Penner: The way to benefit from the outside within the foolish spring season

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Our professional tubing instructor (or whatever you call the happy guys at the top of Destiny’s icy slides) didn’t complicate the situation. “The skills required here are pretty minimal,” he said. “You place your butt in the middle of the tube, grab the handles and scream a little when you feel the need. That’s about all there is to it.” And then he giggled and pushed us away. And as we approached Mach 3, there was Screaming, foaming at the mouth, and maybe some other physical stuff that enters—and then exits—the equation. Ah yes. hoses. One of the nice things in life in the “summer hole”.

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While tubing at Mount Norquay in Banff should rightly be considered one of the greatest sports on earth, “daylight saving time” represents – you know, our supposed springtime, when you get sunburned one hour and frostbite the next first degree – pose some challenges. Yes, one moment you’re wearing a leopard skin thong and tank top, sipping a margarita in your backyard and thinking all is well with the world, and then, wham!, you’re suddenly in a frantic scramble to close a snow cave dig survive a Hadean onslaught of freezing ice balls. It’s problematic. What should I do? How to rebuild?

Of course, it’s not just the weird weather that makes this transitional period a challenge. If you’re not careful, you could easily find yourself on a path that has become a mud bog. Or a deadly band of ice. And many recreation areas and hiking trails are simply not accessible. Festivals have not started yet. Campgrounds are still closed. Lakes are still frozen. Slowpitch hasn’t started yet. Golf courses are brown and ugly, and you’ll probably only make it to the third tee before you get chilled. To top it off, almost all popular summer tours and outdoor attractions are not yet open and will not be for the next few weeks.

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But you with rather foolish optimism and eternal hope that our still brown and frozen wasteland will one day turn into a warm, beautiful and green pasture of plenty, be of good cheer are some options. Tubing, for example, is doable. (And screaming burns calories.) However, you need to act fast here. Norquay Tube Park is due to close on Easter Monday. rats.

But if you put on your little snowball-protective think cap, you’ll find plenty of other options. Here are a few activities I enjoy during the “summer slump”.

Hiking in the foothills – It’s true, most of the popular trails in Kananaskis and Banff will still be snowy for a while. However, trails in the foothills, especially if they are south facing and fairly exposed, are good to walk much sooner. Download the AllTrails app and try Fullerton Loop, White Buddha, and Mesa Butte. These are three of my favorite short and easy early-season hikes that are within an hour of Calgary.

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Mountain biking on the doorstep – You don’t need mountains for mountain biking! While the mountain trails are muddy this time of year, I’ll stick with the trails in Fish Creek, Bowmont Park, Carseland, and McKinnon Flats. If you’re willing to put in the ride, Redcliff and Lethbridge are also excellent spots if you’re looking for fast, dry mountain bike trails at this time of year.

Golfing in the Deep South – The golf season in southern Alberta typically starts two weeks earlier than in Calgary, thanks to warmer temperatures and minimal snow cover. So courses like Paradise Canyon (Lethbridge), Desert Blume (Medicine Hat) and Speargrass (Carseland) are good choices early in the year.

spring skiing – Don’t let the warm Chinook winds and dust storms in Calgary fool you, the mountains are still snowcapped! And the lifts and the large ski slopes will continue to buzz for a while. Some closing dates are Norquay: April 24th, Nakiska: April 24th, Sunshine: May 23rd and Lake Louise: May 8th. Bring your sunglasses and sunscreen!

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Walk on a river path – Calgary is blessed with some of the finest waterfront walks of any city in North America. And now is the perfect time to start your walking program! You can even try Nordic Walking. Using poles activates your upper body muscles, reduces stress on your legs and gives you a full body workout.

There are many other options when it comes to springtime outdoor recreation. Horseback riding (my favorite place to go horseback riding is Anchor D Outfitting near the Turner Valley), picnicking at Allen Bill Pond (you can add a short river hike here), bird watching (lots of birds are migrating right now), and nature photography (the prairie crocuses are blooming!) are just a few more ideas.

And of course, if you do venture outside, always be prepared! You never know when those nasty little balls of ice will fall from the sky. Or where they come from.

Andrew Penner is a freelance writer and photographer based in Calgary. You can follow him on Instagram at @andrewpennerphotography

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