Indoor climbing walls offer active respite from the cold. By Kirsten Varsek
If you want an energetic break from cold weather sports, visit our local indoor climbing walls. “Climbing is good cross-training; the balance and strength required transfer over to activities like skiing and snowboarding,” says Scott McKay at Canmore’s Elevation Place. Chris Neve at The Banff Centre Sally Borden fitness facility agrees: “Climbing builds upper and lower body strength, flexibility and endurance. Best of all, it’s fun!”
Elevation Place and the Jasper Fitness & Aquatic Centre climbing gyms have recently opened. Scott notes that during construction of Elevation Place (known as Canmore’s indoor playground), “we designed the wall with climbing community input; there’s something for climbers of every level.” Jasper’s bouldering wall also utilizes community feedback. “Routes are reset by Jasper Climbing Association volunteers every three months,” notes manager Natasha Melanchak.
At Elevation Place, the 10,000 square feet of climbing surfaces that rise up to 45 feet include bouldering terrain and a speed wall designed by the International Federation of Sport Climbing. Scott adds, “our ‘Rocktopia’ offers texture that simulates outdoor rock. And our six auto-belays are great for beginners; after an orientation you can climb without a partner or belay test.” He concludes, “some climbing gyms are dark and dingy. But Elevation Place has natural light and mountain views. Athletes that climb here really appreciate that connection with the outdoors.”
The Banff Centre’s 4500 square foot wall has 14 top-rope routes, and a climbing arch. “Athletes can climb up one side, cross upside down and descend the other side,” says Chris. “Our features are moved regularly to keep climbs challenging.” The facility’s unique location attracts unusual climbers. “The Centre hosts international artists from dancers to circus performers. They use the climbing gym to create new acts, and to practice their craft,” says Chris.
Day passes for Banff, Canmore and Jasper walls include access to fitness centres and pools. Elevation Place’s fee also includes climbing classes while changing courses at The Banff Centre are $10.