This blog seeks to chronicle the joys and challenges of taking kids hiking, camping, backpacking, skiing, biking, paddling and all-out exploring in the Canadian Rockies. The Calgary Family Adventure Community does not function as a guiding service and the owner is not a complete source of trail information.
I could write a love story about my beloved Keen Kona Flip Flops. I started out in the first version of them back when my son was a toddler 8 years ago, and I'm pretty sure I walked most of the city in these flip flops while he napped - once walking up to 7 kilometres (because they were that comfortable.)
Fast forward many years and I'm now wearing the Keen Kona Flip II sandals, an updated version of the original Kona flip flops, but as far as I can tell, they are identical to the first model I used to have (which is good news when you saw nothing that needed fixing or improving.)
KEEN Kona Flip II Sandals
My Journey with Keen Kona Flip Sandals My original Keen Kona flip flops died after I decided that wearing them on a kick scooter would be a fun idea. This was after wearing them for a few years though, so they had a very long life for flip flops. The problem was that Keen had discontinued these sandals - finally bringing them back just this year! Needless to say I was pretty ecstatic when I saw them listed on Keen's website - and requested a pair to review immediately!
I've started testing out the new sandals, wearing them on city bike rides, walks to and from school, and on light hikes. So far so good - and they perform 100% the same as the original Kona Flip sandals I fell in love with so many years ago.
Flip flops you can ride a bike in
10 Reasons to LOVE the Keen Kona Flip Sandals
No blisters. I often get blisters if I wear my regular Keen sandals for long walks or if they get wet while I'm wearing them. I've never had a single blister though in the flip flops - even after wearing them for hours on end (and after getting them wet.)
They fit true to size. I might have weird feet, but I often struggle to order shoes online because I never know what size to order. With the Kona Flip sandals though you can order your normal size and they should fit. (In the odd chance they don't, Keen has great return and exchange policies that are super easy.)
No toe imprints! You know the imprints you get in your cheap department store flip flops (part of the reason you can only wear them for one season?) - Yeah, that won't happen with the Keen flip flops. The footbed of the sandal is super supportive and rigid.
You won't get holes in the soles. I can't count the number of flip flops I've had to retire because the soles would wear out by the end of one season after my toes would punch holes right through the soft footbed. That won't happen with these ones because the footbed is solid and built to last!
Molded Footbeds. These flip flops are designed in the same way Keen designs all their shoes, with molded insoles (or in this case, molded footbeds for your bare feet.) Lovers of orthotics might just find they can wear flip flops for the first time ever. - and again, remember I said I once hiked 7 kilometres in these flip flops (and not because I forgot my hiking boots!)
No sprained ankles - I can't even hike a cute little creekside trail without wearing hiking boots (and orthotics!) I sprain an ankle at least once a season and as a result have very weak ankles. Put me in Keen's Kona Flips though and I've never sprained an ankle! I have no scientific reason behind this but it means I can confidently go out for a hike around our campground, knowing I won't be twisting an ankle on a stupid root.
They have amazing grip for a pair of flip flops. The outer sole of the flip flops has a very grippy base so you'll be comfortable hiking through the forest, riding a bike, or even chasing the kids around the playground. These are sport sandals in the form of flip flops.
Free toes!! I love all Keen sandals, but enough with the covered toes! I want my pretty little manicured piggies to wiggle free in the summer. - especially on a hot day!
They are perfect for urban life. Nobody feels attractive in athletic sandals that cover 80% of their feet. The Kona Flips on the other hand are something I'd wear to the beach, to the grocery store, to school, or even to church. Flip flops are an acceptable footwear choice wherever you go (and for me that would even include weddings.)
You'll have to try really hard to separate the toe piece from the sandal. Face it, we've all had the thin rubber toe piece separate from the base of our flip flops and rip out - leaving it virtually impossible to walk the rest of the way home!
As you can see from my photos, the Keen flip flop sandals have fabric straps connecting to a solid footbed (and not thin rubber that pulls out of the base as soon as you run or stretch them too much.)
Just don't use a kick scooter while wearing them and you should be good! (trust me.)
Molded footbeds and flip flops with actual grip! This is an athletic sports sandal
Buy your own pair of Keen Kona Flip II Sandals
I haven't seen these sandals for sale in any stores yet, but you can order them online off the Keen website. They fit true to size and the exchange/return policy is great if you choose the wrong size.
They come in 3 different colors and I chose the Majesty/Shark Color because I have an obsession with all things purple. The duck green/Wasabi color is very pretty too.
If you've been following me on Instagram lately, you might be wondering if we've moved to British Columbia, specifically Radium Hot Springs. And what can I say except that we really love the Columbia Valley, that the sun is almost always shining here, and that we spend many weekends here! (many, many...)
Active Family Guide to Radium Hot Springs, BC (Photo: Redstreak Restoration Trail)
From Calgary (where honestly we do still live,) it is a 3 hour drive to the Village of Radium Hot Springs and the gateway to the Columbia Valley (aka "Heaven on Earth.") The drive is very doable for a 2-day weekend but you'll probably enjoy yourself more if you spend at least 3 nights here (especially if you're camping.)
Below are ten of the activities we personally enjoy when we visit Radium Hot Springs in the warm months from spring through autumn - and you definitely won't knock them all off in one visit so you'll have to plan several trips here in the coming months.
We've already spent 4 weekends in Radium Hot Springs since the end of March with another trip coming up in a few weeks.
Spring camping in Radium Hot Springs (Photo: Redstreak Campground)
Ten Fun Activities for Active Families in and near Radium Hot Springs
1. Start with a Mini Bighorn Experience at the Visitor Information Centre Start your visit to Radium Hot Springs with an educational session on the "stars" of the valley: the bighorn sheep. You can phone the Visitor Information Centre and request to set up a Mini Bighorn Experience for your family, a 60-minute hands on session with a knowledgeable staff member.
Get the kids involved in the program by having them come up with some questions about the bighorn sheep before your interpretive session. Maybe they want to know what the sheep eat, where to find them in the village, what the difference is between a sheep and a goat, or even when the babies are born each year.
Learn all about the bighorn sheep at the Radium Visitor Information Centre
"This interactive educational experience will help you understand the habits and what makes the Bighorn Herd so unique and why the Village of Radium Hot Springs find these majestic animals so important to the community.
Knowledgeable staff will provide a hands-on experience with props and tools and storytelling. The Bighorn Experience also includes video, take home printed material and a small token to say thank you for joining us." - Tourism Radium Hot Springs
The Mini Bighorn Experience is very customizable, so let the staff know how old your children area, what kind of information you're most interested in, and how long you'd like your session to last. (The full Bighorn Experience is a 2-hour program that would be great for families with older children.)
Best of all, the Mini Bighorn Experience is completely free!
I recommend calling the visitor centre a week or so before your visit to arrange a time for your family to meet with one of the staff members for a bighorn experience.
The Mini Bighorn Experience is very interactive with lots of hands-on learning
After your tour, make sure you spend some time looking at the other exhibits in the Visitor Information Centre, and take the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about other tours/activities in the valley. You can also get trail reports here, maps, and brochures to plan out your trip.
Checking out the wildlife display at the Radium Visitor Information Centre
2. Explore the Village on Foot and Explore the Town Trails Once you've learned all about the bighorn sheep, you're going to want to go explore the village (either on foot or on bikes.) We love riding and walking around the quiet streets looking for sheep and deer in the morning or evening. You'll also find a great playground on the corner of St. Joseph Street and Park Drive (conveniently located behind the Bighorn Cafe if you're walking around.)
Main Town Playground in Radium Hot Springs
If you're looking for a hike to enjoy with the kids while camping or spending a few days in Radium Hot Springs, I recommend the following options:
Sinclair Canyon and Waterfall Hike You can reach this trail from the Canyon RV Resort (park in visitor parking and walk through the new "Creekside in the Canyon" development beside the campground, following signs for the Sinclair Canyon hiking trail.)
Trail length: approximately 1 km return from the campground
Alternately, you can drop down into the canyon following a series of switchbacks from highway 93 just outside the west gate near the hot springs. (Download a map here)
And best of all, you can follow these trails to reach the hot springs from either campground. Distance to the hot springs is 7.4 km return from Canyon or 5.4 km return from Redstreak.
Bridge on the Juniper Trail down at Sinclair Creek
Edge of the Rockies Trail, Redstreak Campground This is a gorgeous trail that starts from the E loop in the Redstreak Campground. It climbs up to a viewpoint over the village in an easy 1 km return hike.
Viewpoint at the top of the Edge of the Rockies Trail, Redstreak Campground
Redstreak Restoration Trail Hike or Bike We discovered this trail through Trail Forks where you can find it as the Pacemaker Trail and the Pacemaker Return Trail. Together they make for a short loop that's under 3 km long - and that starts right from the Redstreak Campground if you're camping here.
It's become a favourite evening bike ride for us when time is limited and we just want a bit of exercise before bed.
Biking the Redstreak Restoration Trail (Pacemaker Return on Trail Forks)
On the Parks Canada site, this area is called the Redstreak Restoration Trail, and it describes the hike as a walk through meadows reborn by a prescribed burn.
We love riding our bikes here as we look for bighorn sheep and pay a visit to the Narnia lamp (a lamp post straight out of the pages of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - sitting in the middle of the meadow.) And there's nothing strange about that at all??
The Narnia lamp post in the middle of the meadow on the Redstreak Restoration Trail
3. Relax at the Radium Hot Springs Pools (with a swimming pool for the kids) This one is a given! If you're going to spend time in Radium Hot Springs, you have to visit the hot springs!
What we love most about these hot springs is that there are two separate pools, one for hot soaking, and one for swimming. And, the swimming pool has both a slide and a diving board!
I also recently discovered that capable swimmers can play in the cold pool alone if you want to soak in the hot pool while the kids play in the swimming pool. (Check the age requirement for this when you visit. My son was allowed to swim there alone but he is 10 years old.) For me, this has become a game changer because I love jumping off the diving board with my son, but after 20 minutes in the swimming pool I just want to retreat to the hot pool.
Playing on the Radium Pump and Jump along the Sinclair Creek Trail
We also love riding our bikes along the easy Sinclair Creek Trail, a wide gravel trail that is popular with cyclists, hikers, and dog walkers. There is an official parking lot that you can find off Forsters Landing Road by driving through the sawmill.
Biking the Sinclair Creek Trail in Radium Hot Springs
Easy Mountain Biking on the Old Coach Trail, Dry Gulch to Radium This was one of my son's first mountain bike trails back when he could barely start and stop on his own (and my husband had to run alongside him for the entire 9 km distance.)
The Old Coach Trail is an old gravel road without any technical challenges. There are some nice views though and it makes for a good family ride.
We always park at Dry Gulch (see the trail on Trail Forks here) and ride back to Radium. It is mostly a gradual downhill ride in this direction with a few long hills beginners may find challenging if they get going too fast.
Biking the Old Coach Trail
The crux of the ride comes at the end when you have to climb back up to Radium for the final kilometre. Honestly though, we just ride what we can and walk the rest. It's far easier to walk the ending than to return back to Dry Gulch (which would be uphill for a good 8 km.)
Intermediate mountain bikers will find other unofficial and unsigned trail options off the Old Coach Trail.
Shuttling tip: Send an adult back for the vehicle before you get to the uphill climb at the end. Make your way to Radium with the kids and hang out at the Bighorn Cafe on the main street while you wait. (They have great cinnamon buns and baking.) There's also an ice-cream store on the main street or you can bike to the town playground (a couple of blocks back behind the cafe.)
Easy mountain biking on the Old Coach Trail
Easy to Intermediate Mountain Biking at Lillian Lake, Invermere Families will enjoy a quick spin around the Junior Johnson on the Lillian Lake Trail Network. It is a double track loop, 3 km in length, and a good opportunity to practice with brakes and gears on the short hills. (See the trail on Trail Forks here.)
Easy riding on the Junior Johnson Trail, Lillian Lake
Once you've mastered that, or if you want a solo ride while the kids play at the lake (where there's a dock for jumping off of on a hot day,) I recommend the Kloosifier Loop, a gorgeous flowy 8 km intermediate mountain biking loop. My 10-year old just rode it but he is a strong rider. Alternately, check out the full Johnson Loop (slightly more technical than the Kloosifier.)
Beautiful flowy riding on the Kloosifier Trail, Lillian Lake
Paved Pathway Riding on the Westside Legacy Trail, Invermere
If it's pavement you're after, this is your best (and only) option near Radium Hot Springs. The Markin MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail will eventually connect Invermere and Fairmont in one long 25 km trail. As of spring 2019, the first 5 segments are open and ready for riding with beautiful new pavement.
We got to try a tour with the Valley Zipline Adventure just outside Radium Hot Springs this month and it was a LOT of fun. While it's not the biggest zipline course, there were a few things we really liked about it (and that made it stand out above some of the other zipline tours we've tried.
Valley Zipline Adventures, Radium Hot Springs, BC
Brief Introduction and Overview
Radium Hot Springs is one of our favourite destinations for a quick weekend getaway from Calgary and the drive is only 3 hours (totally doable for Friday after work.)
The Valley Zipline Adventures Centre is located a short distance outside Radium Hot Springs at Dry Gulch, and you'll see it off the right hand side of the highway as you drive towards Invermere.
Of note for families curious about this adventure tour:
The parking lot is very large so you can park your trailer or RV here if you're passing through - something that was important for us because we did the tour on a Sunday morning before returning to Calgary
The tour only lasts a couple of hours so you can stop in for a rest break if you're driving through on your summer vacation
You'll get to enjoy 7 different ziplines on this course
Participants must be a minimum of 48 inches (4 feet) tall. Participants must also be a minimum weight of 65 lbs and a maximum weight of 250 lbs
Children under the age of 10 need a parent or guardian to accompany them on the tour. If you have kids older than this, you could drop them off without actually taking the tour yourself (great if you the parent has a fear of heights or you need to save money and can't afford for the whole family to participate)
You'll want to wear closed-toed shoes, sunblock, and comfortable clothing. Leave your hats behind because you'll be wearing helmets the whole time
Cameras are welcome as long as they are secure. My husband put my cell phone in a zipper pocket and I had a camera with a long strap secured to my harness
Ziplining is a fun activity for the whole family
What we loved about this zipline adventure:
It's awesome when you can go ziplining locally without having to go all the way to Mexico or Costa Rica! My son LOVES ziplines and we actually went ziplining every single day on our recent trip to Mexico. Radium Hot Springs is a whole lot closer though and more affordable!
A kid who could go ziplining every single day!
It's a family adventure and a great intro tour for those who've never tried ziplining before I appreciated that this tour was not too scary or overly intimidating. The crossings weren't very high off the ground - The first 5 ziplines are on average 80 feet or 24 meters off the ground at the highest point. The 7th zipline is 120 feet or 36 meters at its highest point. (This isn't a jungle forest canopy you're crossing.)
Also, our speed was never overly crazy. - The 7th zipline was the only one that required a brake at the end.
I also appreciated that each landing was quite gentle. Each of the first 6 crossings brought us slowly to a stop (my son and I had to be pulled in with a rope a couple of times at the end so we definitely weren't going super fast.)
Kids often get pulled in with a rope at the end if they don't go fast enough
This is a full hands-on experience and you are in charge of your own gear the entire time! You're not just a passenger along for the ride on this tour. You actually get to do all of your own "technical work" on this course, clipping in to the line for each crossing with your own carabiners, using a set of double carabiners to stay connected to a fixed line through the entire tour, and switching between the safety cable and the actual zipline cable before and after each crossing.
Most zipline guides on other tours do everything for you and you'll never even touch a carabiner or a pulley. This is not the case with the Valley Zipline Adventures Tour.
You'll get very comfortable with your carabiners and equipment on this tour
Our adventure felt like a combination between a zipline tour and an aerial park If you've ever done a high ropes course or tried an aerial park adventure, you'll be familiar with the use of carabiners, fixed safety lines, and the constant clipping and unclipping from cables. I like this because it keeps me active and engaged the whole time, and I'm not just "babied" by guides who take care of all the equipment for me.
When you do a tour with Valley Zipline Adventures, you'll follow a course high up in the trees, climbing ladders, flying between platforms, and crossing high up between each tower. It was exhilarating and was a fun adventure for the whole family.
High up in the trees at the Valley Zipline Adventures Tour
And don't worry about falling to your death by doing something wrong! The guides were amazing at making sure we all knew exactly what to do before we started out on our tour! There's a short practice course that you get to start on, and you won't progress beyond that until you're ready!
You'll also be using smart carabiners that talk to one another, so you'll always be attached to the cable with at least one carabiner (and it won't release or unlock until your second carabiner is locked to the cable.)
Practice course to learn the equipment
Other Activities at the Valley Zipline Adventures
There is also a climbing wall and a freefall jump tower on site that you can add to your zipline package. We decided not to try the climbing wall because my son didn't want to switch to a different harness, but we did try the freefall jump and it was a LOT of fun. (and not that scary if you're a bit nervous of heights.) - the hardest part for me in fact was the climb up!
Climbing wall and free fall jump
For more information, please visit the Valley Zipline Adventures website. On their website you'll find full details on the pricing and various packages offered. Our package included the climbing wall and jump tower on site.
And, receive a 10% discount when you book online using a promo code off the Tourism Radium Hot Springs website. (view the discount here.)
Freefall jump at the Valley Zipline Adventures Park
Disclaimer: Our tour was hosted by the valley Zipline Adventures and partnered with Tourism Radium Hot Springs. As always, all opinions are my own.
The Icefields Parkway is one of the world's most beautiful driving tours, and with a bit of careful planning (and willingness to go for a short hike,) it's actually possible to escape the crowds!
Bow Summit Lookout, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park
We love exploring and hiking on the Icefields Parkway because once you get a half hour past Lake Louise, the crowds start to thin out a bit, and the scenery is every bit as spectacular! Yes, it's still busy in the middle of summer, but we're talking 50 people at a popular viewpoint instead of 200! (Step into a pair of hiking boots and it's easy to leave the tourists behind completely!)
Adventure awaits on the Icefields Parkway (Photo: Hector Lake)
Quick Intro: Where I'm Sending you to Explore
The Icefields Parkway, Highway 93 North, connects the Village of Lake Louise in Banff National Park with the Town of Jasper in Jasper National Park to the north.
The parkway is 232 kilometres in distance and without stops you can complete the drive in 2.5 to 3 hours from Lake Louise to Jasper. From Calgary, you can easily drive out to Louise, enjoy a stop or two along the Parkway, and still arrive in Jasper for dinner that night.
Precautionary notes before heading out:
Panther Falls, Icefields Parkway
This area sees a very long winter! Expect lingering snow on trails until mid to late June.
Bring a pair of gloves, a hat, and layers of clothing including a warm sweater and a jacket any time you travel through this area. It generally won't go above 20 C in the daytime and it can easily drop to 5 degrees Celsius at night (even in the middle of summer.)
You can hike to the toe of a glacier on this highway (without climbing!) Again, bring warm clothes and don't rely on a pair of sandals as your footwear of choice while out exploring.
There is ONE gas station located between Lake Louise and Jasper, at Saskatchewan River Crossing, and you shouldn't need me to tell you that the gas there is not cheap. Fill up before you start your drive!
There is no cell coverage for the entire duration of the drive between Louise and Jasper. Make sure you're prepared before you start out.
Services are limited and any food you'll find is expensive. Pack snacks and a lunch for your trip rather than relying on the busy cafeterias at the Saskatchewan River Crossing or at the Columbia Icefields Centre. - Also know that there are only services available in the summer (June - September.) Winter travel on the Parkway is a bigger adventure.
The speed limit is 90 Km/hour. Don't speed! Expect to encounter wildlife, hikers crossing the highway, or slow moving vehicles at any time. Chances are you'll be driving well under 90 at times. - And do not get outside your vehicle if you see an animal that you absolutely must take a photo of (or stop in the middle of the road!)
A park pass is required to drive this highway (even if you don't stop.) You can purchase a day pass at the gates as you leave either Lake Louise or Jasper if you don't have an annual Discovery Pass.
Standing on the Athabasca Glacier, Icefields Parkway
Our Favourite Adventures along the Icefields Parkway
Below are our favourite adventures along the Icefields Parkway, starting in the south and working north towards Jasper.
This list will grow each year as we discover new things to do, so it won't always be a top ten list. And yes, you should save it for the future since I'll keep adding to it.
Finally, for driving locations, open Google Maps and you should be able to find each destination. There's also a good map here on the Parks Canada website. All links below provide more information on the hike or destination.
Red Chairs on the Wilcox Pass Trail, Icefields Parkway
1. The Herbert Lake Diving Board
I'm not going to remove all the adventure here because I believe that if you want to find the diving board, you should be willing to look a bit. Hint: It's on the far side of the lake.
Rumor has it the diving board is straight from the original pool at the Banff Hot Springs. And lest you worry that the water is glacial in temperature, this is actually the warmest mountain lake we've found in the Canadian Rockies.
The diving board at the back of Herbert Lake, Banff National Park
2. Hiking to Helen Lake
We haven't done this hike since our son was a baby and we carried him up to the lake in a child carrier. Time to return!
The hike is 6km one way so save the adventure until your children can tackle a 12km hike with 455 metres of height gain. You'll be rewarded with gorgeous views when you arrive at the lake and hopefully lots of marmots running around in the boulders.
Gorgeous scenery en route to Helen Lake along the Icefields Parkway
I'll be adding to this section as we explore the area around Bow Lake more as a family.
Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway
4. Hiking to the Bow Summit Lookout from Peyto Lake
I'm adding this one to this guide, but know in advance that this area will be closed for much of the 2019 summer season for repairs to the parking lot.
Save it for 2020 and enjoy a beautiful hike to the Peyto Lake Lookout, and then leave the crowds behind for the 2.9km one way hike to the Bow Summit Lookout(where you'll get views of Bow Lake.)
And there are usually lots of marmots on this trail as an added bonus for the kids.
Hiking to the Bow Summit Lookout with views of Peyto Lake below
5. Hiking to the bottom of Panther Falls at the Big Bend
Between Saskatchewan River Crossing and the Columbia Icefields Centre you will drive up a big hill and around the "big bend" hairpin turn. There are two parking lots on the Big Bend, each provided for tourists to pull over and take photos. Pull over into the uppermost parking lot at the top of the Big Bend.
Escape the crowds in the parking lot by hiking down the signed trail (far right side of the parking lot) to the bottom of Panther Falls in an easy 0.5km outing. (Just warn the kids in advance that they will be hiking down to the falls and that they'll have to climb back up after.)
Panther Falls, Icefields Parkway
6. Hiking Parker Ridge to the Saskatchewan Glacier Viewpoint
This is an easy hike and was one of my son's first big solo hikes without the child carrier. The Parker Ridge Hike is only 2.7km one way and you'll gain 250 metres on the well switch-backed trail.
From the top of the ridge enjoy views of the Saskatchewan Glacier and off-trail rambling in either direction. If you're fortunate enough to be staying at the HI Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel, you can follow the ridge all the way towards the Hilda Glacier and descend a creek down to the hostel in a beautiful day trip.
Standing on the Athabasca Glacier, Columbia Icefields Adventure
And read more about the tours offered here including the Icefield Glacier Adventure where you ride a snow coach out onto the glacier, and the Skywalk, a cliff-edged glass sidewalk and observation platform with fantastic views!
Glacier Skywalk and Observation Platform with Mount Athabasca in the background
8. Hiking the Wilcox Pass Trail in Jasper National Park
Reach the Columbia Icefields Centre and you're officially in Jasper National Park now.
Wilcox Pass is one of our favourite hikesalong the Icefields Parkway for easy access to great views. It's only 2.4km return if you want to reach the first viewpoint, which is ideal if you're traveling to Jasper and need a rest stop to stretch the legs (and let the kids burn off some energy.)
If you have more time and energy, you can hike all the way to the pass in an 8km return hike. Elevation gain is only 390 metres as well so this is not a challenging hike.
Views from the Wilcox Pass Hike, Jasper National Park
9. Visiting Sunwapta and Athabasca Falls Next up on the drive north to Jasper, you'll pass the day use areas for Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls. If you only have time for one, stop at Athabasca Falls. If you have time for both, they are short walks and mostly a good excuse to get out of the car to stretch the legs. (Though Athabasca Falls are pretty spectacular.)
Prepare to be overwhelmed by tourists at both spots as they are very popular with tourist busses.
Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park
10. Jasper Sky Tram and Hiking to the top of Whistlers Summit
This one is not cheap, but it's 100% worth the expense! From the upper station of the sky tram, the summit is only 200 metres above you and the views are phenomenal as you leisurely hike through the alpine environment for 1.2km (one way,) on the lookout for marmots.
I'll never get tired of this hike, and you'll leave two thirds of the crowds behind as soon as you start hiking towards the summit.
I never knew it was a dream of mine to camp on top of a mountain, until I did it. Now I've added the experience to my annual "summer cool list" - a very long list that grows by the year, and we look forward to discovering more unique places to camp.
Yurt Camping at Radius Retreat, Radium Hot Springs, BC
I should clarify that we didn't exactly camp "on top of a mountain" but rather, we camped on a scenic bench overlooking the Columbia Valley outside the Village of Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia.
Mountain summit or not, it certainly felt like a mountain, AND, our nearest neighbors were a kilometre away! This was the most private campsite we've ever had, and we enjoyed sitting around our campfire without having to listen to drunken neighbors partying around us at a noisy campground.
Just us on our bench overlooking the Columbia Valley - and no neighbors for a kilometre!
Introduction to the Radius Yurt Retreat
We recently spent a night camping at Radius Yurt Retreat, a short 5 minute drive outside Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia. Drive towards Golden and you'll see the sign for Radius as soon as you leave the Village. (It's close enough that we could see the lights of Radium from our yurt at night.)
From Calgary, it's a short 3 hour drive to reach Radium Hot Springs so you can easily reach Radius for a weekend getaway. (And come summer with the long daylight hours, you'll even have time to hike in Friday night.)
Our yurt, the Perch, at Radius Retreat
The Yurts at Radius Retreat
Radius has 7 yurts on their property and they all require at least a short hike to access. Most of them are well separated one from another so you should never feel as if you have neighbors (the Hollow and the Burrow aside since they share the same meadow.)
Hike-in yurts at Radius Retreat in Radium Hot Springs
Below is a quick introduction to the yurts:
Yurts that require a 3 to 10 minute walk:
The Den - 100 metres from the parking lot with 50 metres of elevation gain. Very family-friendly, this yurt sleeps 5 people. Camp here and you'll be at your yurt in a three minute walk! (great for families who want to explore the area while camping here and will be coming and going a lot rather than staying at camp the whole time.)
The Drey - 300 metres from the parking lot with 10 metres of elevation gain. Very family-friendly, this yurt sleeps 5 people. Camp here and you can push toddlers to camp in a chariot or have the kids get to their yurt on balance bikes. (another great yurt for families who want to explore the area while camping here and will be coming and going a lot.)
The Roost - 400 metres from the parking lot with 40 metres of elevation gain. This yurt only sleeps 3 people but you can fit extra children on the floor if you bring some camping mattresses with you. (just keep your extra numbers within the family and don't plan to host a party.) This is another great yurt for families wanting to come and go a lot rather than spending their whole weekend at the yurt.
The Hollow and the Burrow - 700 metres from the parking lot with 42 metres of elevation gain. These two yurts share the same meadow and are ideal for families wanting to travel together. They sleep 3 people per yurt but you can fit extra children on the floor as I mentioned above with the Roost. As with the others, these yurts are ideal for families wanting to spend time exploring the valley during the daytime.
Hiking through the meadow where you'll find the Hollow and the Burrow yurts
Yurts that require a "bit more effort"
The Nest - 2.4 kilometres from the parking lot with 121 metres of elevation gain. This yurt sleeps 3 people and will require a bit of commitment and planning to reach. Stay here and you are officially "backpacking." You'll also be spending a lot more time at camp unless you want to spend an hour hiking out, and another hour hiking back in each time you want to go to town.
The Perch (where we stayed) - 2.5 kilometres from the parking lot with 216 metres of elevation gain (and trust me, I heard a lot of "why did you choose the furthest yurt with so much climbing?!!!" on the hike in!) This yurt also sleeps 3 people and requires a commitment to spend a lot of time at camp. It took us just over an hour to reach our yurt and so we weren't planning on repeating that multiple times a day to go down to the town.
Packed and ready to hike down to town for breakfast
And note that all yurts are pet-friendly at no extra charge. (so bring Fido with you.)
My boys hiking in to the Perch on easy-to-follow roads through the property
And don't get too excited by that road above - you still have to hike in!!
You can ski, snowshoe, bike, push a chariot, pull a wagon, or bring kids on balance bikes - but you can not drive to your yurt.
Climbing to the upper yurts at Radius
What's Included with your stay at Radius Yurt Retreat
Each yurt comes with the following:
How's this for a convenient bathroom!
1 Custom Built Queen Bed with 1 Single Bunk overtop. The beds have Beautyrest Mattresses on them so this is a far cry from sleeping on the ground! - bring your own sleeping bags (and pillows if you want them)
IF you are in a yurt that sleeps 5 people you will also get an additional trundle bed with single mattresses
Indoor Wood Burning Fireplace
Chopped Wood, Fire Starter and Matches
An indoor Table and chairs or stools
Solar Lighting (with a USB charging system if you want to charge your phone and remembered to bring a charging cable)
2 Burner Propane Stove (propane not provided)
100% Recycled Outdoor Chairs
Picnic Table and Log Seats at the Fire Pit Area
Bear hangs near each site to protect your food from wild animals
Beds and table inside our yurt
I also want to mention that your vehicle will be perfectly safe while you stay at Radius Retreat. The company emails you a code to the front gate the day before your stay. Enter the code at the gate and you'll gain access to the property where your vehicle stays protected from break-ins or theft.
The same code that you receive for the front gate is also the code you'll use to get into your yurt (each one has a key code on the door.) - there is no staff on site when you arrive so make sure you ask all your questions BEFORE you arrive.
Table and wood burning stove inside our yurt
I also recommend having a copy of the Radius property map saved to your phone so you can find your way around the trails when you arrive. For the most part though, follow the sign with a picture of a yurt on it from the parking lot. There is one main road you'll follow the entire time and it has a sign for each yurt when it's time to turn off onto your individual path.
The start of your journey at the parking lot! Follow the signs and you won't get lost
What can you do while staying at Radius Yurt Retreat
Radius Retreat has a two night minimum policy so you'll want to have some plans for what to do when you're staying here.
If you're staying in one of the lower yurts you can easily drive to town and explore the Columbia Valley.
There are many beautiful places to explore across the Columbia Valley
If you're looking for activities to enjoy on the Radius property I recommend the following:
There are almost 1000 acres to explore around the Radius property and you'll find 4 different signed trails around the yurts that you can hike, bike, and explore.
You can hike from the Nest Yurt over to the Radium Hot Springs pools in town. There were directions in our yurt that said to hike past the Nest on the left/upper side of the Raven Trail. When the trail curves hard at the Raven Sign, go straight and then over the boundary. It said you could get to the hot springs by following this path. - see the map here.
(Note I'd also suggest you ask the folks who work at Radius Retreat for directions and the exact distance of the hike prior to your visit just to clarify what I've written out above.)
If you are camped in one of the yurts that sits on a meadow (the Hollow, the Burrow, or the Roost) you'll have lots of room to let the kids run around and you can even bring a soccer ball with you. The Drey also comes recommended for those wanting space to run around. Bring the bocce set, the frisbee, a football, or other activities for your family.
Bring board games and books in with you and spend some time chilling at your yurt. (Ideal if you are in the Den with the hammocks!)
The Nest has a spacious deck perfect for yoga mats!
We spent a lot of time hanging out at our fire pit on our gorgeous bench overlooking the valley
Cooking, Water, and Logistics
This is where it gets a bit tricky at Radius. There are two non-potable (meaning you have to boil the water before drinking it) water stations on the property. The first is at the trailhead parking lot. This is fine if you're staying at one of the lower yurts. You'll just want to bring a wagon or chariot with you to transport the water to your yurt.
The second water station is located at the upper junction between the Nest and the Perch. From this junction it is still half a kilometre to the yurts though (and ours was still very uphill from this junction.) Getting water to the upper yurts will be a challenge - especially because I don't know if you want to push/pull a chariot or wagon all the way up there.
We got around this by just bringing water bottles in because we were only staying one night. The minimum stay though is usually two nights if you aren't a blogger doing a preview visit.
Also note that in winter you won't find any water on site and you should be prepared to bring it all in with you. Fortunately you could bring a sled when there's enough snow.
There was a water station here about half a kilometre from our yurt
For cooking, each yurt comes with a propane two-burner stove but you'll have to bring your own propane canister with you. Cooking is also done outside (so you'll have to hope for nice weather.)
We chose not to cook at our yurt since we were only there one night. We hiked Subway sandwiches in for dinner and hiked out for breakfast.
If you're in one of the lower yurts you should have no problems carrying in food + propane. Just think "backcountry" when you plan your meals because there are no refrigerators. (not a problem in winter, but definitely a problem in summer.)
You can also cook over your fire pit if you want because they all have grates on them. I was wishing we'd brought hot dogs and marshmallows in with us. (Bring your own skewers for toasting wieners and marshmallows.)
Other than that, bring all of your own cooking supplies, dishes, and utensils in. You'll also have to handle the dishwashing situation somehow as well with your limited water - or just don't wash your dishes.
Each yurt comes with a propane stove and a fire pit for cooking
My child has less than a week of school left before spring break begins for ten glorious days, and I'm very excited for the free time that we'll have to spend together as a family. I'd be lying though if I said I was fully prepared, or that I wasn't scrambling for a few more activities to fill those days.
Spring break stay-cation fun at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park in Calgary
Fortunately, WinSport has us totally covered for spring break staycation fun at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, and they even offer day camps for those that still need to go to work while the kids are off school (myself included for at least a couple days.)
5 Reasons to Spend Spring Break at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park
1. PD / Holiday Camps (with single day registration available)
"PD Day Camps provide new and avid skiers the chance to get outside and practice their skills. PD Day Camps are available throughout the school year and week-long camps are available over Spring Break by booking a camp each day of the week." (quoted directly from the WinSport website)
What I love most is that you can register your child for as many days of camp as you need childcare for (or for as many days as you can afford.)
The camps are booked per day and it comes to $99.99 per day of camp. Camps can be booked on the Friday, March 22nd and through the whole week from March 25th - March 29th.
Parents can register children for a day of camp in a variety of levels from level 2 (beginner) all the way up to to level 5/6 (all mountain) and level 7 (which is an intro to freestyle)
There are also three options for camps (skiing, snowboarding, and hockey.)
Register the kids for a day camp at Canada Olympic Park and watch them learn a new skill or two!
2. It's a great opportunity to try something NEW (adults too!) I will never forget the day I first skied down the 22 foot super halfpipe at WinSport last spring with my 9 year old son. My son and I were riding up the chair with a couple young boys who told us how much fun they were having skiing the halfpipe. They assured me it was easy, and that we should try it. - and so we did!
Skiing down the 22 foot halfpipe at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park
We followed them down (something I recommend doing if you aren't sure how to actually access the top of the halfpipe, just follow any group of teens off the Legacy Chairlift) and I'll admit that it was a bit intimidating looking down from the top. Once I dropped in though, I realized two things. One, you don't have to get air or ski up on the sides of the halfpipe. Two, you can just ski straight down the middle (it feels like you're dropping down a big canyon) and it's plenty wide for doing turns.
Skiing down the super halfpipe at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park is fun (even for adults!)
Just a few of the NEW things you can try at WinSport this spring:
For beginners, take an intro skiing or snowboarding lesson! Nothing fancy, not saying you have to jump into the halfpipe, just sign yourself or your family up for some lessons and give it a try!
If you're a skier, sign up for a snowboarding lesson. If you snowboard, sign up for a ski lesson. Who knows, you might like it!
If you're an intermediate level skier or snowboarder, try the halfpipes (there is a 12 foot beginner halfpipe at the bottom of the hill that everybody can practice in first - and trust me, it's not very scary.)
If you can confidently ski or ride a steep groomed black run, try skiing or snowboarding down the Junior Slopestyle Line through the West Terrain Park. You don't have to actually hit the jumps! Just ski/ride up and over the big bumps and enjoy the thrill of dropping off the top of each one (It's quite exhilarating!!) - and this is located right beside the 22 foot halfpipe so you can devote an hour to trying both from the top of the Legacy Chair.
Spend some time in the Progression Park at the bottom of the hill (there's a magic carpet to take you to the top) and try out a few easy boxes. Or encourage the kids to try them while you watch from the bottom. (I personally haven't worked up to this one yet!)
Work your way up to steep groomed black runs by skiing or snowboarding the Alpine Pitch off the top of the '88 Express Chairlift. It always gives my heart a bit of a jolt when I first drop down the steep pitch, but I love it and do several laps down here every time I visit the hill.
Try out the beginner moguls at the bottom of the Alpine Pitch (just above the beginner area.) There's a very small area of bumps, and it's convenient if you're skiing or snowboarding with kids who want to try them (even if you don't!) I follow beside on the main run while my son skis them - and we each get a unique ending to our run down from the Express Chairlift.
Practicing on the moguls at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park
3. WinSport's Canada Olympic Park is more than just a ski hill! Family tubing You don't have to ski (or snowboard.) Visit WinSport for a few hours and go tubing with your family. It's gentle on the joints, you don't have to spin (the attendants will ask, but just say no if you don't like carnival rides,) and sometimes you can even ride down together with your kids (if the track isn't sliding too fast.)
And note I say WITH your family. Adults, don't pass this one up. It's fun!! And like I said, it's gentle on the joints. (I personally gave up regular sledding a long time ago!)
Winter bobsleigh, luge, or skeleton Yes, just like the ones in the Olympics! - and I personally tried the luge which was a lot of fun, and is an activity children can try as well if they are over the age of 8.
Tubing with your children is a LOT of fun at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park
4. There are several cool events happening at WinSport this month WinSport closes for the season on March 31st, but there are several cool events happening over the next two weeks.
Servus Ski Wednesday - March 20th Ski for just $12 between 3-9pm on March 20th.
Snowboard Nationals and Junior Nationals - March 18th - 24th If you have kids who snowboard, there's no better way to inspire them than by watching some incredible athletes as they show off their skills at WinSport this month. Athletes will be training/competing in slopestyle, halfpipe, and big air. (and often you can watch just by going up the Legacy Chairlift.)
Freestyle Alberta Freestyle Ski Championships - March 28th - 31st Here's another opportunity to take the family to WinSport for the day and to watch some incredible athletes showing off their skills, this time in skiing.
Sun's Out, Guns Out Rail Jam on closing day at WinSport - March 31st This is one you can actually register the kids for!
Take your kids to WinSport to watch real athletes show them how it's done in the super halfpipe
5. Spring Season Passes!
You can buy a spring season pass for your youth or teens and send them to the hill every day over spring break. Each pass costs $179.99 + GST which pays for itself in roughly 6 times (for youth) or 4 times (for adults.)
And while it's perhaps a little bit late in the season to buy these (since the hill closes on the 31st,) it would still be worth it if you had teens who needed something to do over spring break.
- and it's worth remembering for next year!! I myself had no idea that WinSport had spring season passes.
First of all, why am I publishing a review for ski boots in March at the end of the ski season? Because if you haven't started skiing yet this winter, NOW is the time to start. It's spring and that means warm weather, sunshine, extended lift hours, slopeside concerts, deals on overnight resort stays, and even spring ski passes for cheap skiing!
It's spring and the best skiing is still to come!
Now if you haven't done much (or any) skiing yet this season, chances are the kids' boots won't fit! They can probably make do with last year's skis for a trip or two, but boots need to be purchased annually - or do they?
One pair of ski boots (four sizes!!)
Roces Adjustable Ski Boots Review - and interview with Phillip Lund of All Out Kids Gear I could tell you all about why we love our son's Roces ski boots, and how much I'm going to love them next November when I don't have to go shopping for another pair!!
I thought I'd leave it to somebody more knowledgeable than myself though and so I've interviewed the owner of All Out Kids Gear, Phillip Lund, and he's covered every question you could possibly have. (If not, please leave a comment below and I'll make sure I get you an answer.)
My son has been using the Roces Adjustable Free Ski Boots (size 22.5 - 25.5)
1. Why is it so important for you to carry the Roces Adjustable ski boots for children in your online collection of ski gear? Roces was one of the original companies that made us think about opening a kid specific outdoor store.
When we first discovered these boots, we had to order them out of the US, and we thought to ourselves: "Why are these not easily available in Canada?"
Last year the Canadian distributor stopped carrying them so we almost lost them again in Canada. When we were searching for a new distributor, the Roces main office in the US offered to sell direct to us, which was great, but now we were responsible for the shipping and customs, which significantly raise our cost on the boots.
We seriously considered not bringing them in, but in the end I knew we had to keep them available in Canada for families like ours. As it turns out, I think we may be one of the only places to order them online in Canada.
We appreciate that we can order great outdoor gear locally in Canada
2. Why do you swear by these boots so strongly for families? Skiing is definitely not a cheap sport, so really anything that can bring down that cost is great, especially when you are trying to ski as a family and have growing kids!
The Roces ski boots mean your kids can keep the same boots for 3 to 4 years instead of buying new ones every year.
As an example, one of my friends who has three girls was trying to pass down the regular ski boots his oldest daughter was outgrowing, but almost every year the boots would be just slightly too big or too small for his younger girls and he would end up going out and buying new boots. Now he has all three girls skiing in Roces and is super happy with them!
My son will be wearing the same pair of ski boots until he's my size!
3. Do your own children wear these boots? Yes, both my kids wear Roces boots. We had regular ski boots for the first year or two with my son (age 9) until we discovered Roces and since then, he has worn nothing but Roces. My daughter (age 7) has only worn Roces.
They are a good ski boot and we definitely didn't want to be in the "buy new ski boots every year" cycle.
When we go skiing as a family I am always ecstatic when a parent notices my kids' boots and asks about them! It's kind of funny when we go skiing, and I am always so tempted to stop other parents and ask: "Hey have you seen these adjustable ski boots! They work great and will save you some money down the road!" And it's not to try and just sell more ski boots, but it's because I think most parents would love them if they only knew about them!
"Most parents would love Roces ski boots - if they only knew about them!"
4. Do you get concerns from families that think an adjustable ski boot will be “cheap” or “gimmicky” and that it won’t perform as well as a regular ski boot? We do get a few people contact us, but I think there are more people that probably just dismiss them without looking into them a bit further, which I think is a real shame.
We usually let people know that we use the boots ourselves and would not be selling anything we did not personally use or believe in. I also tell people that no matter where they look, they will have a very hard time finding any negative reviews about the boots.
Almost all the time the reviews are incredibly positive.
You don't ski double black chutes in "cheap" or "gimmicky" boots!
5. How do you find the Roces boots compare with other high end brands available on the market? We always keep our eyes out for different gear on the market and do test different things from time to time. Really, the Roces are just as good as most of the other mainstream kids' ski boot companies, plus they have extra little features like micro- adjustable buckles which a lot of kids' boots do not have.
Roces ski boots perform en par with other boots on the market
6. How are the Roces ski boots different from other adjustable products? (We all know toddler skates for example lack the support and performance of regular skates) We unfortunately tried the adjustable skates (not the Roces brand), and although the idea is still good, the ones we had were actually really bad in my opinion, and we have only bought traditional skates since then.
The unfortunate thing about bad adjustable products like that is then some people associate all adjustable kids' gear to be the same low quality, but in the case of Roces this is not true.
Not all "adjustable" gear is bad
7. Would you recommend the Roces boots for all levels of skiers? (Including performance athletes or kids competing in ski racing?) My son started skiing in the largest Roces ski boot last year, the Roces Free size 4-7, and they are a step up in performance for sure with a three buckle design with a power strap. That being said, all of them are designed to have enough performance for the average skier at their respective ages. Each bigger size of boot has a bit more performance.
I would personally say they are suitable for all levels of skiing, but I wouldn't recommend them for racing as racing boots tend to fit quite tight and are generally stiffer than normal recreational ski boots.
No matter the level of skiing, Roces adjustable ski boots perform!
8. For little kids just starting out, what’s the best thing about the Roces boots? In general they are a bit wide and are quite comfortable for kids. They also come in multiple colors which is kind of nice as well.
The biggest benefit (mostly for the parents) is being able to keep the same pair of boots for multiple years.
Roces ski boots are very comfortable and easy to put on
9. What other selling features can you describe for these boots? Besides being adjustable for length, they have micro-adjustable buckles which a lot of other kids' boots do not have. I seem to use this feature almost every time we go skiing and can't imagine not having them.
One of the other great features that we are asked about, is that the actual sole size that goes into the bindings does not change. So what that means is that when you make the ski boots bigger or smaller, they still fit into the same bindings without any other changes.
They also have a memory foam liner, and having multiple colors is nice.
No matter the day or terrain, my son's Roces boots have always been comfortable
10. How do the boots perform for comfort and warmth? In general I would say they are about the same as most kids' ski boots. They are possibly a bit wider than some, which helps fit a wider range of kids and gives extra wiggle room for their toes.
Dropping in to the steeps! No problem with Roces ski boots
Personal notes and perspective from my family's experience with Roces adjustable ski boots My son, age 10, has transitioned from skiing easy black runs, carefully picking his way down small bump runs, and moderate speed on groomers to skiing double black chutes this winter - in his Roces ski boots.
I think that speaks for itself that the boots are not holding him back, that they perform the way they need to, and they are not just a cute little "beginner boot."
My son has also learned to put the boots on by himself this winter, fully tightening them and doing them up with no assistance from us. I consider that a victory too.
The only complaint my son has had has been with cold feet, but we've been skiing when the temperature was as cold as -35C this winter so I don't think it's fair to blame the boots for this one! (The parents, maybe.)
Overall we've been very happy with our Roces adjustable ski boots
Ready to buy a pair of Roces adjustable ski boots? All Out Kids Gear has been a great company to work with and my family personally uses their services to outfit our son with skiing, climbing, biking, and backpacking gear.
The company is based out of Red Deer, Alberta, and I love that we are shopping local and supporting an actual family (rather than some big corporation.) I can follow All Out Kids Gear on social media, see what their family is up to, and know that I am helping fund those adventures with my support - which is very cool!
I can testify that Phillip only carries the best gear in his online store, that shipping is beyond phenomenal (same week always) and that pricing will always be comparable. (And everything on his site is in Canadian dollars!!)
Outfit the kids in Roces adjustable boots and never have to buy new boots (at least for a few years)
Disclaimer: My family received a pair of boots from All Out Kids Gear in exchange for this review. I am also an affiliate for the store which means I might make a few dollars to put towards a ski pass if you buy a pair (but no pressure of course.) As always, all words and opinions are my own (or in this case, words/opinions of the owner of All Out Kids Gear.)
My family has spent a lot of time at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort over the years and it's always been one of our favourite places to spend a day while exploring in the East Kootenay Rockies of British Columbia. Recently we got the opportunity to experience "winter at the resort" with skiing, tubing, and deluxe cabin camping.
Winter or summer, Fairmont Hot Springs is a vacation wonderland for families and you have to experience it yourself.
Summer at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort (vacation wonderland!)
Fairmont Hot Springs is located in the Columbia Valley between the communities of Radium Hot Springs and Invermere to the north, and the City of Kimberley to the south. From Calgary, the drive is just over 3 hours depending on where you live. It's easy enough to reach Fairmont on a Friday after work, and the drive is doable for a short weekend, returning to the city Sunday afternoon.
For a more relaxed visit, plan a trip out to Fairmont over a long weekend (Easter and Thanksgiving are beautiful times to travel here) or reserve one of the deluxe cabins for a week this summer. (It's a great vacation spot!)
Deluxe Cabin Camping at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort
Five Reasons you need to Visit Fairmont Hot Springs Resort with your Family
One. The Hot Springs (of course!!) - some of our favourite in fact!
It's no secret in our family that I love the Fairmont Hot Springs pools and that we will be visiting the resort (no matter where we stay in the Columbia Valley) for at least an afternoon.
Warm Swimming Pool at the Resort (credit: Fairmont Hot Springs Resort)
Reasons to LOVE the Fairmont Hot Springs Pools:
They are hotter than the ones at Radium Hot Springs. And while I do love Radium Hot Springs in the summer, they just aren't hot enough for me in the winter.
The hot soaking pool and the warm swimming pool are side by side so I can spend my time happily soaking in the hotter pool while my son is playing with his friends in the other pool - and I can still keep an eye on them. (My husband also prefers the cooler pool so he's usually over there with the kids.)
There's a dive tank for the summer months! (including a high board which is not common at a hot springs pool)
You can spend the whole day here in summer. You'll find a large grassy area with lawn chairs, poolside cabana rentals, a cabana restaurant (where you can purchase drinks or snacks to enjoy beside the pool) and you can purchase day passes - useful if you're staying at the RV resort next door and want to come and go through the day. There's also a snack bar next door where you can purchase items to go (to enjoy beside the pool.)
And, my personal favourite reason - there's a small shallow "hot tub" in the centre of the hot pool that's a few degrees hotter than the soaking pool. (So don't just plop your babies here.) What you want to do is lie down with your head on one side of the small pool, your feet on the other side, eyes closed, dreaming you're in Mexico.
Winter at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort
AND, if "natural" is more your thing, make sure you check out the Indian Baths, a short walk up the hillside from the Fairmont Hot Springs parking lot. This historic bath house and small bathing pools were popular with early settlers and explorers in the Columbia Valley.
Sunset from the Indian Baths above Fairmont Hot Springs
2. Accommodations for all Comfort Levels, Family Needs, and Budgets We recently spent a weekend in one of the new deluxe cabins(open year round,) located beside the resort in the campground. And lest you think you'll be "camping," these cabins are pretty comfortable. Each cabin has a kitchen with a full sized fridge, a dishwasher, microwave, Keurig coffee maker, stove and oven, and everything you'll need for your family's needs. There's also a barbecue located on the deck of each cabin. Going one step further, the TV also has Netflix on it so you can hang out on the balcony with your glass of wine while the kids are happily entertained.
Deluxe Cabins at Fairmont Hot Springs
The cabins sleep four people and have two bedrooms, one with a queen sized bed for the parents, and the other with bunk beds for the kids. I loved the separate bedrooms because it meant I didn't have to go to bed at 8pm with my son. (The kids went to bed, and us adults could stay up and hang out in the living room.) It also worked out well when my son was awake at 6am the next morning - and needed a place to read books and eat his cheerios (without disturbing this mom's beauty sleep.)
Deluxe Cabins at Fairmont Hot Springs
Spend a few nights in one of these comfortable cabins and wake up to deer grazing outside your door. Start your day with a short walk over to the main lodge for a cup of coffee from Steamers Cafe or enjoy weekend brunch at the Antler's Restaurant. After that, you'll enjoy your proximity to the hot pools which you can easily reach in your bathrobe (adult robes provided in each room.) - bring your own bathrobes for the children.
And when you get tired of cooking, there's a great family-friendly lounge, the Bear's Paw Bar and Grill, in the main lodge. The pizza is incredible so I highly recommend at least one meal here.
Cabin to Hot Springs! (It was a short 2 minute sprint)
Other accommodations at Fairmont Hot Springs include:
Lodge rooms (some with lofts and kitchenettes) - they sleep 4-8 people
Summer duplex-style cabins - they sleep up to 4 people and are dog friendly
Summer cottages - they sleep up to 6 people
Juniper Lodge rooms (with kitchenettes) - they sleep up to 4 people and some are dog friendly.
* All stays include access to the hot pools during your visit including a private hot pool for resort guests only.
** Many of the cabins and cottages work very well for groups or family reunions. Book a bunch of rooms or cabins side by side, bring your lawn chairs, and you can hang out on the lawn visiting while the kids run around and play.
3. Ski and Soak! Downhill Skiing + Hot Springs for the Win! Spend your day at the Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Area and then enjoy the best family après-ski experience in the Rockies! All lift tickets for the ski hill include complimentary entry to the hot springs at the end of your ski day - perfect if you're not staying at the resort since guests already get access to the pools.
Ski and Soak at Fairmont Hot Springs
Family-friendly fun at Fairmont Hot Springs
We spent a day at the ski hill on our recent visit to Fairmont Hot Springs and I was impressed by this "cute little ski hill." The resort has a total of 13 runs ranging in difficulty from green to black, two terrain parks, and a tube park.
There is one triple chairlift which we used most of the time, but my son also liked riding the Happy Trails Platter Lift by himself and skiing the short easy runs off this beginner lift while I'd warm up in the day lodge with a coffee.
While the resort only has a vertical of 304 metres, it's a great hill to learn on, it's affordable for families, and the longest run is 1.5 km long - which isn't bad for a beginner skier making his/her way down a mountain.
Most of the runs were groomed but skiers wanting more of a challenge will find it on the black runs where we definitely found moguls, glades, and the "real deal" for downhill skiing.
Tube Park Fun at Fairmont Hot Springs
We loved the cozy day lodge, the family-friendly lounge, Desperados, and had a lot of fun on the tube park - though do not ask for the spin unless you really like fast amusement park rides! (I was dizzy for an hour after one spin.)
Skiing at Fairmont Hot Springs Family Ski Area
Successful family day in the mountains at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort
4. Bike, Hike, and Soak from April through October!
Summer comes very early to the Columbia Valley and you can be mountain biking on dry trails by mid to late April! There's even green grass by that time. We also come out for Thanksgiving in October because it's definitely still warm and we can even camp.
April at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort
Some of our favourite family-friendly mountain bike trails are located near Fairmont so we always come out here in the spring and fall when it's not quite as hot.
5. Stay at Fairmont Hot Springs and Enjoy a Full Activity Program (year round)
First, you have the hot springs, the ski area, biking and hiking trails nearby, Lake Windermere just a short drive away if you want a beach day, several golf courses in the area, and the Columbia River flowing through the valley for great paddling (or tubing in the summer.) In the winter you can also go ice-skating on Lake Windermere, the world's longest skating path with several loops to choose from.
Add to all of that, the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort also has a full activity program run by the "Activity and Experience Centre."
Hiking along the creek below the resort, a great place to see waterfalls and mineral rich pools
On our recent visit, we could have registered for a family yoga class, participated in a starlight challenge at the ski hill, or watched a family movie in the new games room the lodge has set up in the basement. - and this was all on Friday night alone! There were other activities running throughout the weekend.
Every day the lodge offers a fully equipped games room, grab and go craft bags, scavenger hunts, snowshoe rentals, and ice skating in the winter. Add s'mores nights on the Bear's Paw Patio, family activities and challenges at the lodge or at the ski area, cookie decorating, face painting, and more! There's always something going on - and most of these activities are included with your stay (no extra cost.) - note that there is a charge to rent snowshoes.
Waterfalls below the hot springs at Fairmont
In the summer there are even more activities available including:
Note there are additional charges for most of the activities above and some of them are not guided by the resort. The Activity Centre will connect you with your tour operator though and make reservations for you.
Disclaimer: My family was hosted on our recent visit to the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. Also please note that we have not tried all of the activities mentioned in this story (yet.) It's an ongoing mission of ours to explore every corner of the valley but it's going to take us a few years yet to try everything.
Every day should start with a rollercoaster ride and that's exactly what you'll get when you ski at Panorama Mountain Resort. Ride the Champagne Express Chair first thing in the morning to the top of the fast, and cruisy "Rollercoaster," immaculately groomed each day, and marvel in awe at the scenery spread out around you as you fly down the fresh corduroy, beaming from ear to ear.
Mornings are magical at Panorama Mountain Resort
What's so Awesome about Panorama Panorama Mountain Resort is located 20 minutes outside the Community of Invermere in the Columbia Valley. From Calgary, it is approximately a 3.5 hour drive across the border into British Columbia. We've found that we can easily make it to the resort Friday night for a quick power ski weekend, but that it's definitely more fun to make a long weekend of it.
Panorama has a vertical drop of 1300 metres, top to bottom (4265 feet,) and the longest run is a full 6.5km in length! We love skiing down "View of a Thousand Peaks" as soon as the Summit Quad opens for the day, and I'm always amazed at how fast one can ski down a steep black run when it's been freshly groomed on a weekend. (My husband would say "dangerously fast" in my personal case.)
Summit to base with a vertical drop of 1300 metres and over 5km of skiing in one descent!
On our recent visit to Panorama, we connected View of a Thousand Peaks off the summit to "Zehnder Way" in the Founder's Ridge area, another steep black run that had been freshly groomed, and we marveled at the lack of lift lines (we rode three chairs to access the summit and never waited in a line - on a weekend!) We also expressed complete shock (and delight) that we didn't see a single other skier the entire time we skied down from the summit until we reached the top of the Discovery Quad at the bottom. We enjoyed 5.5km of steep groomed black skiing on that one descent alone, no line ups, and no other skiers in sight. Anybody loading skis in their car yet?
Morning on "View of a Thousand Peaks"
Discover Panorama's Signature Ski Tours Panorama has three signature self-guided mountain tours, and they can each be enjoyed by strong intermediate skiers (customizing the Taynton Bowl Tour slightly for weaker skiers.)
Touring Panorama's Sun Bowl
The Sun Bowl is a fun cruisy place to explore, especially in the afternoon when the sun has warmed up the snow. Most of the runs through the Sun Bowl are intermediate and there are always a few groomed options.
Access is either from the top of the mountain via "Get me Down" (a blue traverse that serves as an escape route off the summit,) or from the top of the Champagne Express Chair via "Upper Canadian Way" (blue) and "Schober's Dream" (black, but groomed.) Skiers not ready for Schober's Dream can also bypass it on "Lower Canadian Way" (a blue traverse that gets your around the steep pitch on Schober's Dream.)
We were lucky on our second day at Panorama and discovered that they'd groomed the very steep "Roy's Run" off the summit, a black run that's usually filled with car sized moguls, and so we were able to link this to Schober's Dream.
Once in the Sun Bowl, opportunities for playful skiing abound and you'll end up at the bottom of the Sunbird Chair (where you can traverse over to the Village after you ride up.)
Access to the fun and playful Sun Bowl at Panorama
Hut to Hut Ski Touring across Panorama Mountain Resort
This has got to be the coolest thing about Panorama, and I always feel like I'm skiing in the Alps. Three chair lifts take you to the summit, climbing 1300 metres, where you'll be greeted by the Summit Hut, a great place to warm up and grab a freshly brewed Kicking Horse Coffee (the best coffee on the planet) before descending either Get me Down (blue) or one of the black runs to the top of the Champagne Express Chair.
Summit Hut at the top of the mountain
From the top of the Champagne Express, fly down Rollercoaster until you come to the Elkhorn Cabin. Here you'll find great views from a historic cabin perched on the side of the mountain. European Raclette is served if you time your visit for lunch, and otherwise, I highly recommend the fresh apple cider!
The historic Elkhorn Cabin perched at the edge of "Rollercoaster" at Panorama
It's a short ski from the Elkhorn Cabin down to the Mile 1 Hut (our favourite place to warm up on cold days with a coffee or hot chocolate.) They also serve great hamburgers at lunch, and this is the easiest hut for a beginner skier to reach off the Mile 1 Express Chair (which has several green runs off it.)
The Mile 1 Hut at the top of the Mile 1 Express Chair, Panorama
Make your way down from the Mile 1 Hut (my son loves to drop down through the giant terrain park off "Horseshoe") and you'll find yourself at the bottom where, you guessed it, there are even more options available for dining and snacking! My personal favourites are the Picnic Cafe for a sandwich or a fresh cup of coffee, or the T-Bar & Grill - which has amazing nachos!
Note that each of these huts is more "restaurant" than just a "warming hut" and that while you can definitely go inside to get warm on a cold day, you should plan on buying a cup of coffee or hot chocolate at the very least if you're going to take up chair space.
If you want an area in which to enjoy your own bag lunch, you'll find plenty of table space in the "Great Hall" in the main Village. Here you'll also find a cafeteria and space to store bags or backpacks.
Picnic Cafe in the Panorama Village
The Taynton Bowl Tour AND Pay Per Ride Cat Skiing I am slowly working my way through the Taynton Bowl Tour but I'm not quite ready for double black skiing off the summit so I usually cheat by dropping down View of 1000 Peaks and Stumbock's, both often groomed, to connect to the Taynton Trail down below. Strong skiers will definitely want to give "Heli High" a try though before making their way further along Outback Ridge.
Views from the Summit of Panorama before dropping into the Taynton Bowl
My husband tried out the new"pay per ride" Monster Cat Skiingon our recent Panorama Trip and enjoyed fresh powder on a wide open (very deserted) run where he said he felt like he was the only person around for miles. (note to self, find him a ski buddy next time!)
Special Monster lift tickets can be purchased in the Village for $14.29 per ride (adult pricing) or for $49 (for a pack of 4 tickets.)
Note that the cat rides are available on weekends only and that you still have to ski/hike your way along Outback Ridge to the staging area where you'll enjoy the final ride up to the top of the Goldie Plateau (roughly 100 metres up from the summit hut.)
From the Goldie Plateau, expert skiers enjoy double black chutes and bowls as they make their way back down to the Village. All runs end up in the main village so you could technically do laps all day.
The Monster X Snow Cat
A Ski Hill for ALL Abilities and Styles Panorama for Beginners Panorama is the ultimate hill for progression with discounted pricing available for the beginner lifts. A Discovery Zone lift ticket gives you access to the Discovery Quad, Silver Platter, Red Carpet, and Little Ripper Carpet.
Graduate from the Discovery Quad, and skiers will then find easy groomed green runs off the Mile 1 Express, the Toby Chair (which also has an amazing terrain park,) and the Sunbird Chair.
The Discovery Zone for Little Rippers
Panorama for Intermediate Skiers I consider myself to be a strong intermediate skier because I prefer to ski groomed terrain (be it blue or black.) Panorama is the ideal ski hill for those who love flowy cruisers, who want a good assortment of groomed runs, and who enjoy steep black runs that have also been groomed.
Views for miles off the "Get me Down" Traverse from the summit
On our recent trip, I was able to ski 9 different advanced black runs, all groomed with beautiful corduroy. This was a record for me, and usually I'm lucky if a ski hill grooms one or two black runs for me.
The terrain at Panorama can be broken down into 20% beginner, 55% intermediate/advanced, and 25% expert, so you can see that it's an intermediate skier's paradise.
Flying down Zehnder Way in Founders Ridge
And lest you start to think that Panorama is only a hill for those who love groomers, despair not. There are plenty of natural runs filled with bumps, glades, and soft powder. My husband and son often split off onto other runs off the top of each chair to chase after terrain that was more challenging than what I was looking for.
My son's favourite run under the Sunbird Chair
Panorama for Expert Skiers My husband would fall into this category and he loves the terrain at Panorama. This is the kind of resort you can ski regularly for years - and still find new places to explore each time you visit. Add the new monster cat skiing, and nobody's getting bored here.
Entrance to the Taynton Bowl and Outback Ridge
Panorama for Skiers who like to "Play" My son loves terrain parks and is usually quick to approve of a ski hill if it has a good park. The Toby Terrain Park is one of the best we've found across the Rockies and we love that it has its own dedicated chairlift, a nice little short one, so you can spend more time playing in the park (and less time riding on the lift.)
There's also a more advanced park off the Mile 1 Express Chair where my son was given very clear instructions to "roll everything!!"
Playing around in the Toby Terrain Park at Panorama
This story has a LOT more photos because it was actually warm enough to take a camera out of a pocket. Our recent trip had weather as cold as -35C with wind chill at the summit so photos were limited.
Read my Family Guide to Panorama to find the location of the kids' secret tree house
Stay in an Authentic Alpine Village with Ski in/Ski out Accommodations This is one of my favourite things about Panorama and it would not be the same to visit for a day without staying on the hill. Stay at the resort and you won't need a car the entire duration of your visit. A small gondola connects the Lower and Upper Village (with free service through the day and evening) and there is no shortage of restaurants spread around the resort. You'll even find a grocery store (with alcohol for purchase) and a take-out pizza restaurant in the Lower Village.
Keep reading to learn more about why you want to spend your ski vacation in the heart of the Panorama Mountain Resort.
First in line for the lifts when you stay in the Village
End your Day in Canada's Largest Slopeside Hot Pools If this doesn't sell staying overnight on the hill at Panorama, I don't know what will. Spend your days skiing and your evenings soaking your sore muscles as you relax in slopeside hot pools (the largest one big enough for kids to swim in!)
Kids love the bigger pool with it's "slightly cooler" temperature and space for swimming or splashing, and adults enjoy the hotter pool beside it (best enjoyed with a beverage in hand while the kids play in the other pool.)
Slopeside Hot Pools at Panorama Mountain Resort
The Panorama Springs Hot Pools are located in the Panorama Springs Condo Building, by far our favourite place to stay so far out of the options we've tried, but access to the pools is included with all stays at the resort. Make a booking with Panorama Lodging anywhere on the hill and you'll get to enjoy the pools as often as you like. (and in summer there's a cold swimming pool with waterslides as well!)
Panorama Springs Hot Pools
Bring the Non-Skiers! Panorama is more than a Ski Hill! We spend many weekends in the Columbia Valley and have visited Panorama for the day several times - without ever purchasing a downhill lift ticket! The beauty of this resort is that you don't actually have to like downhill skiing to enjoy spending time at Panorama. There are dozens of other activities you can try without ever stepping into a pair of ski boots or riding a chairlift.
The reality for many families and groups is that there will often be that one family member who wants to come along on your trip - but who doesn't ski, who prefers snowshoeing, or who likes the peace and quiet found on nordic ski trails. (My mother for example who recently joined us for a weekend at Panorama.)
Bring the grandparents, the baby, the toddler, the whole extended family, or even a spouse who may not enjoy downhill skiing (but still wants to spend the weekend with the family.) There is something for everybody at Panorama!
Try cross-country skiing on the Panorama Nordic Trails
Five Things to do for the Non-Skier at Panorama
One. Step into a different kind of bindings and try cross-country skiing on the Panorama Nordic Trails
And these are GOOD trails, "real" trails, and trails I'd visit even for a day trip. This isn't a case of "ok, you nordic skiers, we groomed you a cute little 3km loop around the ski resort."
We like skiing up to the Pentagon and Hale Huts in approximately 6km round trip from the Greywolf Golf Course. I also love it when my family drops me at the golf course so that I can ski down the Prospector's / Valley Trail back to the Village. (And for those staying in the village, you can ski a 3km loop on the Valley / Prospector's Trails starting in the Upper Village and ending in the Lower Village, riding the Village Gondola back up to the top.)
You can purchase day passes for the nordic trails at Guest Services and they can direct you to the rental shop if you don't have your own skis.
We are big fans of the classic summer road trip, trailer loaded with camping gear for at least a week, kayak and paddleboard mounted on top of our vehicle, and bikes filling the box of our truck. Somewhere we find storage space for our hiking and climbing gear as well, and off we go!
Summer vacation doesn't get much better than this!
The challenge - booking these amazing trips - in February - when there's still snow on the ground! Does anybody even know their vacation schedule yet?
And upfront honesty - there is no hidden agenda in this story, no sponsored links to sunblock companies, no paid endorsements for bug spray... Just my words and me sharing my favourite places to travel with you!
My husband nearly died when I told him our giant peacock was coming with us last year!
We will be visiting every destination featured in this story at some point this coming summer, launching each trip from Calgary, Alberta, and I am beyond excited that 90% of my reservations are already booked. Now I can enjoy the rest of the winter while I dream of happy camping and traveling days to come.
One - North to Jasper National Park (Alberta) Jasper is an annual road trip destination for us (for at least a weekend) and we've been taking a photo of my son and I in the exact same spot every year for the past 8 years! (in hindsight we should have added my husband but it was never intended to become an annual thing.)
The annual photo that we travel to Jasper for every single year!
Highlights of a Trip to Jasper
An easy multi-use trail system that loops the town and surrounding lakes - perfect for novice riders wanting to try some easy mountain biking
Gorgeous calm lakes for paddling
Beautiful hiking trails with something suitable for all abilities
The best nachos in the Canadian Rockies at the Jasper Brewing Company (the beer is pretty good too)
The tramway ride that takes you up Whistlers Mountain will be something you remember for years if you time your visit for a warm sunny day and hike to the summit
Driving the Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic highways in Canada, and stopping at the Columbia Icefields Centre for a tour on the Athabasca Glacier on a giant snowcoach.
Two - Exploring the BEST of the East Kootenays and the Columbia Valley (BC) We spend multiple weekends in the Columbia Valley around Radium Hot Springs every summer. We also plan at least one longer trip to Fernie every summer. The East Kootenay Rockies feel like home to us and we can never spend enough time here.
Mountain biking in the Columbia Valley
Highlights of a trip to the East Kootenays or the Columbia Valley
The most amazing smooth flowy mountain bike trails ever! (my personal opinion of course)
Swimming and paddling with painted turtles at Surveyors Lake
Floating down the Columbia River and camping overnight on an island
Lots of hot springs!!
Warm camping! (as early as Easter some years and as late as Thanksgiving)
Hiking in Radium Hot Springs with views of the Columbia River wetlands
Radium Hot Springs, Invermere, Fairmont Hot Springs, and Golden
Three - Touring the West Kootenays, Nelson and area (BC) We spent a few days exploring the area around Nelson two years ago, and liked Kokanee Creek Provincial Park so much, we returned last year. Playing on the sand spit is an annual summer highlight and it's surreal to be able to walk out into the middle of the lake to play in ankle deep water.
Fun on the sand spit at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park
Highlights of a trip to Nelson and the surrounding area around the West Kootenays
Beach time at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park and hours of fun on the sand spit
Biking on the Great Northern Rail Trail
Paddling on Kootenay Lake, an official paddle route of the Trans Canada Trail
Four - Discovering Vacation Wonderland in the Okanagan (BC) Every year we tell ourselves that maybe we're done with the Okanagan and that we can move on to explore other places. We sit down for a couple of seconds until the feeling passes, and then I go book a campsite. I don't think we'll ever get tired of spending a week here and I suspect my son will remember his time here as some of his happiest summer memories when he's all grown up.
Swim Bay in Peachland, a major summer highlight for us
Highlights of a Trip to the Okanagan
Zip lines, diving boards, and a rope swing at the Swim Bay outdoor aquatic centre in Peachland
Wibit inflatable water parks in Kelowna, Peachland, and Penticton
Floating the channel in Penticton
Beach time and gloriously hot sunny weather
Biking on the Kettle Valley Railway over trestle bridges and through tunnels
Touring Wineries for at least an hour every day (and you can bring the kids)
Biking through the Little Tunnel on the Kettle Valley Railway
Five - South to Idaho, Silverwood, and Farragut State Park (USA) This was a new destination for us last year and we enjoyed the area so much, we're returning this year. We love the Farragut State Park Campground and we're all looking forward to spending a couple more days at the Silverwood Theme Park.
Silverwood water park (by far the best water park we've been to)
Highlights of a trip to Farragut State Park and Northern Idaho
Biking the Route of the Hiawatha, a restored rail trail, with a a tunnel that's 2.7 km long (and pitch black inside!) - downhill rail grade the entire time with a shuttle ride back at the end
Beach time at Farragut State Park (make sure you find the rope swing)
A trip to Silverwood, a giant theme park with an incredible water park
Family biking on the Route of the Hiawatha in Northern Idaho