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Banff’s Winter Festival Kicks off the Season

By Afton Aikens

With ski resorts open (and busy) from November to May, Banff is a good place to be a winter enthusiast. Embracing these chilly months has shaped the culture of the Canadian Rockies and those who live and play here, so it’s fitting that Banff National Park hosts a festival to ring in the season.

The Winterstart calendar (Nov. 29-Dec. 21) is packed with excitement. Get in the spirit with the Lake Louise Alpine World Cup (men’s weekend Nov. 29-30 and ladies’ weekend Dec. 5-7). Browse an exhibition at a local art gallery, or learn to curl at the town rec centre (Dec. 3, 10 & 17).

Photo: Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography

Photo: Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography

Enjoy the family-friendly festivities in Banff Avenue Square (Saturdays 4-7 p.m. from Nov. 29-Dec. 20) like the ice carving and Christmas craft stations, or relax by the fire with free hot chocolate and marshmallows to roast. Don’t forget to get your picture taken with Santa.

A favourite event is the Santa Claus Parade of Lights & Festive Fun on Dec. 6. The day begins with free entertainment like caroling, balloon twisting, carnival games and crafts around town. Face painting and photos with Santa will be offered at a minimal cost. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to a local charity. Catch a holiday wagon ride at The Trail Rider store, and of course, watch the parade of lights down Banff Avenue at 5:30 p.m.

The following Saturday, Dec. 13, the CP Holiday Train rolls into town at the Banff Heritage Train Station, which will be hosting an open house with live entertainment, hot chocolate and fire pits to warm up beside. Admire the newly renovated train station. The train will arrive at 7 p.m.

Hot Entertainment: Vancouver Christmas Events

Dress Like Santa Day at Whistler Blackcomb. Photo by Emmanual Mendes Dos Santos courtesy www.coastphoto.com

Christmas Spirit

Don your best gear—your best Old Saint Nick gear, that is—and head to Whistler Blackcomb for the annual Dress Like Santa Day, when the first 50 folks outfitted like Mr. or Mrs. Claus can ski for free (Dec. 17). The jolly old elf always makes a grand West Coast entrance for Christmas in Steveston, arriving in a whale watching boat (Dec. 3 to 23). Winter Harp celebrates the season with a concert of harps and rare medieval instruments in St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church (Dec. 17). Goh Ballet brings to life Clara, the Mouse King and the rest of the beloved characters in Tchaikovsky’s Christmas classic The Nutcracker at The Centre (Dec. 15 to 18).—Sheri Radford

More information:

DRESS LIKE SANTA DAY Whistler Blackcomb. Toll-free 1-800-766-0449. www.whistler blackcomb.com

CHRISTMAS IN STEVESTON Toll-free 1-877-247-0777. www.tourismrichmond.com

WINTER HARP 7:30 pm. $37.25. St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, 1022 Nelson St. at Burrard. Tickets 604-684-2787. www.winterharp.com

THE NUTCRACKER BY GOH BALLET 7:30 pm. Matinees Sa-Su 2 pm. $28+. The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, 777 Homer St. Tickets 1-855-985-2787. www.goh ballet.com

Weekend Roundup: Best Bets for December 2 to 4

Minor Empire plays the National Arts Centre on Dec. 3.

Friday, Dec. 2
If you’re looking for something different and interesting, come check out Minor Empire, a Toronto-based band composed of Turkish and Canadian musicians. The band will be performing music from their debut album Second Nature, which brings together traditional Turkish music and electro-jazz. Minor Empire has received rave reviews and performed at the Sunfest World Music Festival and the Markham Jazz Festival. Catch them this Friday night, along with special guest Jane Bunnett.

The magic of The Nutcracker is coming to life this weekend at the National Arts Centre. The Pennsylvania Ballet will be performing the iconic show in the George Balanchine style, where children play the lead roles (with no allusion to romance between them) and the costumes and set design are gloriously rich. This holiday classic is sure to melt your heart and get you in the Christmas spirit. Show runs Thursday through Sunday with matinees on Saturday and Sunday.

Canadian choral music will be at its finest this weekend at Coro Vivo Ottawa’s concert,”Northern Lights.” This large, vibrant choir will celebrate the uniqueness of Canadian choral compositions by showcasing some of the finest. Among them are Eleanor Daly’s arrangement of the “Huron Carol” and Mark Sirett’s “Dormi Jesu.” If you’re a choir music aficionado, or just looking to enjoy some fine music for an evening, this concert is sure to please. Concerts on both Friday and Saturday.

Saturday, Dec. 3
It’s back! Head out to 101 Frames, the annual fundraising auction where people can bid on fascinating, one-of-a-kind artwork at Gallery 101. This is the fourth year with the theme “the seven deadly sins.” In past years, eager art-goers were able to see artists’ interpretations of wrath, pride, and lust — and now’s it’s gluttony’s turn. After the auction, people get to indulge in a groovy dance party and live entertainment. Gluttony never looked so good! (more…)