Looking for things to do in Calgary this winter? Calgary is a dreamy city for outdoor lovers, especially in the colder months! This Canadian metropolis of over a million people enjoys easy access to the Rocky Mountains, providing world-class opportunities for winter fun. Whether you’re a diehard adventurer or just starting to take advantage of the snow, there’s a winter activity in Calgary for you! So, what are the options? From skiing to dog sledding, skating under city lights to snowshoeing, there are endless ways to take advantage of the snow in and around Calgary. You don’t have to be a seasoned adventurer- there are a range of things to do, from whole-family friendly to thrillingly bold. We’ve put together a list of some of our favourite things to do when winter comes in Calgary, and we hope you get out and enjoy them all!
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Best Outdoor Winter Activities in and around Calgary
We know what you’re thinking: how in the world could you choose between all the amazing winter activities in Calgary? The good news is we’re not. We’ve listed as many incredible things to do in the winter in Calgary as we could think of, so your season will be packed from start to finish.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Get those skis on and hit the slopes! There are several ski hills a stone’s throw from Calgary, all blessed with incredible snow. The most popular ski and snowboard destinations nearby are Sunshine Village and Lake Louise. Nakiska provides the closest option, and if you’re willing to drive a bit further, you can enjoy the snow of Fernie or Revelstoke.
Cross-Country Skiing around Calgary
Cross-country skiing is a hugely popular winter activity in Calgary, and you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to the place to do it. Take to the foothills or go local in one of the city parks. You can rent equipment from an outdoor shop if you’re new to the sport. Don’t be surprised if you’re just taking a stroll through Calgary and you see a cross-country skier on the side of the path- it’s a favourite winter activity here.
Snowshoeing near Calgary
Tired of falling in up to your knees? Snowshoeing is a fun outdoor activity in or near Calgary. We recommend heading into the mountains and choosing some snowshoe-friendly trails. You can rent snowshoes from major outdoor retailers or from the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre (which rents plenty of other sporting equipment, too) if you don’t have a pair of your own.
Winter Horseback Riding
Calgary’s nickname is Cowtown, and that comes from a long history as a western frontier town. As such, there are plenty of places to enjoy a trail ride near the city no matter your experience level. We love Moose Mountain Horseback in Kananaskis for a snowy trail ride through the forest. There are also trail rides offered in Banff, which is another magical way to enjoy the city.
Sharpen up! Skating is one of the most popular things to do during a Calgary winter, and you’ll find an abundance of rinks throughout the city. We love Olympic Plaza for a free skate under the downtown lights. Bowness Lagoon is a romantic spot for a swirl, with twinkling lights in the trees and a cozy firepit available. While smaller community rinks won’t offer rentals, they’re often free to use. Larger skating areas often have rentals available for a small fee.
Yes, we’re serious. Curling might look a bit strange, but it’s all the winter rage! Try your hand at one of the local curling clubs. You’ll probably find that the deep lunge is way deeper than you thought, and that it’s so much more fun that it might look to be on TV. Hurry hard!
Sledding is a quintessential winter activity, and Calgary’s abundance of hills makes it a perfect place to give it a go. If you want to amp it up, head to WinSport (Canada Olympic Park) and try tubing on the snow! You’ll be tossed down a long track in an inner tube- it’s an ideal family-friendly activity in Calgary winters, but we’ve also seen grown adults have some serious fun in the tube park as well.
Love to fish? A Calgary winter can’t stop you. There are lakes in and around the city where you’re more than welcome to drill a hole and see what you can catch. Just make sure you check out the regulations first! Some nearby favourites include Ghost Reservoir, Chain Lakes, Lake Newell, and Eagle Lake.
Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
One of the more unique attractions near Calgary, the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary provides education regarding wolf conservation. You can take a tour of their sanctuary to meet the dogs and even watch enrichment activities. If you’ve ever wanted to see wolves up-close or learn about responsible wolfdog ownership and breeding, it’s a worthwhile stop.
Banff and Lake Louise
Would a list of winter attractions near Calgary be complete without a mention of Banff and Lake Louise? Nope. The charming little village of Banff is a marvel in the winter, and Lake Louise beckons with ice skating and sculptures. It’s the perfect time to visit! We love visiting the Fairmont Banff Springs under winter snows, when it glows like a castle in the mountains. Banff also makes for a perfect jumping-off point for ski holidays in the area. The main street glimmers with lights and it unbelievably lovely in the falling snow. Likewise, nearby Lake Louise is one of our favourite skating destinations in the winter, and something about the snow cover makes the mountains that much more awe-inspiring.
Best Winter Deals in and around Calgary
Planning a trip to Calgary this winter? Local and want to make the most of the season? There’s no reason to be paying full price. Here are some deals to make your planning even sweeter. Please note that deals and offerings may change without notice.
Best Accommodation Deals around Calgary
For the winter 2020/2021 season, the Best Western Premier Calgary Plaza is offering 40% off a premier room with a plated breakfast for two included.
Book early and save 35% off room rates at Sunshine Village Lodge for the 2020/2021 season.
Aloft Calgary University is offering a $25 fuel card per room, per night.
Homewood Suites by Hilton Calgary Airport is offering $50 VISA gift cards for guests.
Fernie Alpine Resort offers your 5th day of skiing free, free skiing for kids, and discounted lodging on 6-day stays.
Save 20% on midweek stays of at least 2 days at Fernie Alpine Resort.
Best Ski Deals around Calgary
Ski, dine, and stay for 5 days at Sunshine Village for $1197 per person.
Save 20% on midweek lift tickets and 2 nights of accommodations at Nakiska.
Save on lift tickets and lodging at Fernie Alpine Resort when you book over the Christmas break.
Best Outdoor Deals around Calgary
The Brewster Express is offering 15% off all round trip sightseeing and transportation tours between Calgary and Banff for the winter 2020/2021 season.
Winter Weather in Calgary
The elephant in the room… how cold is a Calgary winter? If you’ve never experienced winter in Calgary, we’ve got good news- it probably won’t be quite as bad as you think. Average daily highs between December and March fluctuate between -2 and 0 degrees Celsius. Now that’s not to say you’re sure to avoid a deep freeze, because cold snaps can drop temperatures to -25 degrees Celsius or colder. However, because Calgary is uniquely located near the Rockies, it experiences semi-frequent warm, windy weather patterns called chinooks. Chinooks can dramatically raise the temperature within the span of a day, so the cold and deep snow tends to come and go.
What to Wear During Winter in Calgary
The key to fending off that winter chill? It’s all about the layers. You can stay comfortable regardless of the conditions with the right clothing. Come prepared with a warm winter coat, waterproof insulated boots, good mittens, a warm hat, a scarf, and additional winter wear if you’re tackling certain activities (like snow pants for skiing). We also recommend layering, as it traps your body heat more effectively. Consider insulating sweaters or thermal layers beneath your outerwear for extra warmth. Pro tip? Slip into longjohns under your jeans or pants on especially cold days- it’s easy to forget about your legs!
While hats, scarves, and mittens might seem like overkill in your suitcase, you’ll find out quickly how much heat you lose from your head and how bone-chilling a cold winter wind can be on your exposed face. It’s better to be over-prepared when it comes to winter in Calgary.
Fun Facts about Calgary Winter
Chinook winds can increase the temperature by as much as 15-20 degrees Celsius in a single day!
Calgary is the sunniest city in Canada, so you’ll enjoy winter days capped off by blue skies.
On winter solstice, Calgary receives only 8 hours of sunlight. On summer solstice, the city is spoiled with 17 hours.
The coldest temperature ever recorded in Calgary was a frosty -45 degrees Celsius (without the wind chill)!
Calgary is the most elevated of all of Canada’s major cities, sitting pretty at 1045m. Lake Louise is the most elevated inhabited area in Canada of any size, right at 1600m.