SNOW MAY GET ALL THE PRESS with its deep powder, snowmen and snowball fights, but ice is not to be underestimated. And in Alberta’s colder months, exploring the slippery stuff by crampon, skate or fishing pole offers a new window onto winter.
Steely-nerved ice enthusiasts will be thrilled to know that Banff National Park has some of the best ice climbing in the world. This exhilarating sport involves using only long blades and crampons to hoist yourself up sheer ice faces, such as the 300-metre-high Cascade Falls. Thorough preparation and specialized equipment is needed, so seek out a climbing guide for a memorable excursion. Banff Adventures Unlimited and Yamnuska Mountain Adventures each offer tours for both beginner and advanced climbers.
Ice canyon hiking
Thought hiking was just for summer? Think again. Walk along the bottom of Jasper’s Maligne Canyon, where you can marvel at frozen waterfalls along the canyon walls; they’re the result of a nearby lake that, come summer, sends surging water through where you now stand. For a different perspective, roam the series of steel catwalks that cross Banff’s Johnston Canyon. You’ll get spectacular views of the perilous ice and Bow River below.
Take an iconic winter scene to the next level by skating against a backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. Whether you fancy a game of shinny or a leisurely glide, there’s no shortage of playgrounds. Among your options is the 1.2-kilometre groomed loop at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, or skating around the ice castle on the rink next to Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The castle is spot-lit so you can keep gliding well after sunset.
Want to feel rugged and resourceful without the frostbite? Adventure Ice Fishing’s overnight huts on Gull Lake, just west of Lacombe, Alta., offer fishing gear, sleeping accommodation and an underwater camera to help you lure the pike, perch and walleye. You can even fry up your catch on-site. If Man vs. Wild is more your style, hike or snowmobile into the backcountry of Lakeland Provincial Park, where you’ll find some of the best ice fishing the province has to offer on Blackett and Helena lakes.