Canada has reopened its borders to all fully vaccinated travellers – just in time for the best season, says Liz Connor.

Alberta is famous for its pristine wilderness and postcard-perfect scenes of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains towering over glassy lakes.

Famously a summer destination, it can be difficult to get around in peak season, with some of the most iconic viewpoints – like Lake Louise – causing lengthy traffic jams and a fight for parking spaces.

In winter, however, the province becomes an empty playground for adventure lovers when the temperature drops, offering adrenaline-thrilled winter sports and spectacular frozen views.

Touch down in Edmonton

The capital of Alberta, and its second-largest city, is more than just an overnight stopover en route to wilder, more remote parts of the region. I spend three days in this vibrant urban city, easing myself into the adventure lifestyle and discovering a smart holiday destination in its own right.

Less than an hour’s drive from the city you’ll find Elk Island, a National Park where you’re guaranteed to spot majestic bison, elk, moose and white-tailed deer free roaming in its lands.

Edmonton is a young and creative city sure to delight any urbanite, with great coffee, hyper-local foodie spots and Instagrammable street art. Food-wise you’re spoilt for choice, and it’s easy to spend your days eating and drinking your way from breakfast through to dinner and cocktails. Highlights include craft beer taproom Situation Brewing (, hipster gin distillery Strathcona Spirits (, brunch haven Little Brick ( and boozy eatery Baijiu ( which serves Asian-inspired small plates and very good cocktails.

Hole up in the JW Marriot in Edmonton’s hottest new downtown area, ICE District. With design-conscious interiors, impeccable service and a destination cocktail bar, it’s the place to enjoy some luxury R’n’R before launching yourself into the Canadian wilderness.

Make Jasper your adventure base

It’s a scenic, four-hour drive from Edmonton to Jasper, the largest National Park in the Canadian Rockies with 11,000 square kilometres of untouched wilderness and one of the world’s largest accessible dark sky preserves. Here, you can appreciate twinkling constellations and, if you’re very lucky, the aurora borealis.

Ice climbing is one of the more unusual winter thrills you can try. Rockaboo Mountain Adventures offer day-trips that involve a hike through Jasper National Park to a hidden frozen waterfall, where you can safely have a go at heaving yourself up the rugged sheet of ice using crampons and ice axes.

I spend another memorable day trip on an Ice Bubbles Tour with Pursuit Adventures, hiking my way to the ice bubbles of Abraham Lake and the narrow canyon of the Cline River.

Jasper itself is a sweet little Alpine town with cute shops and cafes, and even a wellness centre with yoga and meditation classes. When it’s time to bed down, head to the Mount Robson Inn, a sweet little motel with hot tubs and views of spectacular mountain ranges.

Ski and snowshoe in Banff and Lake Louise

Known for having some of the finest ski powder in the world, Banff is Canada’s first national park and is part of a Unesco World Heritage Site. The three-hour drive itself is regarded as one of the most scenic in the world.

The iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel is the place to stay in the area - a luxury mountain resort famously overlooking the frozen lake and surrounding mountain peaks.

The snowy trails around Banff National Park are just the place to try snowshoeing, a giggle-inducing activity that involves wearing footwear that looks and feels like strapping on two mini skis. The idea is that the weight-distributing shoes stop you from sinking into the snow, but there are inevitably slips, skids and hilarious wipe-outs as you attempt to tramp your way through the harsh winter conditions.

I also try skiing at Lake Louise ski resort – one of the largest ski areas in North America, with gentle slopes for beginners, right up to chutes, glades and gullies for experts.

Elsewhere, Banff has its own sky gondola to the summit of Sulphur Mountain, offering panoramic views of the Rockies. Make a booking at the Sky Bistro ( – a dining sanctuary in the sky with locally-sourced meats and produce, and an extensive wine list.

Before the final drive to Calgary airport, a 90-minute car journey from Lake Louise, there’s one last winter challenge to take on – snow tubing. The adrenaline-fuelled sport involves sandwiching yourself into an inflatable rubber ring with up to three other people and holding on for dear life as you’re launched down a snowy hill.

Summer might be the most popular time to photograph Alberta, but winter really is the best way to experience it. Whether you sled, snowboard, snowshoe or tube your way around the landscape, it’s an exhilarating breath of fresh air that you’re sure to want to revisit.

How to plan your trip

Bon Voyage (; 0800 316 3012) offers an 11-night fly-drive holiday to the Canadian Rockies from £2,395 per person, based on two adults travelling. Valid for travel in February 2022, the package includes room-only accommodation, return economy flights from London to Calgary, some activities and 4×4 car hire rental.