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Alberta Adventures

• A WorldWeb.com Travel Guide for Alberta, Canada.
Alberta's not all about skiing and horseback riding as one might think. The magnificent Rocky Mountains provide a playground for cavers and golfers, not just skiers and snowboarders. And the rolling prairies are enjoyed by rafters and scuba divers, not just horse lovers. In fact, this big, bold province offers opportunities to experience practically any type of excursion and activity, thanks to its vast and varied terrain and four very distinct seasons.

One may be surprised to know that Alberta touts more golf courses (and horses) than any other province. It also boasts more than 600 lakes for water-sport lovers, while 500-or-so parks and reserves provide rewarding wildlife viewing opportunities and invigorating hiking and biking trails.

When winter arrives, active souls swap water skis for downhill skis, hiking boots for snowshoes, and horses for snowmobiles. Lakes freeze for skating and ice fishing, and waterfalls ice up for climbing. Alberta’s winter wonderland can be admired from a dog sled, and in the north, the Northern Lights put on an unforgettable show as they dance across the sky.

One can experience it all in Alberta.

PLAYING ON THE PRAIRIES

With all the lakes and rivers of the central region, it’s only natural that waterskiing, canoeing, boating, fishing and swimming are all popular activities in Alberta's Heartland. The resort community of Sylvan Lake is a water-sports Mecca, Lakeland Provincial Park is a canoeing hot spot and Red Deer River is perfect for rafting.

Hiking, often combined with camping and birdwatching, is another favourite pastime in central Alberta. Well-trodden routes include the Alberta Buffalo and Trans-Canada trails, while the Lac La Biche area and Lacombe's Ellis Bird Farm are great for birdwatching.

Of course being in the heart of cowboy country also means that guest ranches, farm tours and opportunities for horseback riding abound, providing a truly traditional prairies experience.

With the snow comes scores of snowmobilers. The central region is renowned for its forested trails and open areas, and Whitecourt as the snowmobiling capital of the province. Cross-country skiing is also a hit with central Albertans and downhill skiing can be enjoyed at six different ski hills.

ALBERTA’S ROCKIES: MOUNTAINS OF FUN

It’s no secret that Alberta's Rocky Mountains are the high point when it comes to outstanding recreational opportunities.

During spring, summer and fall, a myriad of activities await, from alpine climbing the highest peaks to spelunking (and scuba diving) the most mysterious depths. The Rockies are adorned with some of the world’s most stunning mountain golf courses, while luminous glacial lakes and rivers beckon those who enjoy canoeing, rafting and fishing for trout. The region is woven with achingly scenic hiking and biking trails, such as the Crypt Lake day hike in Waterton and the bike trails at Canmore Nordic Center. Whatever one’s activity of choice, be sure to keep an eye open for wildlife—bears, moose and elk are commonly sighted.

In winter, the region’s world-class ski areas—such as Sunshine and Lake Louise—are abuzz with snow fiends from around the globe, while Canmore and Jasper are major cross-country skiing and snowshoeing destinations. Ice walks are magical in Johnston (Banff) and Maligne (Jasper) canyons and visitors can partake in guided glacier excursions in the Icefields Parkway Region. Dog sledding is an especially unique must-do activity and many tours are conveniently based in Canmore.

LONG SUMMER DAYS OF ADVENTURE IN THE NORTH

Like Alberta’s Rockies, the northern realm of the province also attracts outdoor adventurers and nature lovers. And during summer, recreationists can really stretch out the fun thanks to northern Alberta's long hours of daylight during this time of year. From the region’s main centre of Fort McMurray, fishing enthusiasts may be whisked away to secluded streams and fishing lodges by plane. Fort McMurray is also a base for exciting jet boating trips on the Clearwater and Athabasca rivers. In the northwest corner of the province, Wood Buffalo National Park satiates various recreational appetites, including bison viewing and caving.

Days are much shorter in winter, but the action doesn’t fade with the sun. Cross-country and downhill skiing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, snowshoeing and skating are all on the itinerary in Alberta’s wintry north. In addition, thrill-seekers can get a dose of adrenalin on the natural luge track near Grand Prairie, and everyone will get a thrill witnessing the ethereal Northern Lights shimmering in the sky.

HEAD SOUTH TO EXPLORE THE BADLANDS AND BEYOND

Golfing is good throughout the province, but in Alberta's south it’s especially unique teeing off among hoodoos and coulees in the badlands. The region’s vast plains and rolling foothills also offer up guest ranch, farm, horseback riding and hiking experiences, while its rivers provide fishing and rafting opportunities. And cavers will definitely want to check out the diverse underground caverns of Crowsnest Pass.

Winter visitors have the chance to try dog sledding, or twirl around on skates on several frozen lakes and skating rinks. The south even sports a couple of ski resorts at Crowsnest Pass and Pincher Creek.

BIG CITY ACTION

With big-city lights comes plenty of action in Calgary and Edmonton. Excellent indoor and outdoor facilities provide all manner of diversions, from laser tag to yoga to go-cart racing. Brewery tours, haunted tours and rail tours await! Ballooning is a possibility in both cities, and Edmonton even offers bungee jumping and skydiving.

Nature can be enjoyed at scores of golf clubs in both Calgary and Edmonton, and along various hiking and biking trails in city parks. Calgary lays claim to North America’s most extensive bike path network as well as urban mountain biking at Canada Olympic Park (COP). In winter, COP offers skiing and bobsleighing, while cross-country skiing and snowshoeing is enjoyed in parks such as Fish Creek. The city’s Bow River satisfies fishers—even in winter through a hole in the ice—along with canoers, kayakers and rafters. Edmonton’s ecological pride and joy, the far-reaching North Saskatchewan River Valley Parks System, boasts prime (and convenient) hiking, fishing and canoeing opportunities in summer and superb cross-country skiing trails in winter.
Jasper Adventure Centre
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Photos of Alberta  Jasper Adventure Centre
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