Waterton Lakes National Park in Winter
Winter is a quiet time in the park. Traffic on the roads is light, the Prince of Wales Hotel sits empty, the snowcapped peaks and abundant big game provide plenty of photographic opportunities, and a few trails are maintained for cross-country skiing. The main access road is plowed regularly, and the Akamina Parkway is cleared to allow access to ski trails. Skiing in the park is usually possible December to March, but conditions can change dramatically. Cold arctic fronts scream down from the north, and chinook winds from the west can raise temperatures by up to 20°C (68°F) in an hour. Ski trails are set on weekends, and the ski-touring opportunities are endless. Trails in the backcountry are not marked. Groups should carry avalanche beacons, be capable of self-rescue, and register with the warden before setting out.
Ice climbing, snowshoeing, and backcountry winter camping are also popular. Winter camping is possible at Pass Creek, where you’ll find a kitchen shelter, woodstove, and pit toilets. Three accommodations stay open year-round and offer all-inclusive winter packages. Gas may or may not be available in winter. Obtain trail information and weather forecasts at the park administration office (Mount View Rd., 403/859-2224, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon. to Fri. year-round). For information regarding backcountry skiing conditions and avalanche danger, contact the Canadian Avalanche Association (250/837-2435, www.avalanche.ca).