Stuck inside because of the weather, or just want some ideas of things to do with your little ones in the house? Below is a list of some basic, silly, some unorthodox ideas that don’t involve any screens.
When your province is a winter wonderland (let’s go with that) 6 months a year there’s plenty of opportunities to enjoy winter festivals! Festivals around the province have a component for families too, but often make a great opportunity for date night! Here are our top picks for winter festivals with your family in 2019
Awesome Alberta Winter Festivals and Activities 2019
Forest Bathing, Teepees, and Snow Painting
Winter can be so long, so dark, so blah. It’s easy to be complacent and not want to get yourself and your little ones bundled up to go out into the chilly cold. There are a lot of places now where you can bring your children to play indoors – play centres, the Science Centre, museums, the pool, etc. – but nothing beats time spent outside. Fresh air is good to breathe, and letting little ones run free is a great way for them to burn off energy. For myself, I find that spending time in nature reduces stress, and makes me feel lighter. If you have the budget, you can do anything from skating to skiing, and everyone can go tobogganing. Below are 3 cheap or free ideas of fun stuff you might want to try, forest bathing, teepees, and snow painting.
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:)
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:
We wanted to take the time to give a shout out to some Instagram Mom’s we’ve been loving lately. These accounts are all ran by Moms in Alberta! They may not have thousands of followers (yet) but we think they are must follows.
- Momifer – Warning: This account will make you want to hibernate and bake all day. If Instagram had smellavison capabilities this account would smell like Grandma’s house. Follow her if you like beautiful photos and want to get some baking inspiration.
2. The Globe Diary – If you are itching to get on a plane and escape the long Alberta winter this account is for you. Exotic locations, cute coffee shops, and so many beautiful sunsets. We dare you to get through this feed without booking a flight somewhere.
3. My Modern Hijab – This Boss Babe is conquering parenting, running a business and blogging all while wearing the perfect shade of lipstick. Seriously. This woman can rock a bold lip! From fashion tips to parenting you will love reading her perspective on life.
4. Moony_1 – From cute lunch inspiration that ranges from Pinterest worthy to cute ideas you can actually do to talks about struggling with weight loss and mental health; this account is real #momlife. Moony_1 let’s us all know that we’re all in this together and although being a mom is not always glamorous, it is fun and our days are full of love for our kids. And really what is better than that?
5. Organized With Kids – Whether you are looking for great tips to keep the chaos in your house under control or you just want to look at a beautifully organized home during your kids’ naptime and dream of the day when the kids move out and you can have a clean floor for more than 5 seconds, you need to give Organized with Kids a follow.
These are just a few of our faves right now that you may not have heard of. We would love to hear some of your favourite accounts!
By Mara Needham
12 years ago I moved to Peace River, a town of 6000 people, (at the time there wasn’t even a Walmart) 500 km north of Edmonton, for a job. Fast forward to present day and I have a wonderful husband and am a stay at home mom to 2 gorgeous children and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
It’s not always easy living 250 from the closest major center (Grande Prairie is a couple hours away). There’s a definite lack of shopping, although thankfully Walmart did set up shop a few years ago, online shopping is my best friend. But this time of year, the biggest hurdle for a lot of people up here is the “I live where the air hurts my face” meme was invented about us. It was -43 (before the wind chill) a few days ago. According to the weather across the world, Peace River was the 6th coldest place on Earth. The north and south poles were warmer than my town.
Now, of course, my Facebook feed was filled with statuses complaining about the cold and how everyone just wanted to go back to bed. While I am not saying that I like it that cold, or that those temps don’t cause problems (we’ve had 3 water main breaks in less than a week in town and there was a gas shortage in a town north of us), I wasn’t one of the complainers. My kids still went to school that day…we definitely had chocolate after school to warm ourselves up, but life didn’t stop for the cold. And here we are almost a week later and it’s a beautiful sunny winter day. Perfect for tobogganing or skiing or snowmobiling The -43 days aren’t all winter, and I like having all 4 seasons.
There is something to love about every season in this town. In spring, our valley starts to green up and the days are longer (in winter often you go to work in the dark and come home in the dark). In summer we have daylight til 10 or 11…giving you more time outside to enjoy camping, boating on the river or whatever your favorite summer activity is.
Fall is beautiful in the Peace Country- the valley is filled with oranges and yellows and reds…local photographers are out in full force, capturing the beautiful scenery. And winter? It’s days like today…watching my kids run and play in the snow, having snowball fights, making snow angels, snowmobiling, tobogganing, skiing, skating…you name it.
So while the air may hurt my face some days…most days it’s pretty awesome.
My name is Mara Needham. I am 32 year old stay at home mom to Grayson (6) and Madeleine (3.5) in Peace River, AB. I have been married to my husband Sean for almost 8 years. I have never written a blog of any kind before, but up until I became a mom I wrote commercials for the local radio station. Find me on Facebook , Twitter , & Instagram
Heading out of town with the kids can be expensive but if you’re willing to get outside, there are lots of winter activities in Jasper for your family for free.
Jasper has lots of hikes, but not all are great for kids. If you’re going in winter and you don’t already have ice grips for your shoes, rent some from a local sports store and that will help with the icy conditions (we rented ours from Jasper Source for Sports).
Two quick hikes we’ve taken are the Athabasca Falls and the Maligne Canyon. If you’ve been to Jasper in the summer, no doubt you’ve seen either of these falls but in winter, it’s a completely different experience. It was -30 the week before our trip so we assumed that all the water would be frozen, and the kids were blown away (I was too) to see the water flowing under the ice at Athabasca Falls.
The hike to the top of Athabasca Falls isn’t actually a hike but a walk from the parking lot, but once you’ve seen the falls from the top, you absolutely have to walk down to the bottom of the canyon and see what’s down there….it’s worth it.
Maligne Canyon is a 5-10 minutes drive from the Jasper Park Lodge, during the winter is used for ice climbing which is amazing for the kids to see, and the hike itself isn’t hard and is easy for bigger kids. For smaller kids you might want to make sure you’ve got a good eye on them, there are some really narrow parts of the path.
We started at bridge 5, and hiked up, but you can also drive up to bridge 6 and hike down. There is lots to see and the views of the ice are beautiful. If you want to go ice climbing there are lots of companies that will guide you through the canyons,
If you’re planning on going hiking in Jasper with the kids, Parks Canada is a great resource with trail lengths and trail etiquettes.
Skating at Mildred Lake and Pyramid Lake is free! All you’ll need are your own skates, which are inexpensive to rent for the day if you don’t have them (we rented ours from Jasper Source for Sports for $8/pair). Mildred Lake, although it looks like it’s part of the Jasper Park Lodge, is actually public property, skating on a lake with the mountains in the background is the ultimate Canadian thing to do and there’s even an area to play hockey on the ice.
Just 5 minutes from downtown Jasper, Pyramid Lake has many activities hosted by Pyramid Lake Resorts. There are free skating and sleigh rides, but my favourite part is driving a little way down the road and stopping to see Pyramid Lake Island which is a tiny island that you can canoe to in the summer, but in the winter you can walk on the lake to get there (or use the bridge). Pack yourself some hot chocolate and let the kids run around on this tiny island, there is lots to explore and you can easily see them if you’re having a seat to take in the views.
Need something a little more adventurous? Parks Canada has an amazing list of winter activities on their website including many different hikes that might be great for a trip to Jasper with older kids that can hike for longer than an hour. Jasper is amazing in the winter and there are lots to do if you’ve got a few extra dollars to spend like the Miette Hot Springs, or skiing at Marmot Basin.
Our weather is crazy in Alberta and we usually get a lot of winter! Let’s get outdoor and enjoy it with the kids while we can. I hear it’s suppose to warm up a bit this weekend, so go out and enjoy before another cold snap!
- Scavenger hunt – Print off this winter scavenger hunt from CBC and go for a walk to find them.
- Paint in the snow – You can try mixing some food coloring and water into a squeeze bottle or check out this idea.
- Mini time capsule. Spend some time putting some stuff into a waterproof bag/container and bury it in the yard somewhere deep in the snow. When Spring comes around and the snow melts find it and open it up!
- Build a target toss game, like this epic one from Disney Family Crafts
- Play X’s and O’s in the snow. My daughter loves this game and we play over and over and over. I bet we could fill a whole field.
- Try snowshoeing. Check out your local nature center like the John Janzen!
- Hike around a local park. We did this fun Hike At Chickakoo Lake in Spring and my Dad used to take us when we were kids with cross country skis around it. You can look for birds and animals that are not in hibernation as a fun learning opportunity.
- Ice Skating. Check out your local community league or find an indoor one, depending on the weather.
- Have a bon fire and hot chocolate. Invite some friends over for a fire, roast marshmallows and have some hot chocolate.
- Try building a snow volcano, like this awesome looking one from Classy Clutter
- Freeze small toys in ice cube trays or tupperware containers and hide them in the backyard for a fun at home scavenger hunt.
- If it’s cold enough, try freezing bubbles! Take some bubble solution and blow bubbles softly onto snowy surfaces and watch them freeze!
I admit it, I am not a huge fan of outdoor winter activities…. Cold weather is not my jam. Neither is skating around a circle over and over. BUT I proved myself wrong when my family, along with some family friends, decided to check out the IceWay Skating Trails at Rundle Park this weekend. After a Christmas break of being cooped up inside from colds and severely freezing temperatures, we were ready to get the heck out of the house.
Rundle Park has just under 2 kms of smooth, well maintained ice skating pathways that wind you through the trees and beautiful setting in the parks area. We skated the trails at dusk and really enjoyed the Christmas lights and lanterns along the path, though, it would be awesome to see even more lights. Skaters can explore the trails, all of which interconnect, and enjoy larger skating surfaces along the way. It really is a beautiful setting!
Some tips for enjoying the IceWay Skating Trails at Rundle Park:
- Park your car in the lot in front of the Family Centre (not ACT pool). There’s an indoor heated building (with bathrooms) where you can leave your shoes and put on your skates.
- Bring hockey sticks or a skating aid for your child if you have one.
- Always wear a helmet.
- If you are going just before dusk, like we did, a headlamp might be a good idea. It got a little dark in some spots of the trail.
- Make an afternoon of it and take advantage of one of the many picnic areas with fire pits along the trail. There was a family enjoying a nice hot dog roast while we were out and it looked lovely!
- Warm up in the warming hut along the trail. Read about this innovative building here.
- Bring some hot chocolate in a thermos and enjoy a post skate treat by the fire in the Family Centre when you are finished.
- Always check the ice conditions via the City of Edmonton Notifications, located here.
Where do you like to skate in the Edmonton area?