A tourism study of developed countries around the world recently ranked Canada as one of the top 10 countries in the world for adventure travel opportunities.
The report was jointly issued by George Washington University, the Adventure Travel Trade Association and Xola Consulting, and is based on detailed data from government and private sector agencies.
Some of Canada’s best scores in the study were received for resources that can’t be created — rugged mountains, wide-open spaces and rare natural areas that make up this large and diverse country.
The Rocky Mountains are one of the important natural resources that make Canada such a hot spot for adventure travel — a market that is predicted to grow in the future.
You can find opportunities for adventure wherever you look in the Rockies, but the tiny town of Golden in the British Columbia Rockies is considered a highlight by many adventure travel enthusiasts. On a recent visit, we experienced three great summer adventures.
Catrafting on the Kicking Horse
Alpine Rafting has been offering guided rafting adventures on the mighty Kicking Horse River for nearly three decades, but their newest rafting adventure is something called catrafting. The boat is basically made of two large pontoons that are held together by a metal frame with a mesh floor. Catrafts are very stable on white water and have been used for years to carry supplies down rivers, but their evolution into the world of recreational rafting is a recent development.
What makes catrafting exciting is the opportunity to front load the craft while passing through rapids and thus create a wilder ride without overturning the boat. When the river guide cues the passengers by shouting “front side,” the two passengers in the front of the boat stretch out on the forward pontoons and the next two stretch out on the front of the bottom of the craft, effectively weighing down the front of the boat.
When a front-heavy catraft hits Class 4 rapids, it usually completely submerges those in the front and gets those in the back pretty wet, too.
The Kicking Horse River is ideal for white water rafting. The upper canyon has a large number of Class 3 and 4 whitewater rapids and the lower canyon has another section of good Class 4 and 5 whitewater.
Catrafting just makes the journey a little more exciting.
Cost: $125 to $159 per person depending on whether you raft only the upper canyon or the upper and lower canyons.
Details: Catrafting is good for first-time rafters as well as experienced rafters, but you must be at least 16 years old to participate. Younger children (ages four and up) can try river rafting on one of Alpine Rafting’s family adventures that pass through a tamer section of the river. Rates start at $30 per person for family rafting adventures.
Reservations and information: www.alpinerafting.com or 1-888-599-5299.
Zip-lining in the Rockies
Zip-lines have been around for more than a century, but their recreational use is a more recent development. Over the past couple of decades, recreational zip-lines have popped up in countries around the world, including Canada.
One of the most scenic places to enjoy the sport is in Golden, where you can get your adrenalin pumping while taking in spectacular mountain scenery. Awesome All Season Adventures has three zip-lines that bring you down a mountainside and across the Kicking Horse River at speeds in excess of 50-km/h.
Having participated in this activity before, we were impressed with the safety measures in place at the Golden site. The equipment was far superior to what we had experienced in Mexico. For me, the longest zip-line was the highlight, because it takes you soaring down the mountainside and across the Kicking Horse River.
Cost: $99 per person.
Details: You should wear closed toed shoes if possible while zip-lining. People of all ages can enjoy zip-lining safely. Those with back and neck problems may have trouble with the stopping mechanism on these zip-lines, because the stop can be rather abrupt. Participants must have a minimum weight of 30 kg (66 pound). The maximum weight of participants is 125 kg (275 pounds).
Reservations and information: www.banffatvtours.com or 1-888-AWE-TOUR.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
You can’t help feeling just a little bit nervous when you find yourself face-to-face with an adult grizzly bear — even if he is a well-fed and contented animal that is on the other side of a fence.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is home to the world’s largest enclosed and protected grizzly bear habitat and this is the home of Boo, the orphaned grizzly cub who is now a full grown bear. The grizzly bear refuge is a place where visitors can see a live grizzly in natural habitat and learn more about the plight of this blue-listed species.
After a visit to the refuge, you can eat at the world’s highest elevation restaurant and climb to the peak of the mountain (with a little help from a high-speed gondola).
If you are a mountain biking enthusiast, the resort has 27 trails from beginner level to expert and bike rentals are onsite. The mountain has one of the longest vertical descents in North America.
Cost: A family adventure pass will cost $94.95 for a family of up to six people. An adult adventure pass will cost $29.95 and a junior pass costs $24.95.
Details: The adventure pass includes access to the chairlifts and gondolas at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. It’s a good idea to visit the grizzly refuge early in the day when Boo tends to be the most active. Interpretive programs start at 9 am. After visiting the grizzly refuge, you can hop on the Golden Eagle Express Gondola. From the top of the gondola, you can hike to the very top of the mountain and enjoy spectacular views. Be sure to stop for lunch or dinner at Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, which at 2,350 metres is Canada’s highest elevation restaurant.
Reservations and information: www.kickinghorseresort.com or 1-866-SKI-KICK (745-5425)
Other adventures in Golden
For more information on summer or winter activities in this region of the Canadian Rockies, visit www.kootenayrockies.com, stop in at the British Columbia visitor centre in Golden or call 1-800-HELLO-BC.
Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.