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Canmore Winter Carnival a 45-day celebration of sport, art and culture

Get ready for the World Cup edition of the Canmore Winter Carnival.
Photo by Nordic Focus


CANMORE – For someone who’s had to work hard to embrace our longest season, I couldn’t help but get excited about the upcoming Canmore Winter Carnival after talking to cross-country ski Olympic medallist Sara Renner.

Her exuberance, to say the least, is contagious. Not only is she a life-long winter sport enthusiast, it’s also her job to get people pumped about this 45-day long winter party known as the Canmore Winter Carnival.

“True winter people celebrate in different ways, and we are a true winter people!” says Renner.

Here’s what has Renner excited about the carnival now in it’s 20th year, which continues to grow and expand every year.

World Cup Action

2016 is the World Cup edition of the Canmore Winter Carnival. It kicks off on Feb. 1 and continues until the closing ceremonies March 13.. The carnival is bookended by two prestigious sporting events: the Biathlon World Cup (Feb 1-7) and the Nordic FIS Ski World Cup (Mar 8-12.) The intervening weeks are filled with fun and winter wonderland adventures. Even for the less than wintry-minded, that’s hard to resist.


To kick off the festivities this year, you can witness the best of the best at the Biathlon World Cup. (Read our FestivalSeekers story here) 2016 marks the first time since the Calgary Olympics in 1988 that an event like this has taken place in Alberta.

It’s been said that an average person can get a taste of biathlon by running a kilometre then attempting to thread a needle. Being neither a runner nor a seamstress, that sounds like a Herculean task. I imagine the comparison is fair; and here is the chance to be there for the top competition and ceremonies.

Cheer on Team Canada as they ski to the gold. 
Photo by Manzoni/Nordic Focus

Nordic - Going for the Crystal Globe

The Nordic Ski (FIS) World Cup closes out the the festival. Watching skiers compete for the Crystal Globe is a popular event on the other side of the Atlantic, with crowds swelling to as many as 40 000. This is the first time the event has been held outside of Europe. The early stage races are being hosted in Quebec, but the final four stages are making a splash in Canmore. Nordic (cross-country skiing) is Renner’s sport and she knows firsthand the importance of engaging the community to create a successful race event.

And there will be lots for the community (including the non-local community!) to do.

The Crystal Globe is the ultimate prize for international Nordic ski competitors.
Photo by Canmore Nordic Centre

What to see and do

To link the fun downtown to the action at the Canmore Nordic Centre, eight temporary works of art have been created in the woods to line the way. An art walk will be held before each race to guide spectators in a creative way along the 2.8-km trail to the sporting events. Many festival activities are centred around downtown Canmore and The Pond, including the Bonhomme Carnival, complete with cabane de sucre, human curling, arts exhibitions and performances, and even a Pooch Parade and Fashion Show.

Each week has  a different theme (international, arts and culture, family, and food), featuring new activities. Festival-goers during food and beverage week will find an “ingredient of the day” incorporated into various events, including cooking lessons at the Paintbox Lodge.

For a taste of dog sledding, preregister your kids in the Snowy Owl Mutt Race. The Canmore Kananaskis Tourism website has a full schedule of events.

The annual pooch parade is a popular event during the carnival.
Photo by Mut Hut Pet Emporium

Where to stay

Several area hotels are offering discounts to spectators of the Biathlon World Cup events. You can visit the Canmore Biathlon website ­­for discount codes and details for stays at the Lodges of Canmore, Delta Lodge at Kananaskis, Grande Rockies Resort, Rocky Mountain Ski Lodge, Rundle Cliff Lodges, and Solara Resort.

More Info 

  • Check out our FestivalSeekers overview of the Canmore Winter Carnival for featured events and details. 
  • Interested in the biathlon portion of the carnival? See the line up of events here.
  • Looking for a place to stay while enjoying the Canmore Winter Carnival? Check out the winter package deals.

Are you ready for the annual Canmore Winter Carnival? Share this story with someone who you'd like to bring along and enjoy the fun.