What to Do in the Mountains in December
You can eat, drink and be merry in the mountains this month with special dinners, wine events and family fun.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas up at the Banff Gondola with seasonal decor everywhere and weekend family programming that includes Santa photos, cookie decorating and crafts.
Photo by Shelley Arnusch
The Banff Gondola’s Sky Bistro restaurant has been doing a series of winemaker dinners on Friday evenings that will conclude on December 7. The dinners start with a sparkling wine and canapé reception and proceed through five courses paired with Okanagan wines presented by the winemakers (yes, you’ll want a hotel room in Banff that night). The dinners are created by the Sky Bistro kitchen team under the direction of executive chef Scott Hergott. The winemaker dinners are $149 per person (includes gondola admission). Upcoming winemakers are Lake Breeze (November 23), Tinhorn Creek (November 30) and Red Rooster (December 7).
100 Mountain Ave., Banff
If you have kids, probably best to skip the winemaker dinner and instead head up the Banff Gondola for the seasonal festivities happening on the weekends leading up to Christmas. In addition to gazing at amazing winter-wonderland scenery that looks like it’s right out of Frozen, kids can decorate cookies, make a Christmas craft and sit on Santa’s knee. Get there early as kids get free gondola admission (one kid per accompanying adult) before noon.
100 Mountain Ave., Banff
Calgary’s own Julie van Rosendaal, cookbook author, blogger, Avenue contributor and media-personality extraordinaire is giving a talk on food culture at artsPlace in Canmore on Thursday, December 6. The event is part of the First Thursdays speaker series and starts at 7 p.m. Admission is free but pre-registration is required.
950 8 Ave., Canmore
There’s a special “Winter Sneak Peek” prix fixe menu right now in the Sleeping Buffalo Dining Room at Buffalo Mountain Lodge, a Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts (CRMR) property in Banff. For $38 (plus tax) you can choose from a starter of Atlantic mussels, beet gnocchi or duck confit, followed by an entree of Arctic char, wild boar or bison short ribs (from bison raised on the CRMR ranch) and of course, dessert (the warm chocolate molten cake with Amaretto ice cream seems like a winner). The Winter Sneak Peek menu will be available until Thursday, December 6.
700 Tunnel Mountain Rd., Banff
Ski resort opening day is a big deal in any mountain town and being first up the gondola on opening day is a special honour. It's so special that at Kicking Horse they raffle off the seats on the first gondola of the season. The hill is scheduled to open this year on Friday, December 7 and you can buy your raffle tickets in the plaza at the base of the hill starting at 7:30 a.m. Tickets are $2 each or three for $5 with proceeds donated to the Golden Food Bank (you get a bonus raffle ticket if you bring a non-perishable food donation). The winner gets to pick four people to join them on the first gondola up, plus they skip lift lines for the rest of the day and get lunch at the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant.
It’s a bit of a trek to get to Sun Peaks from Calgary, but once you’re there, you can park your vehicle and settle into the Tyrolean-style ski-in-ski-out resort nestled in the mountains near Kamloops, B.C. The resort opened for the ski season on November 17 (the first in B.C.) and will be launching a new wine festival, Savour the Sun, on the weekend of Friday, December 7 to Sunday, December 9 in partnership with Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country. Savour the Sun kicks off with a ski-in-ski-out, mid-mountain tasting of hard-to-find wines. Other events include a progressive tasting of sparkling wines and a food-and-wine extravaganza featuring 12 winemakers from the region on the evening of Saturday, December 8 in the resort's newly renovated day lodge.
Buy Lunch off a Snow-cat at Panorama
You’ve heard of food trucks. Well, Panorama Resort has a food snow-cat. The Snowlicious Mobile Kitchen will be serving up things like burritos and other items as well as wine, beer and hot apple cider. Panorama is set to open for the 2018-2019 ski season on December 7 and you’ll be able to find Snowlicious at six different locations around the mountain.
Banff Trail Riders is offering free holiday wagon rides on Saturdays and Sundays until December 9 from noon to 4 p.m. (weather depending). The rides are approximately 15 minutes and depart from right outside the Banff Trail Riders Store on a first-come-first-served basis.
132 Banff Ave., Banff
Norquay ski resort has changed up its discount ski day program for the upcoming season. The former Toonie Days, which offered $2 lift tickets once a month with proceeds donated to charity, were essentially a victim of their success — so many people came out on Toonie Days there wasn’t enough parking space. With that in mind, Norquay’s new monthly discount ski day is based around ridesharing. Cool2Carpool Days will offer skiing for $50 per carload (each passenger must be legally seated), so if you know anyone with a seven-seater vehicle, now’s the time to get back in their good graces. Cool2Carpool launches on Wednesday, December 19 and continues on January 9, February 13, March 13 and April 10, 2019. $2 per ticket issued will be donated to local charities; the charity recipient for December 19 will be Santas Anonymous.
If you love beer as much as you love cheese, why not put them together? The Grizzly Paw craft brewery in Canmore does beer-and-cheese tastings in its Tank310 restaurant (the restaurant inside the brewery, not to be confused with the Grizzly Paw Brew Pub on Main Street). The next tasting events are Friday, December 21 and Saturday, December 22 and Friday, December 28 and Saturday, December 29. The pairing events are $44 plus GST (gratuity included). To book, call 403-678-2487 ext. 3.
310 Old Canmore Rd., Canmore