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Waterton Lakes National Park is one of the best places in Canada to view the night sky, and Dark Sky Guides Ltd. offers guided interpretive stargazing tours within the park.

Tours are entertaining and educational. Guides are also storytellers who share legends that showcase the beauty of the night sky. Guests can learn about the moon, neighbouring planets, nebulae and star clusters, constellations, the Milky Way Galaxy, the aurora borealis and the nocturnal creatures that make Waterton Lakes National Park their home. There are several tours on offer, and each is designed to help guests foster a personal connection with the night sky and with Waterton Lakes National Park.

Keith Robinson, owner and operator of Dark Sky Guides Ltd., shares his thoughts on Alberta’s tourism industry and the road forward.

How did your business evolve during the pandemic? What changes or new aspects to your business will you take with you moving forward?

Dark Sky Guides Ltd. was incorporated just a couple years before the pandemic and its operations were still in their infancy when the pandemic hit. Many of the operational processes (e.g., online reservations/sales) that we designed initially were modelled after industry leaders and so, in many regards, Dark Sky Guides Ltd. was already very well suited to operating in a pandemic environment.

Dark Sky Guides, discover your universe van.

The pandemic has forced Dark Sky Guides Ltd. to refine its service offerings and really focus on its core strength (immersive storytelling), as opposed to offering lots of extra features (like the telescopes that we originally started with – but ultimately hope to bring back one day).

One change that we implemented during the pandemic was to move way from paper copy waivers and switch to digital waiver. This was on the company’s “to-do” list even before the pandemic began, but the pandemic forced us to address the issue more quickly than originally anticipated.

Another pandemic adjustment was to create a brand-new Twilight Wildlife Walking tour, which was a bit of a departure from our traditional after-dark tours, to appeal to additional guests. This tour was priced significantly lower than our other tours to accommodate Albertans who may have been hard-hit by the economic downturn but were still willing to travel to Waterton Lakes National Park and support local.

We know that Albertans will play a key role in the initial economic recovery of our local tourism industry, as health restrictions lift. What would you say to encourage Albertans to continue exploring their own backyard, even when it’s possible to travel elsewhere again?

Albertans need to continue to “stick together” and support one another. Support for local businesses has been incredible throughout the pandemic, and it’s as important to continue to support local and ensure that our Alberta economy gets back on its feet. If you look hard enough around the province, you can find a destination within the province that compares to just about any place around the world – whether it’s mountains, lakes, beaches or urban centers.

We know that health and safety is top of mind for everyone right now. How is your business preparing to give visitors peace of mind as restrictions lift?

Dark Sky Guides Ltd. continues to remain health/safety conscious by using this messaging whenever guests inquire about our updated health and safety policies.

Dark Sky Guides, two people stargazing.

Even though Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Government of Alberta have lifted restrictions, we still feel that to ensure a safe experience for our guests and guides, as well as to protect our stargazing equipment from the chemicals in various disinfectants. We are going to continue without telescopes and binoculars for the time being, and instead continue to focus on delivering naked-eye stargazing experiences. We will continue to monitor the pandemic situation across the province as the summer progresses and we hope to be able to change our operations midway through the summer season, but we cannot confirm if/when those changes will be implemented. If you have your own binoculars, you are more than welcome to bring those with you! As for masks, we strongly recommend that guests wear masks while near one another during the tour bus ride at the start/end of each tour.

We continue to sanitize and disinfect all equipment that is currently used, including the Dark Sky Tour Bus, headlamps, hiking poles and the meteorite fragment that we sometimes share with guests. Furthermore, we have left the plexiglass shield installed behind the driver seat in the Dark Sky Bus.

Lastly, guides continue to wear masks at the start and end of each tour (when they greet/check-in guests), as well as when saying farewell at the end of the tour.

What is the most valuable part of Alberta’s tourism industry?

It is a combination of the following:

  • A significant number of destinations with internationally recognized designations such as International Peace Park, UNESCO World Heritage Sites; Dark Sky Preserves, National Parks, Biosphere Reserves, etc.
  • An abundance of exceptional natural history areas (the Rocky Mountains, the prairies, the badlands, etc.).
  • The rich human history, and all the unique personal stories that those working in tourism/hospitality share with visitors (including the mom-and-pop shops and all of the multi-generational small family businesses).

What are your hopes for the future of Alberta’s tourism industry? How will your business play a role in that?


I am hopeful that Alberta’s tourism industry will bounce back stronger than ever before. I hope that Albertans will continue to explore and discover their own backyard in the coming months and years. If this trend continues and combined with a future influx of American and international travellers, Alberta could see far greater numbers of inbound travellers than ever before!

Keith Robinson, owner and operator of Dark Sky Guides Ltd.

Furthermore, the pandemic has resulted in more and more people becoming interested in stargazing. With a greater percentage of the general population developing an interest in the night sky, Dark Sky Guides Ltd. is well positioned to become a real industry leader in terms of offering experiences that educate and enhance people’s desire to explore the night sky. Dark Sky Guides Ltd. is the only business in southwest Alberta to focus their service offering on astrotourism.

What do you wish the rest of the world knew about tourism in Alberta?

Alberta is home to some great stargazing locations. The province has Dark Sky Preserves (as designated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada), and Dark Sky Parks (as designated by the International Dark Sky Association), which is what Waterton Lakes National Park is.

The aurora borealis (northern lights) can be seen all over the province, including the southwest corner of the province and Waterton Lakes National Park.

Dark Sky Guides, setting up stargazing telescopes.

What is your favourite “hidden gem” in Alberta?

Sitting around a campfire and leaning back to enjoy the stars and Milky Way in the backcountry of Waterton Lakes National Park/Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park/Waterton-Glacier International Dark Sky Park (the list of titles could go on).

What is your favourite memory of travelling in Alberta?

The visits I’ve made to the Royal Tyrrell Museum over the years. If I didn’t have such deep tourism roots in Waterton Lakes National Park, I probably would have pursued work related to dinosaurs.

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