Travel Alberta

Near Perfect Storm Sets the Stage for Christmas TV Magic

Inspiring the Christmas spirit in over four million people takes a pretty special set of circumstances. A miracle, you might almost say. And after whiteout conditions, deep-freeze temperatures and gear malfunctions, you’d be right.

But that is what Dutch TV producer Endemol accomplishes each year with “All You Need is Love,” a two-hour Christmas Eve special that has aired annually in the Netherlands for over 20 years. This year, Karen Keller and Travel Alberta partnership with KLM and Go Canada welcomed the Endemol crew to Alberta to capture that holiday magic – and they did, with spectacular results.

A blizzard was blowing in as the crew touched down in Calgary. From there, it was on to the Kananaskis, where the shoot was set, picking up props along the way – including tiki torches, fishing rods and a 1976 Jeep Wagoneer (more about the latter shortly). Visibility continued to worsen the next day as an estimated 30-50 cm of snow fell, making driving treacherous. By that night snow had shut down the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Lakes Trail – the closest road access to Mount Engadine Lodge, a primary location.

With three reunions to stage between three international couples, all of whom had to be kept separate until that special moment, backcountry road closures, poor driving and intermittent cell coverage added to the complexity of the shoot.

However, by the following morning the storm had passed, leaving beautiful blue skies in its wake. Spruce boughs bent with the weight of freshly fallen snow, the sun glistened on pillowy cabin rooftops, chimneys wisped with smoke. Add the majestic Alberta Rockies, and the shoot was pretty much gift-wrapped. It wasn’t all smooth sailing from there – that ’76 Jeep needed a couple emergency boosts, -30C temps caused camera batteries to fail at inopportune times – but strategically selected locations around Canmore and the Kananaskis showcased Alberta’s unparalleled winter beauty for the cameras. Three reunions later – including one marriage proposal – Endemol producers were ecstatic. The team has called this year’s edition the best yet. 

The program is one of the country’s favourite Christmas traditions with over three million viewers on Dec 24, and an additional million viewers in reruns Christmas day. Thousands more write letters to the show, in hopes of being reconnected with their loved ones abroad – the central theme of the program.

Needless to say, “All You Need is Love” is family favourite that is highly influential among Dutch travelers. Dutch tour operators noticed a significant jump in requests for Alberta bookings following the highly successful 2012 special shot in Banff.


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