It’s winter in Alberta, which means peak season for staying indoors watching movies, reading books, and cooking delicious recipes. But getting outside is still important, even in the middle of winter. After all, who doesn’t feel better after some fresh air and sunshine? This roundup of five winter activities for kids will give you some inspiration to get your family outside!
Do you feel like it’s the same old thing every year? Quickly after the beauty of fall fades, the next season creeps in. A season that makes even some of the world’s most resilient animals say… yeah, no, gonna sleep through this one.
I’m talking about winter.
Winter makes us feel the need to bury ourselves under every blanket in the house, turn on the fireplace, and debate whether letting our kids watch TV for the next 5 months straight is reasonable. Anyone with me? I haven’t always been the biggest fan of winter and my fiance is even less impressed with this particular season.
Unfortunately (but also, fortunately), our 5-year-old child tends to set the stage for our daily activities, so… OUTSIDE WE GO! He has truly helped warm my relationship with winter. Greatly. I’ve come to actually love it! So I’m going to spend the next little while trying to convince you, while winter isn’t the easiest season to tolerate, it can be one of the most fun! Believe me?
First, let’s quickly touch on safety. Safety in the outdoors is always important, but I would say it’s the most critical in the winter with all the ice, snow, and darkness (I know… I’m selling it. Please keep reading!). I’ll keep it short. I strongly suggest you check the forecast and overpack with many layers and backups if you’re heading out. If your kiddo is typically unimpressed with the cold weather, bringing hand and foot warmers can help keep them toasty and you happy!
Winter Fun in the Backyard
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 squad 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:)
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.