Wow! Has it ever been a busy few months, from Christmas, to studying, to moving into a beautiful new home, I have hardly had a minute to write anything. I have been enjoying myself so much, but I am happy to finally get back out and document some more adventures.
Today I finally checked my first item off of my winter bucket list. My mom and I packed up our skis and my dog and we headed out to try skijoring! We went to the Finlayson Island trails in North Battleford, and the weather was a perfect -1 degrees.
Now, Piper is a retired sled dog, and no stranger to running on snowy trails, so she was thrilled to get back to it. I was a little nervous, not sure how many tumbles I would be taking. We started off a little rusty, with Piper lagging behind and then running forward like a slingshot but after a few minutes of getting in to the swing of things we were a perfect team.
The weather could not have been better, and I found myself feeling even more balanced with a dog than when I ski alone. It was such warm day that our skis stuck to the snow whenever we stopped, and the dried berries that fell off of the trees in fall were colouring the wet snow around them pink. I looked down at some specks on the ground and noticed that even the snow fleas were out to play. It’s always fascinating to see little creatures alive and well in the snow.
It was a wonderful experience and I’ve ordered Piper a proper pulling harness so we can go all of the time!
As the leaves are beginning to turn, and the mornings are getting darker, I am starting to think about how I can make this winter one to remember, even though it seems likely that we will still be practicing social distancing. Pushing myself to get outside despite the cold makes me appreciate the season a whole lot more, and also catch some of that elusive daylight. This will also be my first cold season with my dog Piper, who I adopted back in April, and I am looking forward to making her first winter as a retired sled dog a great one.
Here are three things I want to give a try this winter!
Skijoring With Piper
For the last two snowy seasons, cross-country skiing has been my favorite way to get outside in the cold. Now that I have Piper, I think that skiing could be the perfect activity for us to do together. As a retired sled dog, she is extremely familiar with wearing a harness and running on trails, so I’m hoping it will be an easy transition for her.
Even in their retirement, sled dogs require plenty of exercise, and Piper still loves to run. I need to purchase a pulling harness, a hip belt, and a tug line to get us started. Piper is not much of a puller (based on my experience with her on a dog sled), but she loves going running so I’m hoping that this can be a great way for us to get some exercise this winter.
(Finally) Learning How to Snowboard
This is something that I have been saying since I was 16, but I really truly do want to figure out how to snowboard without getting scared and stopping, or falling every few minutes. It is so frustrating to try over and over again to feel like I haven’t made a stitch of progress, but I’m also not quite ready to admit defeat.
I may even consider switching to downhill skis instead of a board if I continue to have no luck. I am thankful for my kind and patient boyfriend and friends who continue to convince me to go back and give it another try. And if all else fails there’s always a chalet nearby to sit by a warm fire and enjoy a caesar, right?
Camping is one of my favorite things to do throughout the warmer seasons, and I would love to get out and experience the winter even more. About four years ago I spent an overnight in a Quinzhee with my Recreation and Tourism program and it was such a unique experience.
A Quinzhee is created by building up a large pile of snow, letting it harden up, and then hollowing out the center to create a space to sleep. As soon as we get enough snow on the ground, my sister and I will be out there trying to craft the perfect snow shelter. We will need to trade in our ultra light backpacking gear for some heavier cold weather sleeping bags, but sleeping in a snow shelter can be very warm if it is set up right! There are so many amazing places in Saskatchewan that I want to revisit in the winter, and camping is a great way to do it.
Picture this; it’s a cold (but not too cold) day in Saskatoon, you’ve exhausted all of the appealing options on Netflix, and you’re feeling a little stir crazy because your outdoor excursions have been limited to running to and from your car all week in your heaviest winter coat. Maybe today is the day to mix it up, get a little fresh air, and explore somewhere new?
As a beginner cross country skier, I love that it is the perfect way to continue to explore the trails even in the winter, it isn’t terribly difficult to get the hang of, and it gets me out of a dingy gym and into the outdoors. If you don’t own your own set of skis, you can rent them from Eb’s Source for Adventure for around $22/day. They can also recommend the best trails for you to try out and usually have maps on hand.
You’ll find Eb’s trails about an hour north of Saskatoon, just past Duck Lake (Google maps may tell you to drive past the trail entrances and do a U Turn on the highway, but you can actually turn directly left and save yourself an extra 15-20 mins of driving). There are 52kms of trail and two warm up shacks beautifully maintained by the Saskatoon Nordic Ski Club.
My sister, two friends, and I decided to head up to Eb’s for a half day. Beginning at the south lot, we took the Sask 60 trail up to Jorgen’s, this section of trail is perfect for beginners. Then we stopped for a quick snack at the north warm up shack, we all agreed that it worth it to pack yourself some good food and some hot chocolate. After, we skied the Beaverlodge trail directly back into the south lot where our vehicle was parked, we found this section of trail a little more technical, but also quite fun as there were more twists and hills.
Check out the Saskatoon Nordic Ski club website for a trail map and current trail conditions.
While it’s tempting to stay in and hide as soon as the snow hits the ground, Saskatoon has a lot of fun to offer. Take advantage of those warm winter days by getting outside and exploring the nature in your back yard!
Snowshoe at Cranberry Flats
Cranberry Flats Conservation Area is only a few minutes out of the city and perfect for summer and winter walks. There are plenty of little trails that take you to a small lookout platform, through the brush, and down to the rivers edge. If you don’t have a set of snowshoes, rent them from Eb’s Adventure or Escape Sports for about $15/$20 for the day. Dogs are welcome on leash here!
Cross Country Ski at Meewasin
Glide along the snow with a beautiful view of the river at the Lower Meewasin Park ski trail at Pinehouse and Whiteswan Drive. There are plenty of amazing trails worth checking out in Saskatoon, but this one will give you an exceptional view of the city skyline if you go in the evening. If you don’t have cross country skis, rent some from Eb’s for $20/day.
Visit the Birds at Beaver Creek
The Beaver Creek Conservation area is the perfect place to go if you want to feel like a Disney princess for a couple hours, and it’s only about 13km out of the city. Stop in at the interpretive centre for a little cup of birdseed and then head out on a walk to find some friendly chickadees and a perfect photo opportunity. Plan your visit for a weekday as the area is closed on weekends.