The Fairmont Banff Springs hotel is a magical place any time of year, but during the Christmas season it’s really something special. You can get into the holiday spirit at the castle during Festive Nights on November 29, December 6 and December 13. From 5 to 9 p.m. on these three Friday evenings, the visiting public can enjoy hot cider and cookies, crafts with Mrs. Claus, outdoor skating with Santa on the frozen pond and a tour of one of Santa’s Suites, seasonally decorated spaces at the hotel that are normally reserved for bookings but will be open for viewing during Festive Nights.
Castle Mountain Resort in southern Alberta made a major investment in top-to-bottom snowmaking infrastructure in advance of the 2019-2020 winter season, which is a big part of why their official opening day is a week earlier this year, currently set for Saturday, December 7. In addition to the new snowmaking, Castle also did some recent renovations to its T-Bar Pub, one of the most authentic après-ski bars out there. Castle’s Wonder of Winter Card for $79.95 is one of the best deals going: cardholders get an unlimited number of days of 50 per cent off lift tickets (no blackouts!), and a schwack of other discounts such as 10 per cent off Powder Stagecoach Cat Skiing, and 20 per cent off “last tracks” snowshoe tours, snow-cat tours and group lessons.
If you’re one of those skiers who can make it down expert-level terrain but you just don’t look all that stylish while you’re doing it, then the Ski with the Pros Workshop at Panorama may be just what you need to up your game. The adult improvement workshop runs Friday, December 6 through Monday, December 9 and includes coaching by Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance level 3 and level 4 coaches and special guest coaching by pro skier and trainer Claire Challen. Workshop registration is $549 per person and includes instruction, daily après and a wrap-up banquet (participants are responsible for their own lift-tickets, ski equipment and accommodations). To book call 1-800-663-2929.
The Banff Gondola’s Mountaintop Christmas festivities are now running weekends through Sunday, December 22. The family-friendly fun includes Santa photos and cookie-decorating at the Summit. All events are free with gondola admission and kids ride the gondola free before noon.
Early season at Lake Louise Ski Resort is all about the FIS World Cup skiing races, with the men’s races running November 30 and December 1 and the women’s races running December 6 to December 8. If you’re heading there during the women’s race weekend on December 7, you’ll be able to catch the Parka Patio Party at the Kokanee Kabin, which will feature $2 tasters of local craft beers and spirits. Keep in mind as well that kids under 12 ski free on World Cup race days with purchase of an adult lift-ticket (up to two kids per adult, kids must be present at purchase).
Canmore-based theatre artist and gallery co-owner Bridget Ryan is doing a seasonal cabaret show this year. The Joy to the World Christmas Cabaret is a 90-minute performance featuring songs, stories, surprise guests and gifts. Joy To The World runs Tuesday, December 10 to Sunday, December 22 nightly at 7:30 p.m. in the intimate Carter-Ryan Gallery and Live Art Venue on Main Street. Tickets are $25 to $65, available through Eventbrite. Carter-Ryan Productions is also behind the seasonal production of A Christmas Carol running November 29 to December 28 at the Fairmont Banff Springs.
Altitude is a big-ticket holiday party on Friday, December 13 at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The $299 price tag (per person) includes party entry and accommodation on the night of the event, along with a welcome cocktail, dinner and breakfast the next morning. The entertainment lineup features performances by singer-songwriter (and member of the Avenue Top 40 Under 40 class of 2013) Michael Bernard Fitzgerald and DJ Lee Foss.
The CP Holiday Train is an annual fundraising initiative in which musical artists board a CP train and set out on a cross-country journey, performing free concerts at multiple stops along the way, while collecting donations for food banks. This year, Canadian recording artists Terri Clark and Dallas Smith will be aboard when the train makes several stops in the Crowsnest Pass and Elk Valley on December 11 (it’s scheduled to pull into Fernie at 4:45 p.m.) If you miss them there, you can catch them on December 13 when the train makes scheduled stops in Radium Hot Springs at 6 p.m. and Golden, B.C. at 8:45 p.m.
For those who would rather be shredding than wrapping presents, Norquay ski area in Banff has your back this year. Friday, December 20 to Sunday, December 22, anyone with a valid Norquay lift ticket or season’s pass can drop off their presents at the Cascade Lodge between 9 a.m. and noon for free gift wrapping and then pick them up at the end of the ski day at guest services. If you need a couple extra stocking stuffers, the Norquay retail store is offering 10 per cent discounts during those days. As long as you finish shopping by noon, you can get those items wrapped, too.