When it comes to romantic destinations, most tend to think of warmer climates with their toes in the sand and the sun glistening their lotion-covered skin. While romance can be found and enjoyed at any destination around the world, a snow-filled escape to the glorious and majestic Canadian Rockies in the Alberta province proved to be the perfect kind of romance Tor and I were looking for. Who needs the beach when you can have romance in the snow? Keep reading to find out why Alberta quickly became one of our all-time favorite winter destinations.
We are no strangers to Alberta, however it had been some time since either of us had stepped foot inside the province. When Tor and I first started dating, he was filming a television show in Alberta (“Heartland”) and I would come visit him on set after flying in from Vancouver. Despite those set visits, we never made it to the mountains. I had admired them from afar on the hustle and bustle of the film set and knew that one day I’d like to see what lies within them. As it turns out, those mountains boast some of the most romantic adventures you could ever ask for. Together with Travel Alberta, we fell in love with Alberta all over again on our week-long escape to the region, and we find ourselves yearning for another experience of romance in the snow within the Canadian Rockies.
After flying into Calgary via Air Canada, we picked up our rental car at the airport and drove the hour long journey from the flat, sprawling prairies to the breathtaking and intimidating mountains of the Canadian Rockies. The mountains would be our home for the next week, and our timing could not have been more perfect. We arrived on a gorgeous sunny day, where the air was cold and crisp but exceptionally clear. Despite some clouds here and there with the sun playing a game of peek-a-boo, the snowcapped mountains and light dusting on the trees proved we had entered the winter oasis we had been yearning for.
We immediately checked into the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge, which is located in the heart of Kananaskis Village. After a quick snack and a sip of crisp Sauvignon Blanc at the bar, we bundled up in our warmest winter apparel and packed up our camera equipment for an evening of astrophotography up in the mountains. Our Kananaskis Outfitters guide, Claude, led us on a starry expedition with a short hike through the hills to an open valley beneath the mountains. No village or city lights were going to interrupt our view of the heavens. The stars were numerous, yet they felt so close and intimate that for a brief moment you felt as if they were close enough to touch with your fingers. Illuminated by the full moon, we gazed upon the night sky for a good hour sipping hot tea and munching on maple cookies (very appropriate for Canada). We also were lucky enough to catch glimpses of a comet and two meteors, resulting in a few wishes being made.
The next day was all about relaxation. With a surprise snowfall that managed to last the entire day, we donned our bathing suits and visited the Kananaskis Nordic Spa. Since Tor and I have traveled extensively across Scandinavia and Iceland, we are very familiar with Nordic Spas. These spas are thermal baths that vary in temperature, with the process being to gradually make your way from hot to cold as a form of rejuvenating the body. While the process may not exactly sound the relaxing, we can promise you that it really is (even when you dip into the 37 degree F cold pool). As the snow continued to fall, we bounced around to the different pools and even managed to enjoy the Finnish sauna (which brought us back to our Finland days one year ago) and the winter hammocks (where I managed to fall asleep for 45 minutes!). In between sessions in the thermal baths, we donned our tartan robes for a relaxing lunch at the spa lodge of potato soup and Sauvignon Blanc by the fire.
After two beautiful days in Kananaskis country, we packed up our bags on a very snowy morning and jumped into our SUV for the hour-long drive to Banff.
Picture a quaint village town nestled amongst towering mountains that seem too impossibly grand to be real. And within the edges of that town lies a magnificent hotel, almost a castle, high up through the trees that feels as if royalty lives there. This is the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, our home for the next few days in the picturesque ski town of Banff. We arrived on the most gorgeous of days, as a massive snowstorm had made an unexpected arrival and showered us with snowflakes for hours on end. The snow bunny in me thrives in this kind of weather, as I always find romance in the snow.
With the snow being too heavy, sadly we were unable to travel up the Banff Gondola for a spectacular, bird’s eye view of the region. Instead, we headed into town where we stopped at Park Distillery for a delicious burger lunch and a bit of a whiskey tasting. With the snow still falling, we returned to the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel where we had some rest in the Gold Lounge (the hotel was kind enough to host us on their premier concierge floor with a private lounge) playing Scrabble by the fire and drinking wine before dinner. With town being only a 5 minute drive away, we dressed up for dinner and headed to The Bison Restaurant in the village where we sampled Alberta beef and of course, bison.
The next morning, we took our time getting up and decided to start our day the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont. Similar to the Nordic Spa we experienced in Kananaskis, these baths were mostly indoors except for one outside. With the fresh snow surrounding the pool and the first glimpse of sunshine glittering on the new white powder, we spent most of our morning in the outdoor thermal bath. We headed into town for lunch at the Maple Leaf Grill, which came highly recommended. While Tor stayed healthy with a salad, I devoured the most delicious spaghetti and meatballs.
For dinner, we dressed up a bit fancy to dine at 1888 Chop House inside the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. With a table beside the window and a roaring fireplace not too far away, we enjoyed an intimate dinner nestled together sipping red wine and sampling some of Alberta’s standout cuisine.
Despite it being hard to say goodbye to Banff, our romantic escape in the region was not over yet as we still had one more destination to experience together – Lake Louise.
30 minutes north of Banff, Lake Louise is quite a famous destination already. In the summertime, the famous lake after which the town is named is a stunning turquoise blue. Surrounded by some of the tallest mountains in the range, and enough evergreens to decorate said mountains, the lake is one of the most famous destinations posted on Instagram. And while most people think it’s only worth trekking to the lake in summer, it is also worth trekking to in the winter. While the lake is frozen over and covered in snow, it is still a worthwhile sight to see. The mountains are covered in pristine white, the undeniably blue sky dominates above, and the lake becomes a beautiful playground for ice skaters and horse rides. We enjoyed one of those horse rides around the sprawling lake with Brewster Adventures, having a one-horse open sleigh all to ourselves (and just in time for Christmas).
After a royal-esque lunch at the Fairmont Lake Louise, overlooking the magnificent lake and all the ice skaters twirling about, we made our way to our final hotel for our trip – the Post Hotel. This gorgeous boutique hotel tucked along the riverbanks gave us all the snowy log cabin vibes we had been craving for months. Talk about epic romance. We arrived during a heavy snowstorm, with all the Christmas decorations and Christmas lights dancing in the snow. The hotel was kind enough to even set up and decorate a real Christmas tree in our suite, which made me squeal like a little girl as Tor prepared a fire in our fireplace beside it.
We dined at the Post Hotel for our final two nights in Alberta, with the menu boasting some of our favorite delicacies including truffle potato soup and a roast chicken dish so perfectly juicy and divine that I wanted to meet the chef and ask for his secrets. Another hit was the wine list, as it totals over 2000 different kinds of wine from around the world. The sommelier was kind enough to escort us down into the wine cellar, where we got a glimpse of the 26,000 bottles stored on property, including a port wine from the mid 19th century!
For our last full day in Alberta, it was time to take my ultimate test as the wife of a Canadian – skiing. The last time I went skiing was back in Finland, which happened to be my very first time on the slopes. With the sun shining down brightly on us and the majestic Canadian Rocky Mountains all around us, we couldn’t have ended our trip on a more perfect day. My ski instructor Dave was kind enough to help me out with turns, which he claimed I was starting to look like a pro. There were moments I had to stop and admire the beauty of the environment around us, as it all seemed like it was out of a dream. After this ski day, I can officially say I am addicted to skiing and that I cannot wait for my next attempt on the slopes. After spending a half day getting my ski legs back (get it?), we enjoyed an incredible sushi lunch with my ski instructor overlooking the slopes before we headed back to the hotel for some romantic relaxation.
After one magical week in Alberta, it was time for us to head back to Vancouver for the holidays, with both of us leaving a piece of our heart in Kananaskis, Banff, and Lake Louise. Alberta is so stunningly beautiful, with its environment alone being romantic enough for two lovers to spend quality time together surrounded by mountains, snow, and peace.
Check out our Alberta travel guide for all of our recommendations to book your own trip.