When the temperature starts to dip and the snow begins to fall, it doesn’t mean the fun should stop in our Provincial Parks. After all, as every Canadian knows, there’s no such thing as bad weather – just the wrong clothes!
If you haven’t explored a snow-covered park before, you don’t know what you're missing. During my return back as the Saskatchewanderer for one week, I made a stop at two Provincial Parks: Echo Valley near Regina and Pike Lake near Saskatoon. Both parks are close to urban centers, with winter attractions just waiting to be explored.
New to Saskatchewan Provincial Parks this year is a campground at Echo Valley that has been fully converted into a skating surface. I think this is my new favourite activity, welcoming all ages, young and old, to glide through the woods and feel the magic of winter! The skating loop is called “Skate the Park”, and it doesn’t get any better than this when it comes to finding new ways to experience the season.
I could see this becoming Saskatchewan’s most popular winter attraction. The ice loop is approximately 500m long, winding through the thick wooded area in Aspen campground. It’s a winter experience like no other. If you skate the loop after a fluffy snowfall, consider yourself lucky. Being surrounded on all sides by snow-covered trees is an absolute stunning sight, and one that you won’t soon forget.
Spend an evening or afternoon with your family and watch the kids whip around the loop with the perfect backdrop. The skating loop also makes the perfect surprise for your loved one with a romantic, handholding skate through the trees!
Weather permitted, Echo Valley hosts “Skate the Park” on select days through to March: Thursday evenings from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday afternoons from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Only 20 minutes from Saskatoon, Pike Lake Provincial Park continues to surprise me with the fun winter activities they offer. Even though it’s winter, that doesn’t mean we should stop enjoying the outdoors. I had the pleasure of testing out some of the activities at Pike Lake myself, starting with a winter hike along “A gift of Green Nature Trail.”
There are so many great benefits of going on a winter hike. In winter, the trails are less crowded and there are views that you’ll never see in the summer – that’s my favorite thing about winter. The trails are in complete bliss, and a Gift of Green Nature Trail is no exception. You enter with only the sounds of nature and the crunching of snow beneath your feet. Right away, the chickadees take notice and follow along as you trek through the snow. At times, I would just sit down and listen to the sounds of nature. It was so peaceful; I would never have guessed It was only 20 minutes from the city.
Pike Lake also has a skating area similar to Echo Valley, but instead of on the path through the campground, it’s located along the lake shoreline with an even larger skating space on the lake behind the hall. Open to the public seven days a week, “Skate the Lake” is another unique way to experience the outdoors. You don’t get the same perspective in the summer, that’s for sure!
New to Pike Lake this year is the game of crokicurl, where it’s a split between curling and crokinole, played on an ice surface in favour of crokinole rules. This is another great example of Sask Parks enhancing the winter experiences in the parks. A fun game meant for young and old, it definitely catches on quick in terms of popularity! Located next to the hall, a game of crokicurl can be played on weekdays at Pike Lake from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
From my two park visits this week, I realized even more so that winter is the perfect time of year to enjoy Saskatchewan's diverse Provincial Parks. With fun new activities like the ones I explored, there are also many other exciting outdoor adventures offered in the parks in winter, including tobogganing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, winter camping and cultural events. For anyone interested in trying out some of these fun activities, the parks await you with a warm welcome! Check out "Skate the Park" at Echo Valley Pronvical Park in the video below.
Remember to bring your SaskParks annual park entry permit if you have one or purchase entry at the Visitor Center, open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for most parks.