Winter Travel ’09: Alberta

Get your skis shined up

091113_travel_AB_wideCANADA OLYMPIC PARK/CALGARY
Another way of celebrating the Winter Games this year is to check out Canada Olympic Park, where many of the big events were held in ’88. In addition to still being a training facility—and the site of the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame and Museum—the park is also open to the public. Nearly 300,000 skiers and snowboarders come every year to try out the slopes. Many guests also give the luge a shot, and take a turn on a bobsled—a 60-second thrill ride, piloted by a pro, that features 14 hair-raising turns and a top speed of 120 km/hr.

WINTERSTART FESTIVAL/BANFF AND LAKE LOUISE (Nov. 28 to Dec. 6)
Start off the ski season by watching the best alpine racers in the world tear down the mountains in Lake Louise (Men’s World Cup racing on Nov. 28 and 29; Women’s World Cup racing on Dec. 5 and 6). Then, cap things off by getting festive in Banff, which plays host to a Christmas tree decorating competition, children’s face painting and a Santa Claus Parade of Lights on Dec. 5. And while you’re there, carve a few of your own skiing and snowboarding trails in some of Canada’s best powder or relax in the hot springs.

CANADIAN BIRKEBEINER SKI FESTIVAL/EDMONTON (Feb. 12 to 13)
In 1206, as civil war raged in Norway, the heir to the throne (an infant prince named Haakon Haakonsson) was in danger and hiding near Lillehammer. He was rescued by two Birkebeiner warriors, the story goes, and carried over two mountain ranges, on skis, to safety. Today, this event is celebrated in Norway, the U.S., Japan and Canada. Participants can choose from five different recreational skiing events, including a 13-km mini “birkie” and a full 55-km route carrying a 5.5-kg pack to represent the weight of an infant. The festival, the largest of its kind in North America, culminates in a Vikings’ Feast, which is all the wild salmon and wine one can consume.

ICE CLIMBING/CANMORE (November to April)
One hour west of Calgary lies the small town of Canmore, with a reputation for having some of the finest ice climbing sites in the world. Climbers of any skill level can enjoy a guided ascent of any of the hundreds of paths deep in the heart of the Ghost River Valley. Canmore became recognized as a world-class climbing site during the 1988 Calgary Olympic Games and has since lured climbing buffs from all over the world.

ICE ON WHYTE FESTIVAL/EDMON-TON (Jan. 14 to 24)
Brandishing chainsaws, a group of international artists converge on Festival Park in Old Strathcona to show off their sculpting skills on 130-kg blocks of ice. Last year, more than 25,000 attended this winter festival, which, in addition to the ice-sculpture competition, includes an ice castle, live music, ice slides and an ice-carving workshop for children.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.travelalberta.com




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