"Cross-country skiing in Alberta: There's so much to love!"
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By Joanne Elves
Our top reasons for Nordic skiing in Alberta are as varied as the terrain you can stride and glide over. And that’s the beauty of cross-country skiing; you can do it on the flats, river valleys or in the mountains. Heck, there is nothing wrong with setting tracks in the yard or along the boulevard. Check out our top reasons and places to toss on the skis.
New to Nordic skiing? Welcome! Here’s your chance to learn something new without spending a fortune. Find cross-country ski clubs like the Vermilion Nordic Centre where rentals are available at the clubhouse for as little as ten bucks per day. Vermilion is only two hours east of Edmonton and is hometown to Olympic Gold medalist in cross-country skiing (and Chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency Athlete Committee) Beckie Scott. The clubhouse is in the Vermilion Provincial Park with over 15 kilometres of rolling prairies and river valleys out every door of the restored 1905 train station.
Other places to rent Nordic ski gear onsite in Alberta, include the Canmore Nordic Centre, Kananaskis Outfitters in K-Country, Pure Outdoors and Totem Ski Shop in Jasper, Chateau Lake Louise, and Trail Sports in Canmore.
Lunch breaks – In summer, everyone watches the clock and starts lacing up before the clock strikes noon, so why not have the skinny skis ready and pop off to the local golf course or city park for a fast lap? Edmonton’s River Valley offers a vast array of groomed trails. William Hawrelak Park is always a good bet. Golf courses open to skiing include Riverside and Victoria.
In Calgary, fast laps on cross-country skis can be made at Shaganappi, Maple Ridge and Confederation Park golf courses. Other good spots for tracks is South Glenmore Park and Bowness Park.
Short trips – A few hours east of Edmonton, you can spend a few hours cross-country skiing at Cold Lake, Lac La Biche or to the west, enjoy the trails in Drayton Valley or Hinton. West of Red Deer is Rocky Mountain House with cross-country trails spidering out in all directions. Check out Crimson Lake just south of town.
Calgary is delightfully close to a bundle of cross-country trails just west of Bragg Creek. Go a little further into Kananaskis Country and there are trails to keep you busy all winter long.
Expeditions – Pack a lunch and hit the trails early for all-day adventures. After a hard day on the trails can there be anything better than ending your day at a remote ski lodge? Cross-country ski 11 kilometres through magnificent terrain into Skoki Lodge behind Lake Louise Ski Resort, or almost the same distance to Sundance Lodge from the Sunshine Ski Resort turn off (Here’s a secret! You can use fat bikes to get to Sundance, too!). Each day-long trek ends with delicious meals, warm fires, and excellent accommodations. Best of all, you wake up to remarkable terrain to start another day.
Romantic getaways – A ski chalet or a mountain lodge are wonderful weekend romance and ski ideas but trekking in might not be your style. Mount Engadine Lodge and the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge are easy to access by car and offer cross-country trails at your ski tips. At Mount Engadine, wake up to moose walking across the meadow out your window. The Pomeroy is home to the absolutely marvelous Kananaskis Nordic Spa.
The best part about cross-country skiing is that you are out there with friends, drinking in that fresh air and soaking up the Vitamin D. But don’t forget to tip your waiter. Huh? If there is a donation box at the trailhead, support the folks that are out there grooming and setting track. Drop a few bills in the box. You know it’s worth it.