When to Go
Alberta’s biggest influx of visitors is during summer (late June–early September), when the focus is on everything outdoors—camping, fishing, golfing, hiking, swimming, canoeing, and bird-watching. The season is dominated by long, warm—and sometimes hot—days, everything is open, and there’s plenty to do and see. Crowds, high prices (especially in the Canadian Rockies), and difficulty securing reservations are the downside of summer travel.
Late spring and early fall are excellent times to visit Alberta for two reasons: You’ll avoid the crowds, and you’ll save money. Spring (mid-April–late June) is notable for long days of sunlight (in late June it stays light until after 10 p.m., or until 11 p.m. in the far north). Golf courses begin opening in early May, it’s warm enough to camp out, and the famously photogenic lakes become ice free in June.
Fall (mid-September–November) can be delightful, especially September, with lingering warm temperatures and a noticeable decrease in crowds immediately after the long weekend at the beginning of the month. Larch turn a brilliant yellow throughout high alpine areas in late September, as do aspen throughout the foothills.
In winter, the focus is on the Canadian Rockies, where skiers and snowboarders from around the world descend on major resorts. Local ski resorts begin opening for the winter season (December–mid-April) in late November.
The best snow conditions are January–February, although for enthusiasts looking for a combination of good snow and warmer weather, March is an excellent time of year to visit. Winter officially ends before mid-April, but some ski resorts stay open well into May, and it’s not until this time of year that the ground begins to warm.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition