When Old Man Winter blows into Alberta, we don’t hibernate – we celebrate. Our bright blue skies are filled with sunshine, from the snow-covered prairie horizon up to the powdery mountain tops. Even in January, our coldest month, temperatures only dip down to -3 to -12 C (10-26 F). So do like the locals, dress in layers, grab your gloves and toque (it’s a knitted cap) and come join us. Or stay cozy at some stellar indoor events. It’s the Canadian way – eh?
Spruce Meadows winter showjumping
Mark your calendar for some exciting events in February and March. Late winter tournaments keep you up close and personal with over 300 horses and riders at internationally renowned Spruce Meadows, minutes from downtown Calgary. Enjoy them all in the indoor, heated Equi-Plex arena. Outdoors, take a stroll through beautifully landscaped grounds sprinkled with dancing festive lights and winter themed decorations. Skate on the outdoor pond, cross-country ski, snowshoe or walk your dog (yes, leashed dogs are welcome). Admission and parking are free and the non-competitive stables are open every day for visits with the ponies.
World speed skating championships
Two major competitions at Calgary’s Olympic Oval this winter are the ISU World Cup Short Track #1 in November and World Sprint Speed Skating in February. You’ll be on the edge of your seat as world champion skaters swoop by on the edge of their skates on the fastest ice in the world. Mass starts, tight corners and frequent passing often lead to spills and spins so athletes use their wits, balance and agility to make it to the finish line. Prepare to see world records broken and new stars appearing on the international speedskating scene.
Rodeo in November
Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) in Edmonton happens every November – indoors. Stay warm and dry while the year’s top performers get down and dirty. Rexall Place transforms from ice rink to corral with over 500 cubic yards of Alberta clay. It makes for a soft landing after a short, hard ride. Every second counts during events like bareback, steer wrestling and saddle bronc. Cheer on the barrel racers as they thunder around three barrels in a tight cloverleaf, woman and horse working as one.
Across the pedway, take a jump back in time as teams of cowboys showcase the pioneer spirit that created rodeo at the Heritage Ranch Rodeo. You’ll see unique events from the past like wild cow milking, calf branding and wild horse racing. At the RAM Country Marketplace, do some holiday shopping at more than 200 booths for western themed duds, décor and unique gifts or hang out at the pens and talk stock with the exhibitors. It’s all part of Farmfair International and free with your CFR ticket.
Kick off World Cup downhill racing at Lake Louise Ski Resort
Join the world’s fastest skiers in the world’s most beautiful mountains for the men’s and women’s thrilling downhill and super-G races in Lake Louise, late November through early December. Will you see Lindsey Vonn or Aksel Lund Svindel strolling through the lobby of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise? Maybe – but you can definitely ask for autographs at the finish line at the Lake Louise Ski Resort. Over 184 million people watch the broadcast of these first World Cup races of the year. Come to Banff National Park and be there in person to see elite international racers rock the downhill course or twist and turn through the gates of the super-G.
World Men's Curling Championship, Edmonton
A calculated delivery, the flash of brooms, shouts of “hurry hard” and a resounding crack of rock on rock – this is curling at its finest. Combining the strategy of chess, the geometry of billiards and the physical endurance required to shoot a 19.6 kg (44 lb) stone down the ice and sweep it “on the button,” curling is one of Canada’s best loved winter sports. April 2017 is the final chance for countries to qualify for berths in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, so there will be a lot riding on every throw as teams battle for position. Head to Northlands in Edmonton, April 1-9, and join the international crowds hooked on curling, a game that’s easy to learn but hard to master. And bring your toque.