Whitecourt is a happening winter hotspot

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Natanya Gunderson has been a life-long skier – and took up snowboarding at the age of 30 – but she recently had her first cross-country experience in a very long time. Did she love it? You certainly could say she did.

“I haven’t done it since I was 10 and now, I’m looking for a pair skis.”

Her rediscovery of Nordic skiing came after experiencing Whitecourt’s groomed trails at the Whitecourt Golf & Country Club, recently. 

“It’s beautiful. The golf course runs along the Athabasca River,” says Gunderson. She’s lived in Whitecourt for 16 years where she’s raising her two daughters, Ashlyn, 14 and Cayden, 12, along with her husband Kelly. “Whitecourt is a beautiful setting. We’re really blessed here to have the amenities. It’s a happening place.”

Most weekends you’ll find Gunderson on the slopes at Eastlink Park, where she has been teaching Level 1 to skiers and boarders for the past three years.

Gunderson loves the joy it brings to first-timers who’ve never been on skis before. “The smiles. There comes a point where it just clicks and they say, ‘this is so much fun!’ ”

But this year, just in time for a season where skiers are staying close to home, Eastlink quadrupled its size to 40 acres and added a T-bar. A magic carpet was the only way up the hill before. Guye Lappin was instrumental in getting the T-bar configured for the park and up and running.

“The community is loving it,” says Lappin, who says he’s seeing more and more people coming from out of town to enjoy a day on the slopes, too. “Before, the 13 and 14-year-old kids would get bored and leave after a couple of hours. But now families are coming out and sticking around with their kids, spending the whole day.”

The expansion means a lot more runs – 18 – four of them classified as easy black runs and a great selection of greens and blues. The hill has also added firepits and picnic tables for socially distanced lunches and snacks. Lappin adds tailgating has also become a popular thing again.

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Whitecourt Alberta Snowmobiling
Photographer: Karl Woll

Whitecourt calls itself the 'snowmobiling capital of Alberta' with miles of trails in the area. 

You can’t talk about Whitecourt’s winter scene without mentioning that it bills itself the “snowmobiling capital of Alberta.” That’s another activity the Gundersons love to do. And when the conditions are are just right, they ride out to the Summit Trail for a day of fun.

On their way home, they might hit up the Mountain Steak and Pizza for their favourites, pizza or lasagna. “It’s just got a nice, cosy atmosphere,” Natanya says. For a pre-sledding treat, she might also head to the Western Canadian Coffee Company, known for its amazing coffees and delicious cookies. “People have been raving about it,” she says.

Discover these #ABWays2Winter incentives

And when the family wants a low-key, human-powered family activity, they’ll head to Rotary Park for ice skating and then warm up around the fire pits. The park is a hub for the community with a dog park and a walking trail that loops around and takes you down to the golf course, where the Nordic skiers play.

With so many winter activities nearby and within walking distance what’s not to love about winter in Whitecourt.

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