Tag Archives: Alberta

Because I Was Bored: My Epic Jasper Ski Trip

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In order to have the time to lay out and execute my plan to teach ESL in South Korea, I determined that I needed to quit my job to give myself the breathing space required to satisfy the myriad of steps to secure a Korean work visa and with it, a job.

However, during the ensuing time between leaving my job and boarding the plane to Korea, there was a lot of lag time spent in Calgary going for daily walk in the suburbs, working on my website, and watching Youtube and the Walking Dead. Yawn.

After about a month of this, I was getting restless. The time was ripe for a Jasper ski trip!  For one, there was a ton of powder in the mountains that wasn’t getting shredded … I decided it was up to me to do my solemn Canadian duty to ensure that no line, be it high in the alpine or in a tight glade , went undisturbed.

Second, many of my Jasper friends were still in or near town (the opening photo is a view of the front range of the Rockies from the industrial town of Hinton, Alberta, where two of my former tour guide friends lived), so a visit to these fine folks were definitely in order.

Little did I know, I would get a lot more champagne pow that I had bargained for…!

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First though, I spent some time with my dear friend Brooke and her adorable puppy dog Layla. We spent a couple of days going for long walks through the forests and fields behind her neighbourhood (Canada’s an amazing country, as the wilderness is anywhere from steps to a short drive away from your house!), catching up on the past year, and watching awesome movies!

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I also took the opportunity to drop in on another awesome friend, Stephie!  As a contrast to Brooke’s place, this locale had a distinctly feline flavour.  I would have gotten a better shot of Eddie And Axl Rosie, but they were too busy om nom nom-ing!

After arrival in Jasper and sorting my ski rental for the following morning, I had lunch with another work friend before deciding on my activity for the afternoon: climbing Old Fort Point … in winter!

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The sublime waters of the Athabasca River were made much more effervescent by the slate grey sky above, a harbinger of events to come that weekend.  But first, I had a glacially formed hill to scale first … little did I know that it would be the most harrowing experience of the entire trip!

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It was a tough climb to this point, but the hard packed snow provided enough traction…

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The views of the main range in the distance were quite excellent on this day, but I was more focused on maintaining my balance at this juncture, as the ground underfoot had shifted to mostly glare ice, or loose shale … hurray!

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Made it to the top … now to get down (note to everyone, as well as myself: use crampons next time!) 🙁

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Warming up beside the fire at HI – Whistler’s Hostel (recommended despite the distance from town), I pondered the reports of record snows the next day.  After being skirted by hyped storms in the past, I knew better than to get my hopes up too high…!

Alas, Ullr visited my favourite mountain town with full fury the next day (and the one after that…!)

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It was the day that every powder hound hopes and dreams will happen to them at least once in their lifetime … that particular day struck for me and many other Jasperites at Marmot Basin (it was a weekday, so the city folk were at work, helplessly watching us carve up the sweet, sweet blower…!)

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The view from my favourite cruising black diamond run … the powder hides the skiier created moguls, which form during periods of low snowfall.  Some people treat it like a minefield … I just dive right in!  I need a GoPro 😛

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Slash is one of my favourite runs at Marmot Basin … it starts out innocently enough, and then a steep drop smacks you down just as you’re getting into a comfortable rhythm.  Just attack it – staring over the precipice will only get you in trouble!

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It was a ski selfie kinda day … but it wasn’t over yet…!

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From carving up the powder on the less trafficked blacks and in the turn or die woods, it was a day well lived.  All told, 71 centimetres (2 feet, 4 1/2 inches for any Americanos out there) fell that weekend, stranding me in Jasper for another day.  So, what did I do?  I stayed and skied another day, of course!

No photos on that day though: I focused on soaking in the moment that day … even travel bloggers have to step out from behind the camera sometimes! 🙂

What was your most perfect ski/boarding day in your life like? Share your stoke-filled tale in the comments!

Doing The Teahouse Circuit: Hiking In Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

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With the onset of winter rapidly approaching, I had not truly gotten out into the mountains that much.  Yes, I had gone out on a trip for Labour Day Weekend to see my friends, and I had done a whirlwind tour of Icefields Parkway attractions for you guys, but had not hoofed it through the wilds of the Canadian Rockies yet during that summer, which was a crime in and of itself!

Thus, there I was, standing on the platform of my C-Train at an even earlier hour than when I usually started my weekday commute, bleary eyed and jonesing for some breakfast to bring me out of my semi-comatose state (nothing is open in the suburbs at the hour you see above) before heading off on a weekend of hiking in Lake Louise.

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Eventually, I did get to the Greyhound Bus Station in Calgary that morning, but not without weaving about the streets of the Beltline during the later stages of the witching hour … kinda spooky down there when it is still dark and little activity from the general population.  Anyway, shortly after, our bus begins lurching towards the Rockies and the sun rose shortly thereafter, giving a rousing view that one can only enjoy in harvest season in Alberta!

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Upon arrival, the fresh, COLD mountain air (Lake Louise is the highest settled place in Canada at 1,750 metres above sea level (5,700 feet) granted an invigorating contrast to the air of the city.  Indeed, the overall atmosphere was as if one had stepped through a portal from a harried, loud and stressful realm to one of beauty and peace.

Clearly, I needed this getaway like a fish needs water!

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After paying a king’s ransom for a truck stop lunch ($20 for ordinary chicken fingers and fries) and a couple of 1.5 L bottles of water ($4 per bottle!!), and dropping my main bag off at HI – Lake Louise, I set off up the hill towards Lake Louise (the lake itself … as I was already in town).

I could have taken a cab up to the Teahouse Circuit trail head instead, but (a) fitness, (b) more time in nature (just look at that view above!) and (c) Lake Louise is quite the pricey place, as I’ve already shown in the previous paragraph!

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Upon reaching the lake shore, I briefly paused to take the artiest photos I could, mostly failing in the process. 😛 No matter though, as The Plain Of Six Glaciers and Lake Agnes were the goals on this day, not capturing an overdone portrait…

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The weather in Lake Louise can be fickle, and this day was no exception.  Strolling along Lake Louise saw a brief moment of pleasantness, but that wouldn’t last long…

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… because sure enough, it clouded over again, and a cold drizzle began to drift down from the moody clouds above.  The views more than made up for it though, as I pushed further into the sub-alpine.

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You can’t see it in this pic, but at this point, the drizzle had deteriorated into a full-on torrential downpour, soaking my clothes quite thoroughly.  Thankfully, I had dry clothes in my shielded day pack, but it just goes to show that you have to respect the weather whenever you are in the mountains.  I could have done much better by having rain gear or non-cotton clothes myself … live and learn!

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Completely numb at this point, the sight I had been waiting for appeared in a depression in the glacial plain ahead … the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse!  Here, I dried off and changed clothes, and claimed my hard-earned award … some of the richest chocolate cake you’ll ever eat!  Don’t be put off by the $6 price tag … it’s worth it.

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The Plain of Six Glaciers is located at a dead end in the established trail, making for a good bit of backtracking to get to the junction that would lead to objective #2 on the day: the Lake Agnes Teahouse.  The weather changed once again on the way back, allowing for a spectacular suspended view of Lake Louise from thousands of feet up!

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Along the way, there are innumerable classic views waiting to be captured by your camera.  This is just a taste (lots of standalone photo posts to come from this hike!)

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I finally reached Lake Agnes with a few short hours before sunset, with the climb down all the way to the town still to be completed.  Lake Agnes has no natural inlet, being a tarn lake formed by a melting glacier thousands of years ago and only being partially replenished by snow melt since the initial formation of the lake.  I did manage to get in just in time to buy a cookie before the tea house closed … also recommended!

Ever gone hiking in Lake Louise?  Share your experience below!

Lake Louise’s Other Body Of Water: Paying A Visit To Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Canada

After years of working at Maligne Lake, and with the easy accessibility of Lake Louise, it was a shame that I hadn’t been to one of the Rockies’ most underappreciated bodies of water, Moraine Lake. It’s not that nobody knows about this place, as it was featured on the back of the Canadian dollar bill (before we switched to the less regal-sounding loonie coin), and there is a homely looking resort on the premises.

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It’s just that it languishes in the shadow of its more famous cousin Lake Louise, who has a much more glamorous resort on her shores, along with easier highway access. To get up to Moraine Lake, you have to drive up a winding, precarious (but breathtaking beautiful) mountain road that is only open in the summer time.  Not only that, but in the fall, there are needled trees called larches whose needles turn a golden yellow, drawing hordes of people from nearby Calgary, creating horrific traffic jams.

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So, needless to say, getting here is a matter of timing, patience, and willingness to get off the main track that time starved tourists seem to stay glued to, like a tongue on a icy flagpole. Despite these difficulties though, it is well worth to spend some time contemplating life on the shore here, as the clouds drift over the stalwart peaks, still laden with leftover snow from the previous winter (even though it’s early September), and as the icy cold but impeccably clean lake water laps on the shore, nibbling at your exposed toes.

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Or you can come here for the epic hiking opportunities, but don’t come in a party less than four, as the presence of grizzly bears in the valley where Moraine Lake is located has caused Parks Canada to ban groups smaller than that for safety reasons.

Traveling by your lonesome, or in a small group? Check in at the Lake Louise info centre and register with other randoms so that your party will meet the prescribed size.  It’s recommended that you take some bear spray in too, just in case of a hostile encounter (as long as you make enough noise on the trail though, this shouldn’t happen though).

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To register to hike at Moraine Lake, first head to the info centre, then…

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… head to Moraine Lake (not Lake Louise by accident) and enjoy some of Banff National Park’s most awe-inspiring scenery that you can see via automobile transport!

Ever been to Moraine Lake?

Photo: Peyto Lake’s Unearthly Blue Hue, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park

The Canadian Rockies boasts many gorgeous lakes.  Of them all, perhaps Peyto Lake, located in Banff National Park, is the most brilliant.  Coloured by glacial sediment that has tinged the lake a delightful shade of baby blue, it is a sight that gets the shutters clicking the second you step on the viewpoint from where this photo was taken.

There is a path that will take you down to the lake shore, and I had photos of it that I lost, but I didn’t have time to re-do my trek on this day, as my rental car was due to be returned in mere hours … I’ll have to plan it out better next time I am in Banff National Park!

To reach this beautiful place, head north on the Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise until you reach the Bow Summit area.  In this region, there will be signs indicating that you have reached Peyto Lake … follow the signs to the parking lot, then trek up the paths, and you’re there!  Just be sure to pack a sweater, as it can be quite chilly up there even in the peak of summer!

A Walk Through The Forefield Of The Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Canada

Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, CanadaThe approach to the Saskatchewan Glacier at the Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Canada.

Lying almost on the border of Jasper and Banff National Parks alongside the highway that bears its name, the Columbia Icefields are the most visited attraction in Jasper National Park, and the second most trafficked destination in the Canadian Rockies, only bested by the more convenient Lake Louise.  Were it not for the distance involved in getting here, and the lack of a luxury hotel (though you can stay here in relatively basic but clean accommodations for upwards of $270/night in the high season and as little as $140/night in the low season), its visitation numbers might be higher.

Mountains in the Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Canada

Here you have access to the land above the trees, where you can pick over rocky scree slopes that were once previously glaciated, and feel the bone-chilling glacial water that populates the outlet rivers and lakes formed by the nearby Saskatchewan Glacier.

Mountains in the Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Canada

Walking along this relatively barren landscape, your mind shifts to the introspective aspects of its mission, evaluating one’s life to this point, and focusing on what one needs to do to advance to greater things in the future…

Mountains in the Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Canada

Staring up at the ice that has accumulated over centuries and millennia of cold, snowy winters, one can’t help but be in awe of the chilled beauty that supplies that dry portions of the Canadian West with the water they need to survive from year to year, while providing them a legendary place to go and be at one with the wildness of nature.  All the more reasons to do what we can to reduce our impact on a warming climate to the lowest extent possible!

Ever been to the Columbia Icefield?  Have a humbling glacier in your backyard? Tell us about it in the comments below! 

The Tangle Falls Area: The Most Underrated Part Of Jasper National Park

The Columbia Icefield, located across from Tangle Falls

As you approach the southern border of Jasper National Park, the mountain scenery begins to get more epic.  After crossing the flood plain of the Sunwapta River near Beauty Creek, the road begins to climb towards the Columbia Icefields.  Before reaching this national park’s best-attended attraction, nature puts on a spectacle on the side of the road.

I’m not sure if parts of this are even accessible (the pull off from where I took the photo above) anymore without paying an admission fee to the newly constructed Skywalk (opening Spring 2014), but the views are no less stunning in spite of that.  Observe as the ice sheet of the Columbia Icefield spills over the side of the mountain plateau on which it sits.  Trips out onto the ice are available from guides in Jasper, but don’t attempt this yourself: guides have intimate knowledge of the crevasses that crisscross this area, which if fallen into can cost you your life.

Tangle Falls area, Jasper National Park, Canada

Views of the mountains are quite stunning in this area, so don’t be in a rush to get to your destinations further south: stay a while and breathe in the pine needle scented air and relax!

Tangle Falls

A little further down the road lies the lesser known Tangle Falls, despite being stationed at the side of one of Canada’s busiest tourist drives.  This beauty is just hiding in plain sight, begging you to come closer and experience its wild nature close up…

Afterward, it was time to leave and carry on down the Icefields Parkway to the next point of natural interest.  It was with some reluctance, though, as I was graced with this view as I made my way back to my oversized Dodge Grand Caravan…

Tangle Falls area, Jasper National Park, Canada

Ever been to Tangle Falls on your journey up/down the Icefields Parkway? What did you think?

In Motion: The Power Of Athabasca Falls In Jasper National Park

Athabasca Falls In Jasper National Park is a sight that needs to be seen to be fully appreciated

After a fun-filled long weekend catching up with friends in Hinton and Jasper, Alberta, Canada, it was time to head back to the big city of Calgary.

The great thing about this is that the way back home traveled on one of the most beautiful drives on Earth, The Icefields Parkway.

One of the first major attraction of this scenic byway is the powerful Athabasca Falls, which inspires and humbles the soul all in one go.

It is a sight to be admired, but from a distance: many people over the years have slipped on the wet rocks and fell to their untimely deaths.

The water is ice-cold and the gorge produces a washing machine-like effect.  Appreciate this force of nature, but respect the barriers and don’t get too close!

If you can’t get away to the Canadian Rockies anytime soon, watch the video and feel the cool mist of this glacial river on your face…!

What is your favourite waterfall?  Feel free to link to your blog post on it, or anybody else’s in the comment section below!

Maligne Lake – The Hidden Gem Of The Canadian Rockies

Maligne Lake Jasper National Park CanadaMaligne Lake, as seen from a viewpoint on the Lakeshore Trail, in Jasper National Park

During my transformation from your average working man to a global and outdoor adventurer, I took a job driving boats and giving tours on Maligne Lake, located at the end of 55 kilometre dead end road in Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies. The nature of its location, away from the main tourist trail further south near Banff, and the journey to get there turns off most time-constrained or lazy travelers … that is their loss, as Maligne Lake is a place of raw beauty, of peace, and of abundant wildlife.

Those that plan ahead and make the trip are amply rewarded … this post will aim to get you to steer your sails in the direction of this emerald-green gem in Jasper’s crown, for she will seduce you with her beauty, leading to many returns in the future and rave reviews to family and friends!

Tour boats at Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Canada

After buying a ticket from the head office, stroll down the brick pathway and be boarded by very friendly and knowledgeable guides (many of which I know personally still at this time of writing!)  Take your seat aboard one of seven possible boats, all of which are heated, because it gets cold here …

Snow in July 2010, Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Canada

… even in July (23 centimetres fell over two days in 2010 when this photo was taken)! Most of the time, the weather is quite enjoyable, if a bit brisk.  Maligne Lake is at 5,500 feet (1,700 metres) in elevation, so it is a hill station in terms of weather when you compare it to Jasper, as temperatures are 3-5 degrees cooler than in town.  Bring a hoodie or a coat, just in case.

Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Canada

Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Canada

The cruise takes you 14 kilometres down the 22 kilometres long lake, with ample vistas of towering snow-capped mountains everywhere you look, as the boat heads into a rare example of a box canyon (where a mountain range wraps around in a “U” shape) that has a lake in its core. The second photo above shows where our boats cannot go, as Parks Canada limits our operations as a compromise that keeps part of the lake away from the noise impact of our diesel motors.

Spirit Island Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kiwi_cam/

The destination of your journey is the world famous Spirit Island, which graces the desktop backgrounds of many computers around the world, and after Lake Louise is one of the images most strongly associated with the Canadian Rockies.  Which is amazing, considering how many fewer tourists make it up here compared to Lake Louise, but shhhhhh!  Don’t tell anybody else that, ok?  Don’t want to start a stampede or anything…

Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Credit: http://www.whyvisitcanada.com/

If you have a canoe and some camping gear though, you can get a camping permit from Parks Canada and go back there yourself to Coronet Creek, where a backcountry campsite will have you leaving with the idea of what it truly feels like to be alone in an expansive wilderness, apart from all other influences of man!

Canoeing in Maligne Lake Jasper National Park

If you not up to the 22 kilometre in, 22 kilometre out epic paddling journey, you can still see a lot within the northern confines of the lake within an afternoon.  Rent a canoe, kayak or rowboat from the boathouse and explore numerous hidden coves and islands.  Don’t forget to take a rod and reel if you are a fisherman/woman (get a license from Parks first though) and stake out a hidden spot and pull in one of the many brook or rainbow trout in the lake – they were stocked in the lake many generation ago and have thrived since then!

Maligne Lake Jasper National Park

If you’re planning an itinerary to the Canadian Rockies, leaving this place off your list would be a sin.  Even you just hike around the head of the lake and have lunch at the cafe on-site, it will still make for a very memorable afternoon!

Have you ever been to Maligne Lake?  Feel free to share your stories below!

Chill Out And Go Rafting In Calgary, Canada Next Summer!

The Elbow River is a great place to Go Rafting In CalgaryRafters float down the Elbow River in Calgary, with nary a care in the world…

In Calgary, summer is a short season. In a part of the world where snow has fallen on the city in August, a warm day is not wasted, nor taken for granted. With its close proximity to the Canadian Rockies, interest in outdoor recreation is much higher than many other urban centres in Canada. As such, one of the favorite activities of locals over the years has been to take a raft, blow it up, and set sail one one of two rivers that flow through the metropolitan area (The Bow and Elbow Rivers) and float along for several hours with friends and family, eventually arriving in the downtown area, where drinks and food are had before packing up and heading home.

If you want to go rafting in Calgary next summer, while making new local friends in the process, follow the steps below, and hopefully, we’ll see you join the Pirates of the Bow/Elbow next season!

1) Tell Your Friends – If you are living in the area and you want to go rafting in Calgary, let your friends know that you are interested in doing this. Usually, many people wait for someone to assume the mantle of organizer, rather than try to take the “responsibility” of doing it themselves. If they don’t glom on like you hoped, or if you are traveling in the area and don’t know anybody, and your hostel mates barely look up from their phone/laptop, then it’s time to get on the internet. Fire up meetup.com and search for groups that get together regularly to go on river rafting trips, like this one. Alternatively, you could also head over to Craigslist Calgary and post an inquiry on the community forum.  Yeah!

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2) Get The Gear – Next, you need a raft (probably bigger than the one pictured above if you got friends with you 🙂 ).  To fix this essential problem, there are many sports gear shops in Calgary that rent out rafts and associated gear for the day.  The times I have gone on the river, I didn’t deal directly with the retailer, but this Google search should get you started 😉

3) Get The Raft To The River – This is a two parter if you can swing it.  Ideally, get a friend to park a car at your take out point (a popular place is Prince’s Island Park downtown) so you can have easy transit back to where you started your adventure.  DON’T INFLATE THE RAFT UNTIL YOU GET THERE.  Seems obvious in retrospect, but it makes things easier, trust me! 🙂 If you don’t have two cars, a taxi will suffice, despite the added cost.

poe_parrafcalcanCredit: cuppojoe_trips (flickr.com)

4) Blow Up The Raft, And Go Rafting In Calgary – Get out on the river and have fun!  Just don’t be stupid like the folks above and forget to bring or wear life jackets!  The water of the Bow can be shallow in places, leading to a false sense of security.  It is always ice-cold, so if you get swept away by the current and can’t swim, you’ll be in serious danger of either drowning or succumbing to hypothermia.  Bear in mind that alcohol is also officially banned (as is all open alcohol in public) on the river, and police boats actively patrol looking for lawbreakers.  If you decide to bring some adult pops with you, exercise discretion and don’t draw attention to yourself, again, like these guys (I’m sure they are awesome people otherwise 🙂 )

Calgary is a city that worships the summer when it arrives, as the other 8 months of the year often feature winter weather in part or full effect.  If you want to go rafting in Calgary, just do it – join the locals in making the most of the bright and warm days out on the waters of the Bow and Elbow Rivers!

Have you ever rafted some awesome rivers in your neck of the woods?  Do they have the scene that Calgary does?  Let us know about it all below!

A Must For Sports Enthusiasts In Calgary: Canada Olympic Park

Canada Olympic Park, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaCalgary’s Canada Olympic Park – a place of celebration of Canada’s first Winter Olympics. 2013 marked the 25th anniversary of the 1988 Games.

25 years ago, Calgary hosted the first Winter Olympic Games in Canadian history. It seems so long ago, when as a seven-year-old, I watched the world’s best athletes compete against each other in a sporting and competitive manner … in my pajamas, seated on the floor of my living room. It was to ignite a nascent interest in sport for me, which was vital to an adulthood filled with physical activity, seeing how I was raised in a household where athletic activity wasn’t emphasized.

Fast forward almost a generation later, after Canada hosted one of the most successful Olympics ever in Vancouver, and seeing how I was currently living in Calgary, it would be a travesty to leave this city in the future with seeing one of my countries’ most prized pieces of sports history.

After a scramble down a ravine, crossing the Bow River on a pedestrian bridge and a wander through the neighbourhood of Bowness, there I was on the doorstep of Canada Olympic Park. Let’s take a look around, shall we?

Canada Olympic Park, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaThe slopes of Canada Olympic Park, used then and now for skiing events (not the downhill alpine races, though, those were held in the Rockies, 1 hour to the West). Nowadays, in the summertime, mountain bikers tear down the steep pistes of the Bow River Valley.

Trampolines, Canada Olympic Park, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaGot kids? Set’em loose on the bungee trampolines. Kids love trampolines!

Ski Jumps, Canada Olympic Park, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaA close-up shot of the ski jumps, which can be seen at many points throughout Calgary’s NW. Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, a British skier became known forever for his heroic, yet very short jumps here, becoming a legend and inspiration to underdogs the world over!

Hockey Canada training centre, Canada Olympic Park, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaNew construction has popped up at Canada Olympic Park since the conclusion of the 1988 Olympics, as a new arena complex was constructed to play host to Team Canada’s operations in hockey. Here, a practice session for elite girl hockey players is in session on the ice below.

Hockey Canada training centre, Canada Olympic Park, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaThe view of the new arena complex from the outside, as the afternoon wears on, evidenced by the lowering sun.

Canada Olympic Park, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaIn 1988, we hosted the world. What I would have given to have been there!

After remembering the excitement that unfolded 25 years ago, and seeing the tremendous Games put on in Vancouver just 3 1/2 short years ago, it stokes my fire to attend at least one Olympic Games in my lifetime.

What about you? Have you ever attended an Olympic Games in person? If you have, tell us all about in the comments, will ya?