Winter in Saskatoon is not for the feint of heart. It gets cold here. It always has. At one time we used to rock winter. We even had a ski jump that went onto the South Saskatchewan River.
Something changed. We started to hate winter. Cower from winter. We stopped jumping into the river. We even use winter as an excuse for why we can’t have nice things in the summer (bike lanes anyone?). So instead of hiding inside for the winter, how about exploring some of great winter attractions and diversions from the cold that Saskatoon has to offer.
- It’s time to reclaim the joy of winter and embrace all of Saskatoon’s seasons (and someone needs to start working on getting us a ski jump again)
- It’s time to be proud of Saskatoon winters. We can do more than just endure them.
To get you started, check out these ideas of what anyone can do in Saskatoon this winter!
- Cross Country Skiing Trails: Saskatoon has a lot of them. Some the city maintains while the Saskatoon Nordic Ski Club maintains others. Combined there are miles of trails throughout the city offering you both variety and as much of a challenge that a prairie city can offer.
- Want to escape the city, you can also check out Chip’s Lodge at the Beaver Creek Conservation Area where Meewasin with help of the Saskatoon Community Foundation and private donors, moved (and upgraded) the old skating shack to provide a great warmup shack to cross country skiers just outside of Saskatoon.
- Deciding whether The Pest or Diefenbaker Hill is the best. The Pest is the massive and steep hill right beside Circle Drive Bridge while the Diefenbaker Hill is located in Diefenbaker Park (also right next to a bridge on Circle Drive). Both are great places to toboggan, snowboard, or do whatever it is you do on a crazy carpet (umm, break limbs?) If that is too far to drive, check out your neighbourhood toboggan hill. One of the best design ideas Saskatoon has ever had was pilling up dirt in each neighbourhood and giving a place for kids to engage in high risk activities on.
- Skating at the Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink @PotashCorp Plaza. How good is this skating rink? Well it’s been named as the best skating rink by Reader’s Digest. It is also so great its name now contains not just one but two title mining company sponsors. If you don’t have skates, don’t worry. The rink has some you can borrow. A great place to start a romantic evening or a fun place to go as a family. I take Wendy (who is from Guyana and believes ice should only be in drinks) there and she doesn’t even skate.
- PotashCorp Wintershines: Saskatoon’s best (and I think only) outdoor winter festival is always a great excuse to embrace winter. Its stretched into almost two weeks of events both inside and outside at the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market. There are ice carving competitions, an incredible snow fort, terrible tasting hot chocolate (not naming the vendor’s name), and even Icecycle where normally reasonably people to for a bike ride when it is -40 below out. There is also the Broadway Avenue Snow Day to take in.
- Take a day enjoying Table Mountain, the nearest ski hill to Saskatoon. It’s not going to rival Lake Louise or Sunshine but it is close enough to get up early, put in a day of skiing or snowboarding and make it back to Saskatoon in decent time and a burger at The Congress Beer House.
Plus, that €œadvanced € doesn’t look nearly as scary as some advanced runs but you don’t have to tell anyone that. Just tell them that you rocked the Black Diamond run all day long.
- Did I mention Icecyle? Oh right, I did. Its pretty awesome and features a couple hundred bike riders coming out and going for a bike ride in temperatures unfit for man or beast in the middle of Wintershines. I’ve never ridden but after watching that event, there is no way that anyone can say that people who call Saskatoon home aren’t tough.
- Watching University of Saskatchewan Huskies basketball at the PAC. The Huskies are always fun to watch (both women and men’s teams) and the PAC has a big time college basketball feel with great in game production and exciting action. It’s not Cameron Indoor Stadium but it is still pretty awesome and given the chance, I’ll take Husky fans over Dukies every day of the week and unlike University of North Carolina players, our team goes to class.
- Evening Holiday Market at the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market: Evening winter markets are huge in Nordic countries. Supporting this could help turn it into something great. 4:30 to 8 p.m. and at the end of the day, you still are at the Farmer’s Market. You can almost taste spring.
- Holiday Market at the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market: See Santa Claus and do some last minute Christmas shopping while you are at it. Don’t forget the Broadway Avenue Spirit of Christmas day as well. They have stuff like this in Banff all of the time. Let’s see it grow here.
- Watch the Santa Claus Parade make it’s way through downtown Saskatoon. Not only does Santa Claus make an appearance but so do countless other community groups, businesses, and other organizations that make Saskatoon great.
- Watch the Saskatoon Blades play at SaskTel Centre. The Blades are reinventing themselves and changing the WHL with them. See a fast paced offensive style of hockey every time the Blades take the ice.
- Get the gear you need to enjoy winter! Eb’s Source for Adventure, Cabela’s, Wholesale Sports, the Prairie Summit Shop, and Outter Limits will get you geared up for whatever you are doing this winter. Looking for sporting equipment, then hit up Al Anderson’s Source for Sports, Larry’s Sports Exchange, Olympian Sports, or Escape Sports.
- Speed Skating and the Clarence Downy Speed Skating Oval : The Clarence Downey Speed Skating Oval offers an exciting change of pace for skating enthusiasts! No need for speed skates to enjoy a day on this 400 metre oval – there are different lanes for different speeds and lots of room for every level of skater. A warmup building lets you lace up your skates in comfort. There is also vending machines, change rooms and public washooms. Admission is free.
- A game of ice hockey on one of Saskatoon’s 43 outdoor rinks and ponds. The best part is that the city has a PDF that lists 44 locations and then says, “Pleasant Hill: No rink”.
Most of the rinks are run by the local community association. The last time we all played, we all took our shovels and gave the rink a pre-game and post-game shovelling which saves a volunteer some time and makes it a little nicer for the kids. While you are at it, why not take a couple of shifts in the warm-up hut? Nothing says embrace Saskatchewan winter like tying some skates, serving up some coffee and making hot chocolate.
- Finding some colour and humidity again at the Saskatoon Civic Conservatory. If you are looking for warmth, humidity, and a great place to have a cup of coffee, make sure you check out the Saskatoon Conservatory which is attached to the Mendel Art Gallery. There is a collection of native and tropical plants in bloom all season long and is a wonderful dose of colour when it gets drab out.
- If you are looking to get away for a bite to eat, check out the tropical gardens and Garden Cafe at the Saskatoon Inn. If you are thinking of going, make sure you consider a Friday night when you can indulge in the chocolate buffet.
- Exploring the Museum of Natural Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan. The Museum of Natural Sciences was made possible by the combined efforts of the Departments of Biology and Geological Sciences. This museum is designed to outline evolution throughout geological time, providing an integrated learning environment, with displays of living plants, animals, fossils, rocks and minerals. A working seismograph is on display in an adjacent hallway. A primary role of the museum is to illustrate some of the breadth and diversity of the geological and biological sciences; it also serves as a teaching resource for university and school students, and the several thousand visitors that pass through annually. On a cold day it also reminds you that you survived and adapted to winter while those dinosaurs weren’t so lucky.
- Visit the Festival of Trees at the Western Development Museum while supporting the Saskatoon City Hospital Foundation. If you can’t get there during the Festival of Trees, take an afternoon and visit the WDM in Saskatoon and stroll down it’s 1910 Boomtown and explore later what life was like during the Great Depression. While you are there, stop at the Boomtown Cafe which offers delicious home cooking and old-fashioned hospitality in a friendly and inviting atmosphere.
- Drive or walk through the BHP Billiton Enchanted Forest at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park. Even better, get 13 of your friends and arrange a horse draw carriage tour.
- A play and holiday dinner at The Barn Playhouse.
- It doesn’t come by every year but when it does, stay up late and see the CP Rail Holiday Train. Anyone know why we as a major city have to stay up until the cows come home to see the train? I like it and everything about what’s wrong with 7:00 p.m.?
- Explore Broadway Avenue: It has great places to eat, shop, and explore. It’s also compact enough that you can explore it on foot no matter what the weather is.
- Get out and take in some great music at The Bassment. They have a great season of concerts. A great venue plus great music is an excellent way to spend a cold winter’s night.
- Enjoy the Saskatoon Blues Festival: By March one always hopes that winter is over but we know better. Get out of the house and take in a week of some of Saskatoon and Canada’s best blues artists (like the SaskTel Jazz Festival, the local talent always comes out and amazes).
- Hold a winter party on your patio or around your fire pit. It’s not that hard to have a great winter party and manage to stay warm at the same time. So dig out your fire pit, stockpile some wood and have some friends over. The good news is that your drinks won’t have any problem staying cool.
- Grab the clubs and head out to the Ramada Golf Dome. It’s not the same as heading out and playing 18 holes but it is a nice break from the cold and if you work hard at it, you can actually envision yourself playing Moon Lake (while at the same time ignoring that all of your drives are slicing to the right)
- Learn about ancient history at the University of Saskatchewan’s Museum of Antiquities.
- Do some Christmas shopping at the Sundog Craft Faire: Over 200 booths and exhibitors from all across western Canada.
- Go swimming at either the Lakewood Civic Centre or the Lawson Civic Centre. Why those two? Two words. Wave pool.
- Take in the northern lights (the University of Saskatchewan’s Aurora webcam helps you figure out the best nights to go view it). The University of Alberta’s Aurora Watch website predicts aurora activity. With Edmonton being at the same latitude that we are, if it says that you can view it there, you will be able to see it here (on a clear night)
- Tour the Mendel Art Gallery and when it opens in 2016, the Remai Modern.
- If you have some children that need to burn off some energy, take them to the Fun Factory. Lazer tag, games, room to run, room for you to sit down and chat while they run.
- Got a camera? Join the Saskatoon Camera Club. They have events, workshops, and photography contest all winter (and summer) long. If you don’t have a camera, head over to Don’s Photo, get one and then join the Saskatoon Camera Club.
- Prince Albert National Park offers the chance to hike, camp, ski or snowshoe alongside bison, moose, deer and elk. Drive to the Narrows of Waskesiu Lake where otters often play in the open waters. If you’re lucky, you may hear them under the marina’s boat docks.
- While you are up there, check out the Sun Dog dog sleds and go for a long ride in the boreal forest.
- Build a backyard quinzee. Sleep or have your party in there. Saskatchewan’s snow doesn’t work well for igloos but you can still make a great quinzee. Done right it and it can be a great place to socialize, hold down as a fort, or even sleep out in.
- Discover 20th Street: Let’s see, you have the Park Cafe, Collective Coffee, Atmosphere Interior Design, Green Ark, Soul Paper and the world famous Village Guitar and Amp . The street was also named one of the best downtown’s in North America in 2014 (and it’s not even a downtown).
- Grab a cheap movie at Rainbow Cinemas: What are you going to do when you are broke and it’s the middle of February? Park your car in The Centre €™s underground parking and let it warm up while you watch a movie while paying anywhere from $2.50 – $5.00 for your ticket. It’s a win-win.
- Warm up with Hot Yoga on 20th Street. The room is 42 degrees Celsius. It’s a great way to stretch out and heal up some of the ache and pains that winters bring. Plus after an hour inside at 42 degrees Celsius you will be looking forward to some cold winter air as you step outside on 20th Street.
- Join a curling club. Leagues start at about $20 a month. Before you mock the idea, here is a sport that until recently had beer holders and ashtrays at each end of the ice. This could be your last chance at Olympic glory. Check out the Granite, Nutana (which is not in Nutana), Sutherland, and CN Curling Clubs.
- Winter paintball at Merrill Dunes. This is a great time for the entire family. I have gone in -30 and after running around the course, falling on the ice, and being shot more times than I should have been, I actually peeled off some layers. Long underwear, sweatpants, a t-shirt, hoodie, and jacket and you are good to go. The advantage of playing in the winter? No exposed skin and protective layers so it hurts a lot less. Basically you feel like are wearing Iron Man’s suit.
- Mini Golf at Market Mall: 18 holes of miniature golf styled after the world famous Pebble Beach course. It’s easy to get to by Saskatoon Transit or if you are going to drive, free underground parking so your car can warm up while you have fun.
- Shop downtown: Downtown Saskatoon has a selection of great shopping options and experiences. You know what else it has on a cold day? 2nd Avenue with a large selection of coffee shops, restaurants, and pubs to warm up in. So park the car, bundle up and visit one of Saskatchewan €™s best area to shop in.
- A night at the Persephone Theatre: World class theatre in a world class venue at a price that you can afford. Escape from reality and find yourself in a different world, time, and even reality in one of Persphone Theatre’s winter productions. Then after the performance is done, walk out and look at a stunning Saskatchewan skyline and a lit up Prairie Wind.
- Sign up for the Winter Strong photo group on Flickr and post your best winter photos from in and around Saskatoon.
What ideas am I missing? Leave your suggestions in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.