Canada Calgary

 

Home of the Stampede, it's not often you imagine a former "wild west" township cloaked in snow some five months of the year, but laid-back gateway city to the Canadian Rockies Calgary clings to its cowboy roots.

Retaining a cow and horse on its coat of arms, the city of Calgary only recent hit a million in population, and is one of the driest cities in Canada.  Travellers beware, moisturisers and lotions are a must as extreme weather (and stinging winds) whisks the moisture from uncovered body parts.

But braving the weather is part of the challenge of the city, with most Calgarians hearty and active people, and as such seeing the township and surrounding regions develop with an ecotourism bent.  

While it's true that the city itself fuels itself quite heavily on industrial developments, especially of the petroleum kind, wandering half an hour out and into Kananaskis, or fondly known as "K-country", will see a more varied tourism offering.

From ranch stays and back country exploring in summer, to dog-sledding and ice-climbing in winter, the sub-alpine region is situated in between Calgary and the famous Banff National Park.

Based in Calgary city, sees easy access to nearby regions, but also opens up a variety of other must-try indoor activities, including the completely underestimated winter sport of curling, never has another sport been as difficult to muster but also receive as much derision from those who have never tried it.

Catching a Calgary Flames hockey team home game is also a highlight not to be missed, within this ice-hockey mad country Flames fans are one of the most vocal in their support of a team that is pretty much guaranteed not to win.

Taking a breather from the physical, other cultural icons in the city are the Heritage Park still recognised as one of the largest living historical villages in North America with period architecture and a very popular breakfast buffet.  Visit in winter and have the chance to spot Santa wandering in his sleigh. Also the Glenbow Museum, Western Canada's largest museum which features an extensive local Aboriginal section, is a great day excursion and if possible travellers should take the change to tour the museum with one of their knowledgeable First Nations guide.

While in town travellers must order a steak at one of the ubiquitous steakhouses from around town, Alberta prides itself on producing some of the most premium beef in the world with exports to Japan alone in 2008 amounting to over C$30 million.

Take some time to explore this quirky cowboy town when next planning a trip to Canada, may it be for the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth" the Stampede, or on your way to ski the champagne powder in Banff or Jasper.