Saint Albertans embrace winter with a host of outdoor activities

Here’s a look at three hotspots in the city to get your blood pumping.

As Old Man Winter ushers in the coldest weather, many St. Albertans have chosen to band together and get out to make the most of what the city has to offer.

Many have found ways to enjoy the outdoors while embracing the cold and the snow, whether it’s to stay in shape or just have fun with the winter cards we’ve been handed out.

From speeding down a hill on a toboggan to taking a leisurely stroll along riverside trails, there are a variety of activities to keep residents and visitors busy.

Here’s a look at three hotspots of winter activity that Albertans have been spotted taking full advantage of.

Cross-country skiing along the Sturgeon

Cross-country skiing is a must in St. Albert, with a dedicated group led by an active Nordic ski club based in Kingswood Park.

The club has added more trails that straddle the Sturgeon River. Some trails go all the way to Sturgeon Valley Golf and Country Club, ensuring anyone making the trek is sure to get both an effective workout and great views of local wildlife.

Steven Boyko was out with his wife and two-year-old daughter on the trails on December 22. He said cross-country skiing is the perfect way to spend quality time with family while staying as safe as possible in a COVID world.

“We said what better way to get [our daughter] outside and enjoying the outdoors,” Boyko said. “With COVID, there’s not a lot we can do indoors, so we thought we could get her started.”

The new trails have also provided the Boyko family with many new adventures to embark on.

“The trails are great. As soon as it snows, they’re groomed,” Boyko said. “It’s just beautiful wilderness along the Sturgeon River with tall trees and lots of birds.”

James McDonald, 73, and Malcolm Connell, 70, were also on the trails. McDonald was only out for the second time in 45 years, while Connell is a regular skier.

“I’ve been skiing here since 1984,” Connell said. “I don’t really like doing indoor sports. I love being outside no matter the weather.

“[The trails] are much better. We haven’t skied to the golf course yet. Now they can have good races here at Riverlot 56. Before it was too tight to have a race. It’s much better to have races, a more consistent club, and people have a chance to get fit because it’s a longer track.

McDonald may be a newcomer, but that hasn’t stopped him from enjoying the trails.

“I find that parts of my lungs are reopening for business,” McDonald laughed. “I did this sport a long time ago in Winnipeg and if you wanted to ski in Winnipeg, cross-country skiing was natural.”

Their advice for getting started in the sport is simple: just get a pair of skis. Both McDonald and Connell mentioned that low-income families should seek out second-hand skis if they want a cheap and quick way to get out.

Tobogganing in Seven Hills

If cross-country skiing doesn’t scratch that adrenaline itch, you won’t have to look much further than Seven Hills on Vital Avenue. The hill is almost always bustling with people of all ages preparing to reach new speeds on their downhill tubes, slides or sleds.

More than that, it also offers stunning views of the city as a scenic winter landscape.

Morinville resident Laura Berry brought her two children to enjoy the hill on December 22. She said they were drawn to the hill because of the view and the fact that they had never tried it before.

“We came to check it out because we’ve never been to that hill,” Berry said. “We live in Morinville and have tried all the local hills before, so we thought we’d bring the kids to try something a little different!

“Everyone really enjoyed themselves and it really is a beautiful place.”

For newcomers, especially children, the hill can be a little daunting. It seems like quite a journey to get to the bottom but, after a bit of self-motivation, the reward will certainly be worth the risk.

Kendra Drader was one of the kids who went through this exact thought process.

“The hill is really steep!” Drder said.

However, there were a few brave kids who were less concerned with the steep incline and more focused on the view.

“I can see the whole city from here!” screamed Nadia Berry

Then there were others, who were quickly distracted by the other people enjoying the hill, like Nadia’s sister, Elena.

“I see a puppy!” said Helen.

It doesn’t matter what kind of device you use to descend the hill, as long as you have one, it seems like a good time is almost guaranteed.

Skating on the Rotary Park Freezeway

These first two options will satisfy both adrenaline seekers and lovers of relaxing outings, but where is the middle ground? Look no further than Rotary Park Freezeway which is just past Larry Olexiuk Field off Riel Drive.

Here you will see a patch of ice that evokes all the feelings of a winter wonderland. A pine tree sits in the middle of the icy surface, bringing to mind that classic Charlie Brown Christmas scene.

Gwen Grant grew up in the community, but is from Calgary. She said the freezer seemed like a fun afternoon activity to do alongside her son.

“We just wanted to go out and skate,” Grant said. “We searched online and found this to try during the day and maybe come back at night when the lights are on.

“It’s fun to go out.”

When the clock strikes 4 p.m., lights of all colors decorate the area until 10 p.m. It’s a must for any family trying to get into the winter spirit.

The Memphis and Wells Ford brothers were two of many kids who enjoyed everything the freezer had to offer on December 22. They also had a few competing thoughts on what they most enjoyed doing.

“[My favourite thing about the skating is] go fast,” Memphis said.

“I like to go slow,” Wells said.

Hockey sticks and pucks are not allowed on the freezer, as it is intended to be used for skating only.