Growing up in Alberta, I had never felt the need to travel around Canada in the winter time. As a kid, I grew up in the North, playing hockey under the Northern Lights and going snowmobiling deep into the Boreal forest. As an adult, I moved to Calgary, turning the Canadian Rockies into my winter playground. So, with all that winter fun around, I’ve either enjoyed my own surroundings or jumped on a plane to warmer destinations. However, this all changed when I flew into Saskatoon to experience Saskatchewan in the winter. After enjoying the many things to do in Saskatoon, my wife and I headed north to Waskesiu, Prince Albert National Park. We had visited Waskesiu once before during the summer months when we made a video about all the things to do in Saskatchewan, but this was our first time visiting in the winter months. It turns out that Prince Albert National Park and neighboring Elk Ridge Resort (where we stayed) is a winter wonderland. We loved every minute of it, and for those wanting to experience the joys of winter, it’s a great place to go.
Winter Fun at Elk Ridge Resort
Most Waskesiu accommodations are closed during the winter, but Elk Ridge Resort is one of the lodges that stays open year round. They are located just outside the national park, which makes it easier to host certain activities such as snowmobiling and dogsledding. In the summer, they’re known as the Waskesiu golf hotspot, a beautiful golf course next to the Boreal forest. In the winter, however, the owners and staff create one of the coolest winter resorts we’ve ever seen, with so many on-site activities and things to do, including:
The backyard of Elk Ridge Resort becomes a winter wonderland. One of the features is an oval skating rink loop, which takes you all around the backyard, passing by snow sculptures, fire pits, and the frozen pond. There’s also a little area with hockey nets, which allows you to play Canada’s national sport.
Another cool feature of Elk Ridge Resort is the mini curling rink they’ve made outside. This is a really fun activity to play with friends and family. There’s also Crokicurl, a new Canadian sport that combines curling and the board game Crokinole. Both are great ways to enjoy the winter outdoors.
Despite living next to the Canadian Rockies for more than a decade, both Karla and I had never been cross-country skiing. We’re normally alpine skiers and are used to going downhill, seeing how fast we can make it to the bottom. Cross-country skiing, on the other hand, is a great way to get some exercise while enjoying nature in the winter months. Trails are typically flat with only minor hills to navigate, making this an excellent activity for almost everyone. What’s cool about Elk Ridge Resort is that you can borrow skis for free and there are many kilometers of trails right behind the resort. We really loved it and have now picked up a new activity to enjoy in the winter months.
Tubing is a fun Canadian winter pastime that can be done on any hill that’s covered in snow. At Elk Ridge Resort, however, they have a hill ready to go, along with free tubes! It’s actually really fun (and a little intense), but for those with kids, there’s a smaller hill off to the side. We had so much fun tubing and remembering what it was like to be kids that we were there for over an hour, getting our thrills while flying down the hill and our exercise when climbing back up.
If you’re looking for a way to go winter hiking, snowshoeing is the answer. All you have to do is strap a snowshoe onto your winter boots and you’re good to go! It’s an easy activity and the snowshoes make it much easier to walk on top of the snow. Without snowshoes, you’ll often sink into the snow, which makes it difficult to walk long distances. There are many trails around Elk Ridge Resort as well as Waskesiu and Prince Albert National Park and the snowshoes are free to borrow at the lodge.
For those looking to try ice fishing for the first time, Elk Ridge Resort has a man-made pond behind their hotel, which provides an easy way to go ice fishing. If you want to go on Waskesiu Lake, you’ll need to have your own gear and a fishing permit from Parks Canada. In the years to come, we’ve been told that some tour operators have been thinking of starting ice fishing tours to Waskesiu Lake, so stay tuned and ask the hotel for more information. We had a great time ice fishing while there and although we didn’t catch anything, it’s always a cool activity during the winter months.
Despite living next to the Canadian Rockies, Waskesiu was the first place we experienced dogsledding. For dog lovers, this is a wonderful experience. Situated not too far from both Elk Ridge Resort and Prince Albert National Park is Sundog Sled Excursions, which cares for dozens of beautiful dogs that love to race! We visited their beautiful cabin, ate some rhubarb dessert, and got geared up to get pulled through the Boreal forest by a group of eager dogs. While being pulled through the trails is very fun, it was equally entertaining to see all the different personalities that each dog brings to the table. Some liked a lot of attention while others could care less. Some liked to be the leader while some liked to be at the back. However, they all had one thing in common and that’s the love for pulling!
Things To Do on Waskesiu Lake
Once you’ve exhausted all the fun at Elk Ridge Resort, Waskesiu Lake is a good place to visit. There’s not a lot going on in the winter months, but it is open to ice fishing and wildlife viewing. As of now, there are no organized tours for ice fishing on Waskesiu Lake, but if you have your own gear, all you need is a fishing license and you’re good to go. You can buy a fishing license at the Parks Canada office in the town of Waskesiu. We bought a one-day license during our trip but, unfortunately, didn’t catch anything.
Where to Stay
As mentioned, most Waskesiu hotels are closed during the winter months. The only places to stay are Elk Ridge Resort and Lost Creek Resort. You may also be able to find some Waskesiu cabin rentals. Waskesiu cabins are more prevalent in the summer months as well, but there may be some people renting them out in the winter months too. This would be a great place to truly feel like you’re out in the wilderness.
If you can’t make it to Prince Albert National Park, consider one of the many Saskatchewan Provincial Parks, such as Good Spirit Lake Provincial Park, Duck Mountain Provincial Park, Moose Mountain Provincial Park, Echo Valley Provincial Park, and Cypress Provincial Park, just to name a few. Each park, whether provincial or national, represents its own unique and beautiful slice of nature.
With a good portion of the year being taken up by snowy winter months in Canada, it makes sense to get outside and enjoy the many winter activities that Canadians enjoy. Whether you’re in Saskatchewan or another part of this incredible country, get out and enjoy the snow!