They don't call it "Sunny Alberta" for nothing. Canada's largest oil producing province is endowed with rich underground resources and the spectacular peaks of the Canadian Rockies, where sun drenched ski days are the norm, not the exception.
A sleeping beauty of sorts, Alberta was awakened from its sleeping epoch with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1883. The first tourists were awed by the stunning beauty, and silence of the undisturbed wilderness. After gazing out the Pullman car windows at the rugged, unforgiving landscape, they hardly could have imagined that Calgary would host the world, during the XV Winter Olympic Games, 105 years later. As the province's agricultural industry grew, farmers and ranchers found themselves with time on their hands during the long winter months. For recreation, outdoor winter sports like curling, skating, tobogganing, and of course, skiing became favorite pastimes.
The Banff region first attracted skiers in the days leading up to World War I, but ski resort development didn't actively begin until 1930. It was after the Second World War, that the province came into its own as a destination for skiers. Today, Alberta has seven impressive, destination ski resorts: Banff, Fortress Mountain, Lake Louise, Marmot Basin, Mystic Ridge/Norquay, Nakiska, and Sunshine Village. And don't forget about their six heli-skiing operators. What people forget about is what happens to these areas during the summer months and the area is transformed into a mild and attractive summer full of hiking and outdoor fun.
For some, a trip to Alberta is not complete unless it includes a side trip to the West Edmonton Mall—the world's largest shopping and entertainment complex with a wave pool, triple-loop roller coaster, shark tank, ice rink, trained dolphins and an indoor beach.
Alberta is easy to reach. Simply fly into Calgary or Edmonton and rent a car, or take scheduled shuttle bus service to the ski resorts. And yes, it's still possible to take a sleeper train--just like those first tourists-- right into downtown Jasper. If you have the time, the VIA Rail journey from Vancouver in the west or Montreal in the east, is an unforgettable experience.
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