For some students, February break is a chance to flee the Canadian winter for warmer temperatures and sandy beaches. For others, the winter break is about the search for powder and handrails to snowboard and ski on.
Whether making the trip to Alberta or British Columbia, taking a day trip to one of Saskatchewan’s ski hills or even staying in Saskatoon, there are ample opportunities for snowboarders and skiers of every skill level to have fun.
Making the pilgrimage to the Canadian Rockies is no small task but it is entirely worth it for those seeking the best snowboarding and skiing experience. Perhaps the biggest reservation students may have about making this road trip is cost. However, if done right, this can become a relatively small factor.
Banff, Alta. is a great option for those looking to make the trip to the Rockies. There are several hostels in the town, a good number of food options for any budget and a booming nightlife for those wanting to have some fun off the hill.
Banff also serves as a launching point for three nearby resorts: Sunshine Village, Lake Louise and Mount Norquay.
Sunshine Village often offers great weather and a good variety of terrain for both beginners and experts. Goat’s Eye Mountain — one of Sunshine Village’s three mountains — is limited to mostly advanced runs but is perhaps the resort’s best area. Sunshine Village’s freestyle terrain park is also one of the best in Canada.
In terms of sheer size, no resort in the Alberta Rockies can compete with Lake Louise Ski Area. Lake Louise has something for everyone. The front side of the mountain is great for beginners, while the back side has more challenging terrain. The Larch Area is tucked off to the side of the main mountain and offers a similar variety of terrain, including the Rock Gardens — which may be the mountain’s single best run.
An easy way to minimize travel costs is to get a big enough group of people together and spread the cost of fuel across everyone to minimize the individual burden. Next, look into staying in hostels rather than hotels. A hotel room in a mountain resort town is guaranteed to cost over $100 per night. By contrast, a bed in a hostel can cost as little as $20 to $30 daily.
Another great way to reduce costs is to buy food in Saskatoon or on the way West. The price of food on resorts and in tourist towns can be grossly inflated and as a result could eat up a big portion of your trip’s budget. Often, hostels offer kitchen facilities that can be used by those staying there.
For those who want to stay a bit closer to home or simply can’t afford to make the trip the Rockies, there are a number of ski hills within Saskatchewan. These hills can’t compete with the variety, majesty or snow conditions of the resorts in the Rockies, but can still make for a fun day trip.
Just outside of North Battleford, Sask., Table Mountain Regional Park is about an hour and a half’s drive from Saskatoon and has recently upgraded to include a second chairlift. Despite being small, Table Mountain offers a decent freestyle terrain park and is a good place for those looking to learn how to snowboard or ski.
Other options include Little Red River Park in Prince Albert which hosts one of the best freestyle terrain parks in the province. Mission Ridge Winter Park in Fort Qu’Appelle is a longer trip, but is viable option as well.
For those with their own equipment there are even opportunities to ski or snowboard within the city of Saskatoon. Taking a hint from skateboarders, freestyle skiers and snowboarders have been sliding down handrails, across ledges and just about anything imaginable in cities across the world for years.
Urban snowboarding and skiing takes a bit more creativity and bravery than riding down a hill or mountain. Riders can gain speed by using portable ramps or a Banshee Bungee — a long, bungee cord with a handle on one end that can be attached to stationary objects. An easier way of gaining speed is finding a spot with a natural or manmade incline.
There are plenty of spots in Saskatoon that are waiting for snowboarders and skiers to practice their craft on. Grab some friends, head out and start looking. Again, just be creative! Several big-name professional snowboarders — including Dan Brisse and Dylan Thompson — filmed video parts in Saskatoon last year and showcased the city’s potential.