Six inexpensive ways to beat the winter blues in Calgary

Editor's note: With the unpredictability of COVID-19, some 2020-'21 events are up in the air. Be sure to watch the local organizers' websites for the latest updates. 

Aren’t we lucky to live in a city with so many activities to choose from? Each season offers tons of reasons to get outside and enjoy the environment. Yes, winter in Calgary can be brutally cold. But those nasty days are actually very few. With some good clothing choices, you can leave the house and have a heap of winter fun. There are lots of outdoor options that can be done on a skinny budget right here in Calgary. Here are our top six ideas to help you enjoy the beauty of winter.

Get decent winter clothing

Staying warm is all about layers. Get a good base layer of long underwear and good socks. Look for materials that use wool to help wick away moisture. The middle layer should be a nice fleece or puffy jacket to hold in the heat from your body. The outside layer (jacket and pants) needs to be a moisture and wind block. Don’t forget about your neck and head. Get something to wrap around your neck like a scarf and find a hat to cover your ears. Your mitts or gloves need to be waterproof too.

Calgary has lots of second-hand shops to help you find clothes without spending too much money. Check Calgary Goodwill, Value Village, Play it Again and even little places like 17th Ave Thrift Store have amazing gems. Watch for quality brand names like MEC, The North Face, Salomon, Smartwool, Patagonia and Arc’teryx.

Find second-hand equipment

Photo: Amber McLinden

Kids grow way too fast to invest in brand new equipment. More importantly, you have to decide if you are committed to the sport before you spend top dollar on new skates, skis or snowboards. Check stores like Play It Again Sports and 2nd Chance Sports for skates and all things skating. The Calgary Ski Club's annual ski sale in late October is your absolute best place to pick up ski and snowboard equipment. You’ll find rack upon rack of new and used equipment at discount prices with volunteers who know their stuff ready to help.

Start your mountain adventures at WinSport

Watch Family’s first time on the ski hill leaves them wanting more - #NewSkiAB on YouTube.

The mountains are calling but before you stand at the top of a mountain peak and mutter, “What the heck have I got myself into!!!” gain some confidence and learn to ski or snowboard at WinSport. There are lessons every day for every ability. Check it out here. When you’ve mastered that, check out the fun at the closest mountain resorts to Calgary, including Nakiska and Mount Norquay Both have excellent learning areas. Check out Norquay’s Family Pack

Suggested reading: Family’s first time on the ski hill leaves them wanting more

Skate your way around Calgary

If you are new to skating, an inexpensive way to start is by pushing a chair along the ice until you find your balance. Check out your local community for lessons or try WinSport where there are lessons for every ability.

Volunteers are out there in the wee hours of the night keeping rinks throughout the communities in great shape. You can find the closest one to you here There are six city maintained outdoor skating rinks in Calgary but the favourite for many generations is the lagoon at Bowness Park at 8900 48th Ave. N.W. The park is open 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily and the skate shop is open on weekends from 10 a.m. to 8 p., While you are there, skate massive loops around the lagoon, then head under the bridge to skate the canal along the shore. If skating isn’t your idea of fun, try curling or even “Crokicurl?” It’s a giant game of Crokinole using curling stones. Find other free rinks here

Cross-country ski through the city or nearby

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Photo: Travel Alberta

Cross-country skiing with the family is a great way to spend the day. The equipment is inexpensive, there are no lift tickets and the gear is easy to carry. Pack a lunch and head to Shaganappi Point Golf Course, Confederation Golf Course, Maple Ridge Golf Course or South Glenmore Park or Bowness Park. The trails are groomed either by volunteers or the city. A full listing, including Canmore is here. Only 45 minutes west of Calgary, there are 66 kilometres of fabulous trails at Bragg Creek You will love the combination of challenges there.

Winter hikes

Photo: Travel Alberta

No skates? No skis? No problem. When the skies are cloudless, it’s a perfect day to get outside and absorb some sun-sourced Vitamin D. Toss on the layers you think you need and a good pair of boots and head for the City of Calgary parks. Calgary has over 900 kilometres of pathways with loads of treed areas that make for wonderful winter hikes. Check out the Weaselhead area of Glenmore Park accessed by the parking lot off 37th Street S.W., Fish Creek Provincial Park and the Douglas Fir Trail accessed by Edworthy Park. All the birds down at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Centre will delight the family. The trails might get packed down so make sure you have good grips or invest in removable ice cleats or walking poles. And, if it’s snowed – bonus! Rent some snowshoes from places like Sports Rent or the Outdoor Centre at the University of Calgary and learn to waddle on top of the snow.

Extra tiny tip: Buy a few of those disposable mitt and toe warmer packets and tuck them in a pocket. If anyone in your troupe gets cold, pop those packets in the mitts or boots and make the complaints vanish.

Please tell us about your adventures this winter using the hashtag #NewSkiAB and you might be featured on our social media channels.

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