The New North Star

Alberta now rivals British Columbia as Canada's best winter playground

Calgary: Cow Town No More

Clearly Canadian

Some activities we happily share with our northern neighbors, like hockey. Others are best attempted with a Labatt in hand.
a. Curling is just like bowling—with slippery shoes and 40-pound stones for balls (US per hour;
b. Behold the backsides of ten huskies while dogsledding around Spray Lakes, in the Kananaskis Country area (two hours, US5;
c. Ice fishing's dress code is as strict as Wimbledon's: red flannel and a toque with earflaps. Drop a hook to the walleye of Lesser Slave Lake, 2.5 hours northwest of Edmonton (two days' fishing and lodging for two, US5;

Skiing & Snowboarding Alberta

Michael Newhouse

A night in Calgary used to be penance for visiting the Canadian Rockies. But with a cash infusion from the booming oil-sands industry up north, the ranching hub has a sharp young vibe to complement some classic fun—like 75-mile-per-hour bobsledding (US$135; and indoor speed skating (US$4; at the 1988 Olympic venues. For dinner, the Vintage Chophouse & Tavern nods to the city's cowboy roots with dishes like slow-roasted prime rib ( After dark, the beat pulses from the bars on 17th Avenue Southwest. Our pick: the swanky Mynt Ultralounge ( Six blocks southeast, the rooms at Hotel Arts sport faux-fur rugs and skyline views (doubles from US$119;

Banff: Party Till the Fleece Falls Off
There are actually three resorts ringing Lake Louise: Ski Norquay supplies meandering cruisers (lift ticket, US$44;, Sunshine Village's Silver City area holds some of Canada's steepest in-bounds terrain (US$63;, and Lake Louise's 4,200 acres and five bowls hide the powder stashes (US$65; The streets of Banff also claim the province's best nightlife, with live music at Wild Bill's (, whisky and microbrew at St. James Gate (403-762-9355), and well-lubed dance scenes at the Hoodoo Lounge ( and Aurora Nightclub ( From any of them, it's an easy stumble to the Juniper Hotel (doubles from US$140; decorehotels.comjuniper).

Pincher Creek: The Outpost
Ultra-steep Castle Mountain (US$45;, outside of Pincher Creek, has long been in the shadow of its northern counterparts. But with a short film about the resort making the rounds with Warren Miller's Off the Grid this year, the 2,500-acre hill is no longer anonymous. Though Castle still doesn't have a high-speed quad, it does have Canada's biggest fall line: the 37-degree, 1,700-vertical-foot Lonestar Chute. After skiing runs like Lonestar, convalescence is mandatory and best accomplished with bratwurst and cheese fondue at the Swiss Alpine Restaurant, followed by hot-tubbing and a down-draped crib at Limber Pine Bed & Breakfast (doubles from US$72;

Canmore: Rock Hard
If you're Canadian, sling ice axes, and have six-pack abs, chances are you live in Canmore. For the rest of us, that means top-notch guiding. Yamnuska Mountain Adventures ( is the biggest outfitter in town and offers ice-climbing classes in numerous locations, including Ghost River Valley (US$213); backcountry skiing in Bull Valley (US$230); and mountaineering-skills courses on a four-day hut-to-hut traverse of the Wapta Icefields (US$656). The Canmore Nordic Centre (US$6.75 per day;, another '88 Games venue, features 40 miles of trails to help visitors burn off beers and burgers from the Grizzly Paw on Main ( Fire Mountain Lodge opened in July and has two- and three-bedroom condos offering decks with gas grills (from US$158;

Jasper: Backcountry Portal
After the summerlong stream of gape-jawed hikers and cyclists clears out, those sapphire-blue lakes and serrated ridgelines are left frozen—and empty. Take a few lift-served runs at Marmot Basin (US$42–US$52; before skinning 15 miles into the Tonquin Valley Backcountry Lodge (US$90 per person, including meals;, where hot cinnamon buns await. The six cabins make an ideal base from which to earn turns on Tonquin Hill and Surprise Point. More refined is the stone-and-timber Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge (doubles from US$221; fairmont.comjasper), a 30-minute hike from Edith Lake, which makes an ideal spot for viewing the northern lights.

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