The Lethbridge Airport terminal is about 5 miles (8 km) southeast of downtown, a drive that usually takes no more than 15 minutes. Internationally-known Waterton Lakes and world-class skiing in the Canadian Rockies is less than two hours’ drive west of the airport. For those so inclined, the United States border is about an hour south of the airport and Glacier National Park in Montana, is another half-hour drive.
Lethbridge, on the Oldman River in southeastern Alberta, is the fourth largest city in the province, with a population of more than 110,000 and about three times that many living in the area served by the airport. With a semi-arid climate, the region has comparatively mild winters due to frequent chinook winds blowing through the river valley off the Canadian Rockies. A unique geological feature of the area are coulees, gullies about 325 feet (100 meters) deep formed by glacial meltwater more than 10,000 years ago.
When it comes to economic development, Lethbridge has a history of pivoting and adapting to circumstances to take advantage of opportunities. When the United States Army in 1869 banned alcohol trading to native people in Montana, entrepreneurs set up a whisky trading post just west of what is now downtown Lethbridge that became known as Fort Whoop-Up. When the North-West Mounted Police shut it down five years later, local attention turned to drift mining the nearby “black rocks” in the hills, which made the area the largest producer of coal in the Northwest Territories during World War I. Mining brought the railroad and that led to Lethbridge becoming a transportation hub. Meanwhile, farmers in the early 1900s, looking for more reliable water, built a series of canals to irrigate their crops. Today all of that has come together to make Lethbridge a center for logistics, agriculture, technology, finance and education.
The two-gate terminal building, originally built in 1979, was expanded and modernized as part of a nearly $26 million airport-wide infrastructure improvement project. The renovated terminal opened in January 2022 and includes larger gate waiting areas as well as technological enhancements. The biggest challenge for passengers is likely to be the brisk quick walk outdoors on the tarmac between the plane and the terminal.
There are vending machines in the terminal but no food concessions. There are restaurants and quick-service food options less than 2 miles (3.1 km) away from the airport on the outskirts of Lethbridge.
For ground transportation, it is recommended that arrangements be made before arrival at the airport. National Car Rental has a counter in the terminal. Otherwise taxi companies and car and limousine services are based off-site. Uber also operates in Lethbridge. A public transit option is Rides on Demand through Lethbridge Transit.
Flair Airlines passengers arrive and depart Lethbridge Airport through ground-level gates. Flair begins online check-in for departing passengers 24 hours ahead of scheduled flight time and opens its check-in counter inside YQL three hours before departure. All check-in closes one hour before departure.
When visiting Lethbridge and southern Alberta it’s probably wise to do what people in the area have done for a long time – take advantage of what’s there when it’s there. That means doing something outdoors, even in winter including a Winter Lights Festival at Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden and skiing at Castle Mountain Resort in Pincher Creek, a skier-owned and operated resort spread out over 3,592 acres on two mountains and eight alpine bowls with an annual snowfall of 354 inches (900 cm). Surrounding Lethbridge are four UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage sites: internationally known Waterton Lakes National Park where you can get away from it all in a cozy winter retreat, Writing-on-Stone/Áísínai’pi Provincial Park’s hoodoo formations, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump used by indigenous peoples more than 6,000 years ago, and Dinosaur Provincial Park where fossils of 49 different dinosaur species have been uncovered.
For tools to help build your own itinerary visit Tourism Lethbridge.
The present-day name for Lethbridge came from an idea by Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt, an early industrialist and promoter of Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Among his ventures, Galt started the North Western Coal and Navigation Company railroad in 1882. William Lethbridge, who lived in London and rose from poverty to become a prominent lawyer and businessman, was the largest investor and first president of Galt’s railroad. To honor his largest investor, Galt succeeded in getting the city named for him in 1885. Lethbridge remained in London, managing the William Henry Smith law firm and partnering with Smith on his book selling business, W.H. Smith, which still exists in England. Lethbridge died in 1901 having never stepped foot in Canada, much less the city that was named for him.
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