski-all-day rates at just $49.99 per adult on weekends and holidays and night skiing available on select days. And from the ski runs (beginner to advanced), you can take in panoramic views of the majestic Rockies. Pro tip: before you leave, indulge in a belly-warming bite at the lodge.
Feel the rush on a snowmobile
In less than 25 minutes, you can drive from Pass Powderkeg to the mecca of snowmobile havens: the Atlas Staging Area. The Pass is famed for its dedicated snowmobiling trails, frequently attracting riders from all over the country. If you’re new to the sport, head to the staging area to embark on an easy, long loop with breathtaking views. You can even stop for a break at one of the fire pits along the way.
Relax with an après of fusions
Checking skiing or snowboarding and snowmobiling off your bucket list in one day deserves an après like no other. Bamboo Bistro in Blairmore brings food from a variety of Eastern cultures under one roof, serving up delicious dishes that are rich in flavour and taste. Whether you go for sushi or butter chicken (or both), with a glass of vino on the side, it’s sure to deliver those après-ski vibes.
Do brunch in Blairmore
On the last day of your trip, get one final taste of the fare on offer in The Pass by visiting Stone’s Throw Café in the heart of Blairmore. This welcoming mountain eatery has an all-day breakfast menu, including the likes of decadent stuffed French toast, old-fashioned oatmeal, crepes, and classic bacon and egg options. When you stop by, make sure to try a coffee from the local roaster, Crowsnest Coffee Company.
Follow one last trail
One last activity you can do before the drive home (if you’re up for it) is fat biking. Like snowmobiling, The Pass is a hotspot for mountain bikers because the trails are open for fat bike riding throughout winter. Check out this detailed map of some of the best fat biking trails of The Pass documented by the United Riders of Crowsnest, and be ready to put your foot to the pedal as you set out to discover what could potentially be your new go-to winter activity. Need some training before you hit the trails? Visit resident bike champ Karey Watanabe at Sweet Riders for a full list of fat biking tours, clinics, and more.
To start planning your winter escape in The Pass and find even more experiences to add to your itinerary, visit gocrowsnest.ca.