After what has seemed like a never-ending winter, summer has finally arrived! After being stuck inside all winter, Albertans definitely know how to take advantage of our short summer months. Along with longer days come festivals, food trucks, day trips and weekends exploring our beautiful province. The downside? All of these things can be financially draining for a family.
About two months into new motherhood I posted the following to my Facebook;
“Nothing gives you empathy for the modern dairy cow like hooking yourself up to the double breast pump”.
Breastfeeding and pumping CONSUMED my life for Nova’s first six months on this planet. Before I go on – I am going to talk quite a bit about nursing and pumping, but I acknowledge that this is not the road for every mom and baby, and at the end of the day I have written this before – but FED IS BEST. However, I do wear my breastfeeding and pumping hours as a badge of honour. It was hard, painful sometimes, challenging, but also rewarding, connective, and an experience like none other.
I make semi-regular trips to Canmore, and when I drive past the Canmore Reservoir, past the turquoise blue water framed by the Rocky Mountains, I’ve seen the paddleboarders out there looking so cool and standing on their boards in one of the most beautiful places in the world and I keep thinking, “I want to do that.”
I finally had my chance to paddleboard otherwise known as SUP (the term SUP refers to stand up paddleboarding) after the Rocky Mountain Soap Women’s Run this past May, and now I’m convinced everyone needs to have a go because it was a) not as hard as I thought* b) really peaceful out on the reservoir! If every parent doesn’t need to spend some time out alone (or with friends) on a lake in Alberta, who does?
*I must preface this with I’m not athletic, or coordinated, and am more likely to be found in my house than out being active in nature.
I’ll be working full time so I’ll be squeezing every last drop out of my Alberta summer weekends. Here’s what I’m most excited to experience this summer in Alberta.
The Road Trip
Is there anything better than packing up your wheels, stopping for snacks and hitting the open road? Yes, yes there is. It’s called re-living your childhood. One of my earliest memories is playing cards in my grandparents motor home, road trekking through Alberta, to the States into Mexico. Hanging out, while you watch the landscape race by. Snacking, gaming, talking – the journey more important than the destination. The in-laws bought a small motor home and they’re letting us borrow it – squeee!
Alberta Mamas is ONE! One year ago we had this crazy idea to work with parents around the province to create a resource for families, a place to find hidden gems in Alberta, and a place where people could share their thoughts in a safe place. But it has become so much more because of all of you.
Alberta Mamas is a community.
We have learned so much from all of YOU! Every contributor post and conversation on social media has shown us that not only do we have way more places to discover in our beautiful province, but also thatAlberta is full of amazing, smart, and funny parents. You have made us giggle with your comments about your kids’ antics, made us feel like we aren’t the only ones dealing with difficult topics, and have offered sage advice when we have needed it.
“At first I loved seeing our passions come together. Passions for community, business and social media. And it’s grown so much more then that. We are all still passionate but it’s been beautiful to know my friends (and community around us) even better. It’s amazing to see the vision we created for community coming together. In a collaborative and inclusive way.” – Jen
We have also learned a lot from each other throughout the past year. It has not been all sunshine and rainbows. The six of us all have strong opinions and personalities which are bound to clash at some point. We can disagree, fight, and push each others buttons like siblings. But in the end we have got each others back 100% no matter what. We hold each other accountable and push each other to be better. We are each others biggest cheerleaders.
“The first thing I thought of when we started this was – yes I get to write stuff! Secondly though, it occurred to me that I would get to WORK with 5 totally different, totally strong inspiring ladies. Like, I have a legit reason to learn, bend the ears of and hang with 5 women I admire on the daily. And then on top of that, we get to read amazing pieces by moms (and sometimes dads) all over Alberta and share them in our “little” community. Makes a gal feel very blessed!” – Chris
When we first started this one of our goals was to give a voice to parents whether they had a blog or not. We have gotten to work with some amazing people and we love hearing their thoughts and opinions.
“I love that we’re creating a community where writers across the province can share their ideas, opinions and writing- whether they have their own established blog or not.” – Kim
We want to thank you all for commenting, liking, writing for us, sharing posts, offering your opinions and more throughout the past twelve months. Each action means so much to us.
We are excited to officially celebrate our first year (details announced soon) because to quote Kim – “Our parties are pretty fun too!”
At some point in the next month, the snow will melt and at some point, it will reach above 10 degrees and we’ll be able to send our kids back into the neighbourhood onto their bikes. The trouble is is that your child has grown, and now their knees are hitting the handlebars and now they need a new bike. Not to worry, Alberta Bike Swap is here to save your bank account, and not just for your kids because you need a bike too!
Alberta Bike Swap is a registered non-profit and gives people a safe place to sell, donate or buy a bike, and bike swaps are happening across Alberta in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer.
“Bikes sold at the swap are safer than a garage sale purchase because our squad of volunteer bike techs perform a basic safety and mechanical check of each bike.” – Alberta Bike Sales
What do you need to know before you head to a bike swap? Well, that depends on if you’re buying or selling, but here are some factoids.
Selling a Bike:
- If you want to sell your kids bike, it won’t be accepted to sell if it’s from a box store (Canadian Tire, Walmart etc.). They do this for quality assurance.
- Have a bike that no longer fits your child and you’d like to donate that bike? They can do that too, please make sure the bike is in good condition and it’s is decent working order.
- It costs $2 to get into a swap and that money goes to a local charity.
- You don’t have to be there to sell you bike which for me is a win-win. If you’re just there to sell your bike, you just drop it off. Boom. Easy. There is a 15$ fee to put your bike in the sale, which ensures that only good bikes are going to be at the swap. No one is paying 15$ for someone to sell their 50$ bike. If you’re an AMA member, the cost to “rack” your bike is $10.
Buying a Bike
- Swaps. Get. BUSY. Get there as early as you can (see locations for dates/times below). You may be waiting outside so dress accordingly. The bike racks are set up at 6am in Edmonton and Calgary, and yes, you’re welcome to line up at 6am.
- There is a $2 admission, but kids 12 and under are free.
- They only accept cash or debit cards. No credit cards.
Locations & Dates
When: May 5, 2018
Where: City Centre Parkade, 340 10 Ave SW
When: May 12
Where: Kinsmen Sports Centre Fieldhouse, 9100 Walterdale Hill
When: April 28, 2018
Where: Exhibition Park North Pavillion 3401 Parkside Dr. S
When: April 27, 2018
Where: Exhibition and Stampede Wildrose Room Higdon Hall, 2055 21 Ave SE
When: May 11, 2018
Where: Salon B Westerner Park 4847A 19 St
If I told you that I spent a blissful weekend in Jasper and it only cost me $178.55, would you believe me? It’s true! A group of friends and I looked into booking a group trip over Easter a little too late and all that was left that would accommodate our tribe of 7 adults and 1 baby was the Athabasca Falls Wilderness Hostel. We are no stranger to more rustic accommodations, as we’ve done some pretty cool trips to back country lodges, but we way underestimated just how perfect and cozy this place would be!
The Athabasca Falls Wilderness Hostel is located right off Highway 93 about 1 km past the stunning Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park. It boasts a ton of amenities such as solar power, a huge lodge with sitting area, dining area, full kitchen with stoves and fridges, tons of fresh water, an indoor wood stove, outdoor fire pit and patio! You can rent private cabins or stay in one of the shared ones. The cabins are basic, but include everything you need including cozy bunk beds, double beds, lots of heat and bedding.
One of the great things about this place is that it’s accessible right off the highway. You don’t have to worry about bringing too much or lugging it all in on your back- just bring what you think you need that will fit in your car. I was worried that noise from the highway might be a concern. Highway 93 just past the hostel was closed for the first night (for avalanche control) but the next day it was open and we didn’t notice any traffic nuisances at all.
The Athabasca Falls Wilderness Hostel is the perfect staging point for all types of adventures. There are trails right from the parking lot, the falls only a short walk away and you are about 20 minutes by car from the Jasper Townsite. We had a group that was cross country skiing and snowshoeing and we explored the falls, a great groomed trackset trail along Leach Lake towards the Whirlpool Winter Hub and a somewhat challenging climb along the Pyramid Lake Fire Road. All were lovely and of course included the most gorgeous scenery in the country, in my opinion:)
Here is how the cost broke down for me:
- 2 nights at the hostel in a private cabin- $63.34
- National Park Access- $19
- My share of groceries- $46.50
- Dinner out in Jasper- $34.71
- Beer at a local Jasper Pub- $15 /w tip
- Not included in my total- wine I brought from home, equipment (because I own it) & gas (since every vehicle is different).
Things you should know before you go!
- This is not the Jasper Park Lodge, so don’t expect to be pampered. You must bring your own food, cook it yourself and do your own dishes. This allows you to really make it as simple or as complicated as you wish.
- There is no running water. The cabins have no water but the lodge had tons of fresh mountain H2O in a large tank. Bring a water bottle and enjoy! There are also lots of kettles and pots to heat water for washing.
- There are no heated bathrooms or flush toilets, outhouses only. This can be a little chilly in the early morning, especially with the “spring” we are having- but this is all about the nature experience!
- You can give yourself a little sponge bath in the private washing area, but no shower. Hello wet wipes, dry shampoo and touques!
- There are staff on site who give you a little orientation when you arrive and are there to help answer all of your questions.
The experience was perfect for our group and the baby that was with us did just fine. There was another family staying there as well with a 7 year old and they seemed to be enjoying their experience as well. One of the things that is so great about wilderness hostels is the people- young or old, single or in a group, from Alberta or across the world- everyone usually has a mutual respect thing going on that just makes the whole experience so enjoyable and unique from a hotel. This is important to remember sometimes, especially when you are brushing your teeth with strangers at midnight!
You can check out the Athabasca Falls Wilderness Hostel website here and feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments below. If you’ve been here I would love to hear your stories and what type of exploring you did while in the area. I’m thinking it would be a great summer trip too!
*This post is NOT sponsored or endorsed by Athabasca Falls Wilderness Hostel, Parks Canada or Jasper Tourism. This is simply an account of my personal experience that I thought I would share for fellow explorers:)
Don’t get me wrong, camping is great, BUT it can be a large expense to accumulate all of the required supplies. Sleeping on the ground is also not for everyone, myself included! Sometimes it’s nice to just pack your essentials and go, especially when travelling with kids. Thankfully Alberta has many alternate ways that you can spend a night in the great outdoors. Read on to learn all about ‘glamping’ options in Alberta!
A Parks Canada exclusive, these accommodations are like a cross between an A-frame cabin and canvas tent on a raised wood floor platform. Units are for up to 6 people, with a maximum of 4 adults. There are no bathrooms or running water inside oTENTiks. A table, beds/sleeping pads, lights and small heater are available in most units. You can enjoy TENTiks in Jasper (Whistlers), Banff (Two Jack Lake & Tunnel Mountain Village 2) & Elk Island (Astotin Lake).
Alberta Parks offers a unique experience with yurts! These are insulated, round, tent-like structures mounted on a wooden deck with a vented skylight. Conveniences include lights, an electric heater, electrical outlets for charging your devices, all cooking pots/pans, plates/utensils, a small fridge with freezer, gas BBQ and sleeping areas for 4-8 people. Yurts are available at Miquelon Lake Provincial Park and Pigeon Lake Provincial Park.
A new partnership between Parks Canada and MEC, you can now arrive at an equipped campsite that is all set up and ready for you! This includes a tent, sleeping pads, stove with propane, lantern, camping chairs and more. Please note that some campgrounds may offer slightly different items. You can enjoy equipped campsites in Waterton National Park, Banff National Park and Elk Island National Park.
This isn’t necessarily the cheapest option BUT it could end up saving you thousands of dollars! If you are thinking about buying an RV, test one out first! This is also a great option for people who have no storage options for a trailer or don’t have enough time to camp frequently or maintain their own RV. Go RVing has a great directory of RV dealers across Alberta that rent trailers, tent trailers and motorhomes. Some even offer roadside assistance and trailer delivery. Also check out WheelEstate, a new online peer-to-peer marketplace for RV’s. It’s like Airbnb or VRBO for vacation trailers!
For those who prefer a more solid structure, there are lots of cabin rentals across Alberta. My mom and I stay in a cabin every summer as a girl’s getaway and here’s some of our favourites that include bathrooms and kitchens:
- Plamondon White Sands (Lac La Biche)- 1-2 bedroom cabins with full bathrooms (think bathtub for kids!), full kitchen and some lakefront sites.
- Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park Comfort Camping in The Nest– Simply GORGEOUS 10 person luxury cabin.
- Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park Comfort Camping Cabins (Lac La Biche)- There are 5 fully equipped cabins that are right on the lake (pictured below)!
Tipis and Canvas Tents
I’ve never stayed in a tipi, but I feel like it would be really fun with kids, allow for some cultural experiences and provide more space than a tent. These are the ones on my list to check out: Sundance Lodge (Kananaskis), Old Entrance B’nB (Hinton) & Blackfoot Crossing (south east of Calgary).
Make sure you check out the Comfort Camping Canvas Wall Tents through Alberta Parks located at Dinosaur Provincial Park, Writing on Stone Provincial Park and Wyndham-Carseland Provicial Park. They all include queen beds, futons, a private deck and gas BBQs.
As you search for ‘glamping’ options in Alberta don’t be discouraged if you are having issues finding availability on your chosen dates. Many of these book up quickly, but there are always cancellations so keep your eye on them. Also, you will find more vacancy if you are able to travel midweek or in June or September.
What’s your favourite glamping experience? I would love to hear! Connect with us on social media on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram! Need more inspiration? Click here for our post on Our Favourite Campgrounds in Alberta.
Do you let your kids miss school to go on vacation?
This week we are leaving for a vacation (YAY!) but for the first time I wondered about pulling the kids out of school to be on holidays.
***Full disclosure I am still getting on that airplane no matter what the consensus is because this Mom needs a vacation. Although travelling with kids sometimes feels like more work…
We have pulled them out of school the past few years without a thought but this year my oldest is in Grade 4 and it feels different. His teacher was amazing when we told him our son would be missing a week and a bit of school which I was grateful for. He said there’s no point giving him work to do while we are away. When we get back he will see what he missed and what he needs help catching up on but not to worry about it while on holidays.
I am a firm believer that kids don’t need to be in a classroom to learn. By making sure our kids get the travel bug early I hope that they will never stop exploring and questioning how our world works. I am just wondering if we should keep that exploring to two months in Summer?
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below or on Social Media.
Tanya here and I’m back to tell you about another great ski resort, this time in Northern Alberta! We like Marmot Basin so much, we’re willing to drive the 400 km from Calgary for a weekend if it means we can spend a couple of days skiing and playing in beautiful Jasper National Park.
There are many reasons for families to love Marmot Basin Resort in Jasper, but I’ll tell you about my top 5 favourites:
- One. The whole family can ski together on the entire mountain
The whole family can ski together on the entire mountain as long as you have confident advanced-beginner or intermediate skiers. Most chairlifts on the hill allow skiers to access green, blue, or black runs, with options for groomed or natural runs, bumps, glades, and even terrain parks (of which there are three on the hill).
The only chairlift that doesn’t give access to a green beginner run is the Knob Chair, Marmot’s highest lift, but there is an easy blue traverse off the top (that would be considered green at most other resorts). Wait until the Knob Traverse has been groomed, and most advanced-beginners should do fine.
I love that beginners aren’t stuck skiing on the lower mountain while the rest of the family leaves them behind, and I like that there is something for all abilities and preferences of skiing off each chairlift. For my family, it means we can all ride up together and then split up to ski something fun or comfortable for each of us, always meeting at the bottom to ride up together again (while we swap stories of our chosen runs).
- Two. Marmot is fabulous for beginner skiers
Marmot Basin has a true beginner chair, the School House Chair, with two easy green runs off it, access to the main lodge at the bottom, and conveniently located beside the parking lots for ski in/out access. There is also a tiny beginner area (serviced by a magic carpet) perfect for toddlers or the complete first timer.
Beyond that, beginners will love everything off the Eagle Express Quad. With runs like Bunny Hop, Old Road, and Sleepy Hollow, you’ll know you’re not in for anything too scary. These are some of the best green runs I’ve seen at a resort and gave me confidence when I was learning to ski as a kid.
After mastering the runs off the Eagle Express Quad, advanced-beginners will have the confidence to ski green runs across the entire resort with access to the mid-mountain lodge.
- Three. There are so many opportunities to “play” at Marmot Basin
My son loves terrain parks, and so he was in heaven at Marmot with three parks spread around the hill. And you can hit all three in one descent from the top of the Canadian Rockies Express Quad.
My son also enjoyed playing in the trees off the “Old Road” beginner run. Narrow twisty runs resembling a luge track make their way through the trees alongside this run, and parents can just stick to the road (waiting for the kids to pop out on the next switchback lower down).
Marmot is an amazing hill for intermediate skiers wanting to take it up a notch with easy bump runs on low angled slopes. There are also several wide-open bowls off the Knob Chair that are fun to play in on a powder day (and they have easy escape routes back onto the groomed traverse if the kids get scared at any point).
And if groomed terrain is more your speed, there is no shortage of groomed blue and black runs for intermediate/advanced skiers looking to carve some swoopy turns. My personal favourite was Highway 16.
- Four. There are unlimited ways to challenge every member of the family
Once you get beyond the green runs, the groomers, and the easy traverse off the Knob, you’re going to want something more challenging – and Marmot definitely delivers here!
I’ve already mentioned the open bowls off the Knob (a dream on a powder day,) the terrain parks, and the variety of runs for skiers of all abilities. Other highlights for advanced skiers include the double black runs off Eagle East (this was my husband’s favourite area on the hill) and the brand new “Tres Hombres” area off the Paradise Quad Chair – full of steep double black chutes.
My boys also discovered that you can climb up above the higher chairlifts to ski down fresh untracked powder (in avalanche-controlled terrain that is still technically “in bounds.”) They carried their skis up the “Peak Run” off the top of the Knob Chair and then skied down into the bowl below. And that’s just one of the many runs that you can “bootpack” your way up if you’re willing to earn your fresh turns.
- Five. Marmot Basin is an easy hill to navigate
Step One: Arrive before 8:45am and make your way to one of the upper ski in/ski out parking lots off the School House Chair. There’s no need to use the bottom drop off zone. (It just gets congested and is way too busy.)
Step Two: Carry a small backpack to the mid mountain lodge, hang it on a hook, and make that your home base for the day. Avoid the main base area (which gets very crowded.)
Step Three: Have fun and enjoy this easy to navigate hill where you shouldn’t ever have to worry about getting lost. There’s no “back side,” and you don’t have to worry about kids accidentally ending up at the wrong chairlift or in the wrong bowl. Set an emergency meeting spot for the bottom of the hill (or even the mid mountain lodge) and you’ll always find your way there if you ski down.
We found it very easy to navigate our way around this resort and knew the runs quite well by noon on the first day. No matter how we chose to get down off the top of the mountain, we always ended up at the mid-mountain lodge. And if we went further, we always ended up on Bunny Hop or Old Road. There was comfort in seeing the same runs at the end of each descent and I knew my son would find his way down if we ever got separated.
Tanya blogs about her outdoor adventures on her website Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies. We are so happy to have her as our regular ski contributor this winter! To read the previous ski stories she has written for Alberta Mamas, check out the links below: