Live it up in Canada’s ultimate winter wonderland

Oh Canada, the home of maple syrup, hockey, grizzly bears, the Biebs and the stunning Rocky Mountains. There’s a lot to love, and even more to celebrate about this great land – no wonder the locals throw so many shindigs all year round. Join us on a trip taking in not one, but five major winter festivals! Dance up a storm celebrating diversity at Whistler’s Pride Festival, catch the pros spinning tricks on the slopes in Banff and check out ice dragons on the shores of Lake Louise. With included walks through the magical Maligne Canyon in Jasper, a behind-the-scenes visit to the Canmore Hockey Club, and even toasted s’mores around the fire, this is a Canadian winter with all the trimmings.

This trip is for 18 to 29-year-olds

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Vancouver, Canada
Finish
Calgary, Canada
Destination
Canada
Style
Basix
Theme
18 to 29s
Code
SWYF
Physical rating
Ages
Min 18, Max 29
Group size
Min 4, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • One trip, five festivals! This itinerary is jam-packed with festivities, taking in Whistler Pride & Ski, January in Jasper, Lake Louise Ice Magic, SnowDays in Banff, and the Canmore Winter Carnival.

  • See what it’s like to be a professional ice hockey player on a visit to the Canmore Hockey Club, then practice your skills on the ice.

  • Experience Canada’s incredible winter wilderness on a snowshoe hike in Banff's backcountry.

  • The LGBTIQ community know how to throw a great party, and you can take part in one (or several) during the Pride festival in Whistler.

  • Get your jingle bells on and laugh all the way on an optional sleigh ride in Lake Louise.

  • Explore frozen waterfalls and ice caves in Maligne Canyon, Jasper's deepest accessible canyon.

Is this trip right for you?

  • It might be stating the obvious, but winter in the Rockies is cold! You will need good gear, including boots, snow pants and a jacket. This cannot be hired so you'll need to buy or borrow it before leaving home. It can be expensive so it is best to shop around and see where you can find the best price. See the Packing section of our Essential Trip Information for a full list of suggested gear.

  • Although this itinerary has been put together based on the timing of events in previous years, we cannot guarantee the festivals named on this itinerary will happen. This is because individual event guides are released much later in the year. As a result, the timing of included activities may also change to help everyone make the most of what is happening.

  • Winter weather can be unreliable. Roads in these areas are well-maintained and regularly ploughed, but in the event of unusually heavy snowfall there may still be delays and closures. The weather may also mean that some events are cancelled or scheduled activities become unsafe. We will attempt to rearrange the itinerary or schedule replacement activities if this is the case.

  • Please be aware that this itinerary does not allow time for skiing and snowboarding, and due to the safety risks inherent in these activities, we are unable to offer them as optional activities. If you wish to ski or snowboard while in Canada we suggest you arrive early into Whistler or stay in Banff after the trip. If you wish to ski or snowboard during free time during the trip, that's up to you, but please note that our leaders are unable to help you book these activities as per Intrepid's safety policy.

Itinerary

Welcome to the Great White Northl! Your winter adventure kicks off with a 5 pm welcome meeting where you'll meet your local leader and fellow travellers. After this important meeting, perhaps head to the cobbled laneways in Gastown and check out the city’s best bars and restaurants. Alternatively, you can't go wrong chowing down on a bowl of dumplings in Vancouver’s Chinatown just nearby.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive in time for today's welcome meeting, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand.
Today is free to explore Vancouver at your own pace. Perhaps check out Stanley Park, a sprawling park in the city’s north, where you can walk or cycle along the scenic seawall trail. Another great option is to visit Granville Island and its undercover Public Market, where you can gorge on a treasure trove of baked treats. The annual Dine Out Vancouver food festival usually takes place around this time too, so check out the festival guide and see what’s happening. The annual festival brings together Vancouver’s culinary talents for two weeks of foodie celebrations – think cocktail masterclasses, street food fiestas, market tours and a dedicated beer hall to boot!
Accommodation
  • Hostel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Catch a bus and travel along the ‘Sea to Sky Highway’, a corridor connecting Vancouver to Whistler taking in spectacular ocean vistas and mountain peaks (approximately 2.5 hours). Arrive in Whistler during the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival. Join Whistler's LGBTIQ community, along with thousands of visitors from around the world, at some of the many parties and events held during this week-long festival. Previous years' events have included gala balls, a Cards Against Humanity night, a charity ski race, apres ski evenings, wine pairing dinners, a movie night, and even a splash pool party! This festival is a fully inclusive event, celebrating diversity as well as a shared love of all things snows-sports.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (multishare) (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Get to know Whistler a little better this morning with a guided tour. Depending on how much snow has fallen and the abilities of the group, you’ll either be trekking in snowshoes or peddling a fat-tyre bike. The rest of the afternoon is then free to explore art galleries, restaurants and boutique shops in Whistler's charming pedestrian-only village streets, or perhaps experience the record-breaking PEAK2PEAK gondola – a spectacular ride over the snow-frosted valley linking Whistler Mountain's Roundhouse Lodge with Blackcomb Mountain's Rendezvous Lodge. This evening there will be plenty more parties and events as part of the Pride Festival.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (multishare) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Whistler - Guided snowshoe hike or fat tyre bike ride
Optional Activities
  • Whistler - PEAK2PEAK Gondola - CAD50
  • Whistler - Zip Trek Tour - CAD119
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
With tired legs and a head full of memories, snatch some sleep on the bus ride back to Vancouver before flying to Edmonton. This flight is not included as part of the itinerary as passengers are required to book the airfare themselves. We will provide you with the flight number and details to help you book your place. From Edmonton, transfer by private van to Jasper National Park (approximately 4 hours). Try to keep your jaw from dropping as you first encounter Jasper’s spectacular alpine lakes, forests and mountains. This is the real Canadian wilderness – and yes, it’s everything you hoped it would be.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jasper National Park
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Home to grizzly bears, elk and moose, Jasper National Park is one of the last preserved slices of wilderness in Canada. The park has plenty of scenic walking trails to discover too – including the Maligne Canyon Icewalk. The name refers to the canyon’s ethereal beauty in winter, when waterfalls freeze over and icicles hang like teeth in the mouths of the Park’s many caves. Meet a local guide for this essential Canadian experience and explore the park while learning about Jasper’s karst topography, and the mystery of the disappearing Medicine Lake. After the walk, the rest of the day is free. In the evening, check out the January in Jasper Festival's evening street party. Downtown Jasper comes alive with the sights and sounds of a full blown street party, with street performers, live music, food, games and an ice bar.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jasper - Maligne Canyon Icewalk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is free to explore Jasper National Park. Some of the walking trails in the park are pretty lengthy, but shorter trails to Lake Annette and Pyramid Overlook can be finished in around 1-2 hours. Another option is to check out the range of activities on offer at the Jasper Festival, including ski and snowboard demonstrations, winter photography walks, bannock making lessons and brewery tours. In the evening, rug up around an open fire and enjoy a hot chocolate with s’mores.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Stretching 232 kilometres (144 miles) through the Canadian Rockies, the Icefields Parkway is a famous road that links Jasper with Lake Louise – today’s destination. You’ll be able to soak up the spectacular scenery on the way there, with a stop off at Columbia Icefield during the day to hike to the toe of Athabasca Glacier. Arrive at Lake Louise in the evening, where you can rug up after a day in the snow with a hearty meal at one of the local pubs.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Icefields Parkway - Hike to toe of Athabasca Glacier
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Nestled between two blue mountains sits Lake Louise, a patch of pristine water that you can literally skate across once it freezes over in winter. Today is a free day to try some of the many activities on offer. You can hire some skates and glide across the lake, take a horse-drawn sleigh ride, or snowshoe around the lake instead. Recharge with afternoon tea at Chateau Lake Louise, which delivers Insta-worthy views of the lake and mountains. In the evening, join your local leader for a walk among the illuminated ice sculptures that will be installed as part of the Lake Louise Ice Magic festival.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
It’s a short drive (approximately 1 hour) from Lake Louise to Banff National Park, where your leader will take you on a wilderness snowshoe tour from the world famous Sunshine Village Ski Resort. Catch a gondola straight above the tree line, where today’s walk will begin. There are no walking trails up here and this is as close to nature as you can get. The trekking today will be broken up with some hot cocoa and cookies to keep your energy levels up.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Banff National Park
  • Banff - Guided snowshoe hike on Top of the World
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
After a day in the snow yesterday, today is free to see the rest of Banff. Perhaps go shopping on Banff Avenue or Bear Street, unwind in Banff Hot Springs’ steamy waters or feel the rush on a dog-sledding expedition. There’s tonnes of stuff to do so if it all feels overwhelming, just ask your local leader for some handy pointers.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Banff - Cable Car up Sulphur Mountain - CAD30
  • Banff - Hot springs - CAD8
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
As we said, there’s a lot of stuff to do in Banff – so there’s an extra day here to make sure you pack in as much as you can. It’s a good idea to check out The Big Bear, a regular event where you can catch snowboard pros practicing their tricks. The event is a highlight of the SnowDays Festival and you can see all the action from the comfort of Banff Avenue Brew Co beer garden, which also has a fire pit to keep things nice and toasty.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Visit the nearby town of Canmore and take part in the 'Learn To Be A Canadian Hockey Player' program. As part of the program, professional coaches will walk you through a day in the life of a player on the Canmore Eagles Junior “A” team. Go inside the dressing rooms, learn about the superstitions shared by the elite players, and try on the full hockey gear. Then pick up a stick and do your best Mighty Ducks impersonation on the ice. The time on the ice is a great opportunity to pick up some basic skills and learn whether you’re a lefty or a righty. The whole program will last around two hours. Born with two left skating feet? There are some special zimmerframes available to help teach beginners how to skate safely. After unleashing your inner hockey beast, head to the Canmore Winter Festival and check out the festivities. One of the highlights is an ice carving competition where you can see the sculptures being made right before your eyes. Return to Banff for the night.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Canmore - Learn to Be a Canadian Hockey Player
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning drive approximately 2 hours to Calgary, where the trip finishes on arrival. If you’d like to stay on in Calgary, we can help arrange accommodation for you. Just let us know at the time of booking.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

No meals are included on this tour

Transport

Bus, Private vehicle

Accommodation

Hostel (10 nights), Hotel (3 nights)

Included activities

  • Whistler - Guided snowshoe hike or fat tyre bike ride
  • Jasper National Park
  • Jasper - Maligne Canyon Icewalk
  • Icefields Parkway - Hike to toe of Athabasca Glacier
  • Banff National Park
  • Banff - Guided snowshoe hike on Top of the World
  • Canmore - Learn to Be a Canadian Hockey Player

Dates & availability

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Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.