Experience the majestic beauty of Alberta's provincial parks this winter
If you are looking for some outdoor fun for the whole family, a variety of winter activities are available at provincial parks and recreation areas across Alberta.
William A. Switzer Provincial Park, north of Hinton, has more than 50 kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trails for both skate skiing and classic skiing. Popular trails include Joachim Valley and Jarvis Lake, both of which begin at the Jarvis Lake campground. Switzer Park also features a 900 metre luge track, operated by the Hinton Luge Association, for you to can try. Call 780-865-2922 to sign up for a training program.
Grooming and track setting are underway for cross-country skiing at Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, near Edmonton. There are 65 kilometres of maintained trails for classic skiing, 35 kilometres of packed trails for skate skiing and numerous non-groomed trails.
Crimson Lake Provincial Park, near Rocky Mountain House, offers 10 kilometres of groomed and 10 kilometres of non-groomed cross-country ski trails. Or, head to Vermilion to check out the exceptional toboggan hill at Vermilion Provincial Park, perfect for the whole family. A little further east near Wainwright, Dillberry Lake Provincial Park offers great ice fishing opportunities at a stocked trout lake.
There are many superb cross-country ski trails throughout southern Alberta, including Chinook Provincial Recreation Area, Syncline Provincial Recreation Area and Beauvais Lake Provincial Park.
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, near Medicine Hat, boasts more than 15 kilometres of groomed and track set cross-country ski trails. The Spring Creek cross-country ski trails on the plateau south of Elkwater offer an excellent variety for both beginner and novice skiers. The Spruce Coulee trails east of Elkwater are excellent trails for all levels of cross-country skiers.
The park's visitor centre also has a variety of equipment available for rent, including pulks (enclosed toboggans with harnesses), ski attachments for chariot strollers, kick sleds, toboggans, geo-caching GPS units and snowshoes. Suggested route maps are available at the visitor centre.
Ski or snowshoe in/out accommodation rentals are now available at two backcountry huts, located approximately five kilometres from the parking area at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. The facilities sleep between eight to ten people and have a living/dining room and a fully stocked kitchen area. Winter coziness is provided by a wood burning stove. Call 403-893-3833 for more information and to book your vacation.
Join us on February 23 for the first annual Cypress Hills Loppet. This fun cross-country ski race will have an eight kilometre family loop and a 22 kilometre open event. Contact the Cypress Hills visitor centre at 403-893-3833 for more details.
On March 10, join Gregg Campbell, a level 3 Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructor and a former national team member, for an afternoon of skate skiing at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. Classes for children run from 10 a.m. to noon at the Cypress Hills Learning Centre. Adult classes are from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Cross-country ski clinics are free and open to skiers at every skill level.
For world-renowned cross-country skiing, visit Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park, the Kananaskis Village/Ribbon Creek system or West Bragg Creek. At the Canmore Nordic Centre, you can even enjoy night skiing from sundown until 9 p.m. on the lit Banff Trail up to Junction 7 where it meets the Banff Loop Trail. The day lodge closes at 5:30 p.m. daily.
There are ample opportunities to snowshoe in Kananaskis Country; you can skate at outdoor ice rinks at Sheep Valley Provincial Park, the Kananaskis Village and Canmore Nordic Centre, or slide down a toboggan hill at Kananaskis Village.
Winter camping is a wonderful adventure for the whole family. Sites are available at Chain Lakes Provincial Park; Crimson Lake Provincial Park; Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park â€“ Elkwater, Lakeview and Spruce Coulee; Dinosaur Provincial Park; Kinbrook Island Provincial Park; McLean Creek Provincial Recreation Area; Miquelon Lake Provincial Park; Pembina River Provincial Park; Saskatoon Island Provincial Park; Vermilion Provincial Park; William A. Switzer Provincial Park; and Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. The Mount Kidd RV Park in the Evan-Thomas Provincial Recreation Area has amenities to suit most camping enthusiasts.
For more information on winter activities visit AlbertaParks.ca.