Calgary is a city full of energy and beauty, where there's an obvious passion for life, art, food, culture, and of course — the great outdoors. I could feel the love and pride for this place the second my flight touch down and I was welcomed by a White Hat Greeter, a smiling Calgarian holding a sign with my name on it, ready to tell me all about her beloved city.
Calgary is the gateway to the Canadian Rockies, a place that when most people think of, images of blue skies, bluer lakes, snow capped mountains, and luxe mountain lodges come to mind. All of those visuals are even more majestic when experienced in person, and today Alberta is emerging as a modern wellness mecca, one that knows that self-care and a connection to nature go hand in hand.
Here’s my top recommendations for a mystical weekend packed with wellness, self-care and lots of moments in nature in beautiful Alberta, Canada.
Evolve is an Alberta-based health and wellness tour company offering wellness workshops, health seminars, multi-day retreats and customized travel experiences with a focus on evidence-based wellness coaching. The programs offered incorporate four pillars to optimal health: Mindset + Movement + Nutrition + Sleep. Set in the Canadian Rockies and led by experts in their fields, Evolve Retreat Co. provides guests with the tools, inspiration, knowledge and support to “Experience Wellness” and to incorporate it into their everyday lives.
My time with Evolve started with a guided hike lead by Kristen Stuart, a Canmore local, drawing inspiration from the wild and dynamic surroundings of the Canadian Rockies. Kristen is a Personal Trainer, Hiking Guide, Yoga + Meditation Teacher and Lifestyle Coach, and has been exploring movement medicine with passion and purpose for over 15 years. Kristen opened my wellness weekend with a meditation walk at Grassi Lake in Canmore — if you’re thinking what exactly is a meditation hike — think: quiet hiking while focusing on breath, movement, and connection to the natural elements all around.
Post hike I spent the remainder of the day road tripping through the Rockies with Sarah Harvie. Sarah is Evolve’s Yoga and Outdoor Adventure Guide! She’s a lifelong adventurer, who’s been leading backpacking, backcountry skiing, whitewater canoeing and rafting expeditions for over two decades. Combine Sarah’s training in Energy Work, Massage Therapy and Yoga and you have a guide to both inner and outer landscapes. Sarah and I had a soul sister connection from the get go.
We started our drive with a quick stop into TONIQ, Canmore’s first and only micro-juicery, a beautiful little shop focused on raw foods and craft delicious and nutritious juices. As we wound along the mountain roads we came across a bear in the wild, ahhh Mama Earth magic!
Next on the agenda, a dirt road ride to Mount Engadine Lodge. The Lodge sits in the shadow of its namesake peak, at the head of the expansive and pristine Spray Valley Provincial Park. Nestled high up in an alpine valley the lodge contrasts luxurious creature comforts with a dynamic and enthusiastic landscape. We arrived just in time for a yoga session on the deck of one of the glamping accommodations followed by afternoon tea which also included a smorgasbord of cheeses, veggies, and baked goods coupled with storytelling and conversation with Simon, the lovely General Manager of the lodge.
The night in the Rocky Mountains ended with a visit to Kananaskis Nordic Spa.
A deliberately different take on the hot-warm-cold-rest-repeat hydrotherapy lifestyle practiced in Nordic wellness circles for centuries, Kananaskis Nordic Spa opened in March 2018. Surrounded by alpine forest and rugged mountain peaks, deep in Alberta’s Kananaskis Country, this bold approach to the Nordic Spa tradition takes its inspiration from the invigorating elements of the Canadian outdoors.
The treatments — featuring a series of hot, medium and cool plunge pools, plus saunas and steam rooms — are purposely designed for modern-day travelers seeking equal parts stimulation, recuperation and balance. The onsite restaurant, Two Tree Bistros, offers a simple menu with deliciously rustic food options, and — oh the luxury! can I tell you?! we dined in our robes on oversized plush couches before heading back out in the saunas and steam rooms for more.
After my day of hiking and road tripping I was ready for some time exploring the city: the galleries, the library (it’s like none I’ve seen before!), the restaurants and more. Beforehand however, I scheduled a treatment with Sarah in the comfort of my room at the Residence Inn by Marriott Calgary Downtown (the rooms are apartment size, so there’s plenty of space for a massage table or a yoga mat). The treatment was a combination of CranioSacral Therapy and Energy healing work, and I was left in a serious state of zen afterwards.
Wondering what CranioSacral Therapy is? It’s a gentle hands-on therapy pioneered in the 1970s which brings balance to the entire nervous system. Our bodies store trauma from significant events in our lives - stress, accidents, injuries, and emotions. A CranioSacral therapist is trained to tune into where these traumas and obstructions are located in each individual and then direct healing energy to release these holding patterns. CranioSacral therapy induces a deep sense of healing and well-being
After my treatment, Sarah invited me to join her for a Yoga Nidra workshop. Nidra is an ancient practice that begins with gentle yoga poses to prepare for a guided meditation while resting in an extended Savasana. In Sarah’s workshop the practice was coupled with the music of a live Cello player. It was like nothing I’ve experienced before. In Nidra the teacher guides you into your subconscious — with the intention of tapping into focus and creativity, and leaving you with a sense of peace and happiness.
On my final day of the weekend, I had an appointment at Soma Hammam Spa, for a Turkish Hamman Spa Experience. The treatment is a wet body treatment, so be prepared to strip down, bring your teeniest bathing suit to get the full effect (more on that below!). This treatment is quite possibly the most refreshing and invigorating treatment I’ve ever experienced.
Soma is committed to using both local and imported botanical-based skin care products — which, as a clean beauty aficionado that’s always super important to me.
About the Hammam Treatment: Hammam is a practice in which the service provider bathes and scrubs your body. Yes, it’s intimate, and it’s one of the most refreshing ways to attain serious relaxation. The spa expert starts you off by taking you through a brief tea ceremony and then guides you onto a heated stone bathing slab to increase your body temperature and to stimulate the immune system. From there a deep cleansing, exfoliation, and massage treatment helps the body detoxify.
Between the hikes, road trip moments and spa visits, I worked in time to experience art and culture at Glenbow: Calgary's Art & History Museum (which has an incredible crystal and rock collection) and the new public library. I dined in a variety of restaurants, including a new co-op vegetarian restaurant Allium, and the super adorable, and instagrammable Calcutta Cricket Club. I’ll certainly be back again and would love to hear about your Alberta adventures too! As always, send me a DM at @ouiwegirl with questions!
This post is in partnership with Travel Alberta & Tourism Calgary’s Creator House YYC Program. All opinions are, as always, my own.