Just an hour west of Calgary, lies a place where civilization as you know it disappears. The beauty of the Rocky Mountains envelopes you , the air is scented with pine, and the reception bars on your cellphone wink out, one by one. You are officially on your own.
Kananaskis is often overlooked with nearby Canmore and Banff offering the comforts of big city life while enjoying the relaxation and scenery of the mountains. But after making a visit to Kananaskis Village and taking in the adventures the area has to offer, we're certain you will be back over and over again.
The YEG Fitness family took a 3 day adventure to the beautiful Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge in the early fall when there were still leaves on the trees after a late summer snow fall. The drive in to Kananaskis Village is one that takes you off the busy Trans Canada Highway so you can appreciate the beauty of the area. It gives you the opportunity to leave the busy city life behind get a feel for the adventure that awaits.
Upon arrival at the Lodge, we were greeted by a friendly staff that helped us with our gear and settle into our room. We were booked into the Bi-Level Loft with 2 Queen Beds which was both modern and spacious. This bi-level loft includes two queen beds and bathroom on the upper level and separate downstairs living space with sofa bed, dining area, bathroom, and fireplace. The private balcony allows you to take in the awe-inspiring mountain views.
We checked in for the Thanksgiving long weekend and took in their take on an authentically Canadian campfire. A hosted evening social mixer; complete with apple cider and hot chocolate for the kids (and a bottle of Mission Hill Pinot Noir for the adults) where guests gathered to connect with the great outdoors and enjoy campfire snacks and live entertainment. Our visit was timed perfectly so we could enjoy the stories of Patagonia ambassador and high alpine climber Barry Blanchard. Barry spent the next hour sharing his stories of adventure exploring the local mountain ranges and his climbs around the world.
Jr. YEG Fitness had been hounding us the whole drive down to hit up the pool so we grabbed our suits and headed to the pool and hot tub area before heading to dinner. Phase One of what looks to be an indoor waterpark was recently completed with the rest of the waterpark set to open this winter. From the looks of it, we'll be back to enjoy the full experience. For our visit, we enjoyed some time in the indoor pool then headed outdoors to enjoy the fresh air and a soak in the hot tub under the stars surrounded by the mountains. Beautiful...
Dinner on our first night was at Forte. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the dining room is the perfect setting for a delicious, Italian style meal, in a casual and sophisticated space. We started with the steamed mussels and wood fired bread and caprese salad to start. The fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes complemented the huge serving of mussels that our son fuelled up on. A bone in veal chop and braised beef short rib papardelle were the perfect way to enjoy our first evening in Kananaskis Country.
After dropping of Jr YEG Fitness in the room for the night, we headed down to Blacktail Bar for a nightcap. This was the perfect spot to wind down after a day on the road and exploring the trails in the area. Great cocktails and snacks (and the Oiler's game on TV).
We started the day off with room service after enjoying a great sleep. The beds in our suite were perfect with the pillow top mattresses that gave us the chance to have a good rest before the busy day ahead. Room-service awaited for us on our first day and the menu was filled with the comfort foods you try to cook for yourself on the weekend, but who doesn't love room service in a great hotel. The Woodsman was a great option for myself as I knew there would be a lot of hiking and outdoor exploring to be done that day. Pancakes with fresh berries did the trick for the rest of our group.
After breakfast, we were met by Claude who is the co-owner of Kananaskis Outfitters. We spent the next 3 hours enjoying the beauty of Kananaskis country on our hike up through Grotto Canyon. After a snowfall earlier in the week, everything was covered with a blanket of white and the waterfalls at the end of the trail had just started to freeze which created a beautiful photo opportunity (although this would be best leaving your camera at home so you could just enjoy the sights.)
Claude was an amazing guide sharing stories of the area and with his knowledge of the biology in the region, made for great conversation with this biology teacher. The walk is something that people of all fitness levels should be able to do taking your time and exploring the trails. The reason this trail is so well known is for the waterfall at the end. The water hadn't completely frozen, but apparently this is a great area in the winter for ice climbers to traverse the falls.
On our way back out, we met a group of local ecologists counting eagle migration through the area. A true testimony to conservation efforts in the area.
Later that afternoon after we returned to the Kananaskis Mouintain Lodge, we had what I believe was one of the main reasons to stay here. If you just get the chance to make it to the resort for one reason, make sure you check out the Kananaskis Nordic Spa. It can get a bit busy so be patient if there is a wait time. It's well worth it. And if you have to wait, you can enjoy some charcuterie and a glass of wine at the attached Two Trees Bistro.
The best way to explain this experience is like a waterpark for adults. But better.... Surrounded by alpine forest and rugged mountain peaks, this approach to the Nordic Spa tradition takes its inspiration from the stimulating elements of the Canadian outdoors. Designed for modern-day trailblazers seeking equal parts stimulation, re-cooperation and balance, Kananaskis Nordic Spa is centred around an invigorating restoration of body, mind, and soul.
There is a sequence to follow in the spa which stimulates blood flow around the body, eliminates toxins, reduces stress, and gently increases the heart-rate for an instant feeling of head-to-toe wellbeing. First, start in the hot pool to warm you muscles and get the blood flowing. Then spend a few minutes in the warm pool that is just slightly cooler than the hot pool before plunging in to the cold plunge pool. With a temperature between 5-10 ºC it will surely wake you up and invigorate your senses. After this, you can rest by one of their cauldron fire pits, in the Spa Lodge Lounge or on one of their winter hammocks. Then repeat.
There are also a number of other treatments and therapies in the spa including a pair of steam rooms with the most amazing aromatics to invigorate your senses. There is also a dry sauna and a scrub room for exfoliating using a salt scrub that is recommended for the end of your visit. After spending a few hours focusing on our own well being, we headed off to a small group gentle flow yoga session to complete an afternoon of wellness.
A walk around the property was called for before heading to diner that night at the star of the property - The Cedar Room. The Cedar Room features a seasonal menu of the finest and freshest regional ingredients. Premium cuts of Canadian beef, fresh coastal seafood, and humanely raised poultry, are carefully crafted and without compromise. Service is impeccable and the dining experience is a great way to spend a final night at the lodge. Huge recommendation for the scallops and the bison rib eye... WOW... If you're enjoying a beverage (and why wouldn't you) I'd also recommend the Campfire Manhattan. The classics are making a comeback and this one was impressive with the cedar smoke finish. Everything from the flavours and presentation here were top notch and we can't wait to visit again to enjoy another great meal.
Our final day in the area was a time I have been talking about constantly and recommending people do when they visit in the future. If you've never been in a cave, it can be a daunting experience. I am not a huge fan of enclosed spaces and even less of a fan of enclosed spaces in the dark... What I thought would be a quick in and out to check out a big open space proved to be anything but that expectation.
After a breathtaking hike in that took about 30 minutes, we arrived at Rat's Nest Cave. Guided by the team from Canmore Cave Tours we challenged our fears and had an amazing time on their small group Adventure Tour. After a change into our caving gear and a thorough safety session, we rappelled 18m into the cave. Our son who is 12 has a fear of heights and took some coaxing (and a few tears) to get him to try, but our guide was amazing encouraging him and walking him through what to do to make him feel safe and comfortable. After he completed the repel, he was hooked and wanted to lead the way the rest of the tour.
You'll have the opportunity to push your limits in a warm-up squeeze, a challenge squeeze, and then the "Laundry Chute" – a section of the cave that adds a little extra challenge but a whole lot of extra fun. Everything about this adventure was open to your abilities and comfort level. We never felt pressured to try something we weren't comfortable doing and when we did step outside our comfort zone, we were guided through the process every step of the way.
The one part I was most afraid of (and proud I built up the courage to try) was a squeeze that was the size of a large microwave oven. Again, I didn't need to do it (and a number of others from our group chose to stay behind and explore the open spaces of the larger cave) but I wanted to test my fears. After crawling on your belly for about 10m, the space closes in and it becomes impossible to pass with your arms at your side to help you crawl through. My chest was on the floor and I could feel the roof touching my back. At one point, I thought I was stuck and panic started to set in. But I followed the instructions of our guide and he calmed me down so that I could wiggle my way though and make it to the other side. What an experience.
Before taking the return trip out, we had the opportunity to visit the impressive Grand Gallery – the largest known room in the cave, and enjoyed ancient cave formations in the Grotto.
This was truly the highlight of our time. Jr YEG Fitness had stories (and bragging rights) to tell his friends when he got back to school and will have a memory to last him a lifetime (and a dad who's super proud of him for working through his fears to experience something he likely never would have tried otherwise.
We couldn't have spent a better weekend together enjoying some family time while also taking care of our own wellness. Everything from the food and spa at the Kananaskis Mountain Lodge to the adventures with Kananaskis Outfitters and Canmore Cave Tours made for an experience well never forget. If you are heading to the area, we would highly recommend you check these places out and share your experiences with us.