Following on from last week’s piece about Banff, the trip continues…onto cowboy country (well for ten days of the year at least). From Canmore we took a helicopter flight over the Rockies. This is one of the most spectacular flights I’ve taken to date! I was wowed from the ground, I was blown away once in the sky!
Calgary – Yahoooo
Then finally onto Calgary and the 100th anniversary of the Stampede! Now I have to say I wasn’t massively sure what to expect, or knew much about the stampede, also didn’t associate cowboys with Canada if I’m honest. I was wrong. Kitted out with an authentic cowboy hat, belt buckle, neckerchief and cowboy shirt, I felt ready to mingle with the locals! Running for ten days, the whole city from children to policemen get into the spirit, all adopting for the week only cowboy attire. Random shouts of yahoo and yeehaa are heard on every corner!
Starting out with a hearty stampede breakfast at the Fairmont Calgary, I’m not going to lie, 8am and hundreds in western attire, fiddlers, country music blaring, excitable locals (again yahooing at every chance) was quite an awakening at this early time, but you simply must get into the same spirit as the locals. Waffles, maple syrup, beers, all served from early doors. We watched the parade, which included an impressive amount of mounted police, hundreds of horses, floats, marching bands all proceeded past…don’t forget the constant yeeehaaaring! This set the scene for the day.
In the evening we went to the chuck wagon races, dressed like local cowboys we felt at home walking into the arena! After first taking a few rides on the rollercoasters, the food was an eye opener too; every kind of fried food is available here should your arteries so desire! Deep fried coke cola, wagon wheels and even pizza on a stick…you get the idea? So onto the races! We enjoyed the best view of the races in a private hospitality suite; it was such a buzzing atmosphere! I really got into the western theme, and became a little too competitive when we had a chance to bet on a few of the races. We also got a privileged behind the scenes walkabout tour of the stables where the real cowboys camped out looking after their prized horses. With $100,000 of prize monies at stake this was serious business! Overall what a fantastic and unexpected night, a fab option for incentives and groups of friends alike, something you wouldn’t experience on your own for sure.
Our last day was spent at the Spruce Meadows for some world class show jumping, again in a private box. We had a very civilised relaxed afternoon in the sunshine, offering a complete comparison to the chuck wagons the evening before. Gone was the authentic western tradition for a glorious afternoon of ceremony and a very British theme, the grounds even have a museum dedicated to the Jubilee! As a Brit, you certainly felt special in Canada. It was a perfect end to a fantastic few days. The show jumping runs all year so if you can’t make stampede season in July this is a great option.
Do I love this destination?!
Yes! The Rockies have always been on my bucket list but I could never decide if I wanted to come for snowboarding in the winter or see the beauty of the mountains in the summer. With the easy flight over, the wonderful hospitality and simply breathtaking scenery and feel of escapism, combined with the high energy of the stampede this has gone down as a trip that surpassed all my expectations. For groups of friends or incentives alike, this place is tops!
- The low season in Banff is in fact winter, so rates are really very competitive during this time
- 1.2 million people attend the stampede each year
- Over 300 days of sunshine
- Banff is rated the number 1 incentive destination in Canada
- 750 horses participate in the opening day parade
- There are no rats in Alberta because of their rat patrol!
- The UK can fit into Alberta three times
- William and Kate spent their only day off in Canada in a lodge behind Lake Louise. With a specially made royal loo!
Jo Randall, Events Team