I'll be honest - I'm not a very good 'staycation' person. The only time I really travel around my own province is when we get visitors who have never been here. I'm not the kind of person who likes camping or hiking or generally outdoor activities (ha) so ... basically, my 'Travel Alberta' is a very rare occurrence.
I was lucky enough to have my cousins visit me right after Christmas this year so of course we took them around as much of Alberta as we could... roads permitting! This is really the first time I'd driven to any of these places in the winter (other than with school) so ... it was fun for me to see the place I've lived my whole life in a new light. This post is VERY picture heavy - we went to three different places in a day (and froze the entire time).
We actually decided to go to Lake Louise first, which is the furthest west from Calgary, so that we'd be travelling in one direction on the way home. I had hopes that it was going to be sunny but I really should have taken a clue from the grey skies... it was just going to snow all day (which my cousins were fairly excited about, actually).
We weren't actually planning to stop in Canmore, but we had to in order to buy my cousins long underwear as they were shivering in my sister's car during the drive even though they had their winter jackets AND the heater on :D. In contrast, I'd taken my coat off for the drive so I could take a nap. Canmore was nice (other than trying to find a public bathroom) and I bought a nice hat there on sale, so I was happy with the stop. Canmore is about a 45-60 minute drive from Calgary (it took us 60 minutes as it was snowing).
Also, all these little towns are generally 80% hotel (at least it feels like it) since they get many travellers who are just there to ski! Not much of a night-life, haha.
You pay a 9$ park preservation fee to drive through the park (it's good for 24 hours so you can drive in both directions). For the skiiers and snowboarders there are yearly and weekly pass options. We only ever buy the one day pass, as the only time we pass through are with visitors, or when driving to Vancouver, haha.
Banff National park is really beautiful to drive through (I'm not sure if you can also hike through it, but probably) but it gets closed frequently due to avalanche warnings. So my mom was on edge the whole time we drove through it even though there hadn't been a great deal of snow fall before we went.
Lake Louise (finally!) Once you park near the Fairmont hotel it's about a 5 minute walk to the actual lake. This was the VERY first time I'd seen it in winter and... it's pretty but not as WOW as in the summer when the mountains contrast with the crystal blue lake. That being said I was impressed the lake was frozen enough to play hockey on (there was even a Zamboni machine, which I forgot to take a picture of >__<). You could also rent snow-shoes to go across the lake (or around) but it was snowing REALLY hard by the time we got there and my cousins were visibly shivering. XD;
That's not cloud obscuring the mountains, that's all the snow! Lake Louise and Banff usually get 5x the amount of snow Calgary does - so if we get 5 cm they'll get more like 50. I suppose it's good for skiing, but it's awful to drive in!
And then we finally made it back to Banff! The roads from Banff to Lake Louise were super slippery due to the snow - so while normally it only takes about 45 minutes, it took us almost an hour and a half since we were driving slower. Thankfully it wasn't snowing as hard in Banff (my cousin happily took off her toque, and so did I).
I love Banff. Okay we do come here a lot in nicer weather because the shopping is nice - it's all outdoors, and the tax is the same in Calgary, but there are lots of little shops. It's very tourist-y: Banff actually had an LV store before Calgary did! Possibly because a lot of the visitors are affluent? I bought a Tokidoki hoodie in Banff that I love <3 and couldn't find in Calgary (which seems backwards, as Calgary is bigger, but oh well).
I thought these street lights were so cute! We went on the 28th, so all of the Christmas decorations were up around the town - I loved that the whole mainstreet was festive.
This was day one with the visitors - this was the busiest week off I've ever had STAYING in Calgary (more posts coming shortly, to convince those of you I've been nagging to come visit me!)