Winter Activity Guide
Updated: Feb 2, 2022
Written By: Alex Dudek | Edited By: Sithara Naidoo
Despite a frigid start to winter, the forecast is pleading us to go outside and make use of this warm weather! Whether it be cross country skiing, skating, downhill skiing, or other fun winter activities, here is a guide on how we can enjoy the winter season outside in Edmonton.
Cross Country Skiing
Since the beginning of this pandemic, cross country skiing has grown drastically in popularity. Not only is this sport an excellent way to spend quality time with friends and family outside in a socially distanced manner, but it is also proven to be a great full-body workout!
One great park for cross country skiing in Edmonton is Gold Bar. Located in South East Edmonton, Gold Bar features many kilometers of groomed cross country skiing tracks surrounded by a portion of the Edmonton River Valley. Its diverse variety of trails and trail difficulty make this area quite popular for cross country skiing, and suitable for people of all skill levels. For beginners, trails found in the middle, flat portion of the park are ideal, while trails that wind up and down through forests (usually found closer to the edges of this park) are a wonderful option for intermediate and advanced skiers. In addition, the trails are lit up at night, allowing people to cross country ski at times when it would already be dark.
Another hidden gem that my family always visits is Devon, specifically Devon Lions Campground. This park offers some of the best cross country skiing trails and natural scenery that our area has to offer! Devon, similar to Gold Bar, has an abundant, well groomed and maintained trail network that can accommodate for everyone’s experience and skill level. Those just getting into this sport will without a doubt enjoy the moderate, flat trails circling the snow covered golf field, all surrounded by forests of frosty birch, oak, and coniferous trees.
For the adventurous individuals that are craving a more technically challenging and physically demanding trail, the recently added advanced, hilly route through the woods of Devon is sure to resonate with them. This is, in fact, my favorite cross country trail in Edmonton, which is why Devon is my family’s personal favorite cross country spot. (However, unlike Gold Bar, you are not able to ride these trails at night).
The annual Birkiebiener is a great opportunity for all cross country skiers to put their new skills to the test and race with hundreds of athletes from around the world. This event, which takes place at Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area from February 11th to 28th, has a variety of distance categories, everything from 2 km, 4 km, and 8 km races, to even 13 km, 31 km, and 55 km events. It is definitely a festival that cross country skiers can’t miss!
Skating is a fantastic winter sport to do with friends and family. One particular spot that is known throughout Edmonton for its wonderful skating is the Victoria Skating Loop. Situated close to Downtown Edmonton, this popular skating destination is surrounded by beautiful natural scenery, allowing skaters to admire the true beauty of nature. Visitors have the opportunity to choose from two amazing skating areas: a large, oval shaped ice rink with room to accommodate all skill levels, as well as a skating pathway that winds through a forest of looming coniferous trees. At night, this pathway is illuminated with colorful lights that truly makes the experience seem enchanted and breathtaking. Right beside the main skating rink, you will additionally find a heated building with washrooms and space to put on your skates, thus sealing the deal for an outstanding skating retreat in Edmonton.
Another great skating spot in Edmonton is Hawrelak Park. This destination features a large, open skating area in the middle of the frozen lake, as well as wide loops around two natural, snowy, tree covered islands. This spot often receives a lot of attention for winter sports events, especially during the Silver Skate Festival’s annual winter triathlon. However, on an average day, there should still be plenty of space to comfortably skate around with the family and observe the winter wonderland at Hawrelak Park. In addition, the Hawrelak Park skating area offers a rinkside heated facility fitted with washrooms, where skaters can have the opportunity to warm up, rent out skating equipment for the day, and grab a quick, delicious meal to eat.
Learn more about Edmonton’s outdoor skate locations and ice conditions here.
Depending on current restrictions and circumstances associated with COVID-19, downhill skiing and/or snowboarding may be the perfect winter activity for those brave, adventurous souls seeking a little bit more of an adrenaline rush.
Edmonton has a total of three main ski resorts: Rabbit Hill Snow Resort, Snow Valley Ski Club, as well as Sunridge Ski Area. All three of these skiing destinations offer phenomenal runs that cater towards a variety of skill levels.
If you are looking to spend the day at a thrilling terrain park full of many features big and small, or have a large and diverse selection of runs, Rabbit Hill Snow Resort is definitely the place to go. On the other hand, if a fast chairlift, designated beginner friendly areas, and ease of access are things that you desire instead, then Snow Valley Ski Club is the perfect fit. Lastly, if skiing with a side of snow tubing is on your to-do list, then Sunridge Ski Area can help you achieve that!
If the three winter sports above aren’t your cup of tea, or if you’re simply searching for an additional winter activity to do in your free time with others, building a snowman or even having the traditional snowball fight are both fun, nostalgic ways to enjoy and make use of the bright white snow outside. Sledding is likewise an exhilarating activity that anyone can do at their nearest snowy hill. If you prefer a more relaxing activity, then snowshoeing or walking on trails in Edmonton’s River Valley are sure not to disappoint!