Several years ago, I discovered the amazing cross-country ski trail system we have here in Saskatchewan. Each year, trail options get better and better with more regions and communities creating and grooming trails in regional and provincial parks and on public and private golf courses.
It’s also one of the best activities to enjoy in the winter months as it’s low-impact and perfect for people of all ages.
**This article was made possible with support from Tourism Saskatchewan.
Table of Contents
- Basic Ski Trail Etiquette
- Use of Shelters on Ski Trails
- Supporting Small Communities and Ski Clubs
- Best Cross-Country Ski Trails in Saskatchewan
- 1. Duck Mountain Provincial Park
- 2. Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park
- 3. Great Blue Heron Provincial Park – Anglin Lake Trails
- 4. Eb’s Trails, near Duck Lake
- 5. Blue Mountain Adventure Park
- 6. Ness Creek, near Big River
- 7. Don Allen Trails and Lac La Ronge Provincial Park
- 8. Finlayson Island, North Battleford
- 9. River Ridge, near Langham
- 10. Buffalo Narrows
- 11. Rolling Pines Golf Course, near Tobin Lake
- 12. Little Red River Park, Prince Albert
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Basic Ski Trail Etiquette
When using cross-country ski trails, there are a few basic rules to follow:
- Ski in the direction indicated on trail maps
- Step off the trail to let faster skiers pass
- A skier moving uphill should always yield to downhill skiers
- Don’t walk on the track
- No dogs allowed unless explicitly posted. If dogs are allowed, please pick up after them.
Use of Shelters on Ski Trails
- Leave it better than you found it
- Replace what you’ve used (matches, paper, etc and chop more firewood)
- Welcome others to share the public space with you or be considerate of your time in a shelter
- Pack out any garbage including organic waste like orange peels and apple cores.
Supporting Small Communities and Ski Clubs
If you have used a trail system or plan on using one in the future, I strongly and highly recommend purchasing a membership or donating directly. The ski clubs often operate thanks to volunteers who spend hundreds of hours grooming, clearing and maintaining these trails and shelters for all of our use.
Best Cross-Country Ski Trails in Saskatchewan
Here are some of the best cross-country trails to explore in Saskatchewan this winter (in no particular order).
*Please note there are many more trail systems in the province to explore. This is just a small number of the great trails we have. Feel free to drop a comment below with your favourite cross-country ski trail.
1. Duck Mountain Provincial Park
If you’ve been following along for a while, you’ve seen the numerous trips I’ve taken to Duck Mountain over the years. It all started with their ski trails. (I’ve written about it here and here and in Prairies North Magazine a few years ago.) The park is located on the eastern edge of the province within the Manitoba Escarpment and the southern limit of the Boreal forest where it transitions to aspen parkland. The rolling hills in the region make it perfect for cross-country (and downhill) skiing.
There are six warm-up shelters along the trails that are well equipped and cared for by the Kamsack Ski Club. Each location is perfect to stop for an afternoon snack and warm up in front of the fire. If you’re brave enough to head out at night during the full moon, you might even hear the haunting call of wolves in the area which makes for a very special experience.
Become a member of the Kamsack Ski Club here or e-transfer donations to email@example.com
2. Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park
Number of Trails: more than 10km
Trail Conditions: NA
Trail Type: easy to moderate
Trail Map: Download here.
Dog Friendly: No
There is no easier way to travel through the forest than on a set of classic or skate skis. For those without gear, skis can be rented from The Resort in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.
The park is dominated by a towering forest of lodgepole pine trees. It’s an awe-inspiring experience to ski amongst trees more than 120 years old and 23 metres high. They grow very close together in thick stands with very little shrub undergrowth. It makes for a winter-wonderland experience when everything is blanketed in a fresh fall of snow.
There are two main trails to ski. Moose Trail is a 6.4 km outer loop that links up major points in the park and travels through snow-covered forest and grassland. There’s a moderate elevation gain of about 170 metres. Skiers can also travel up the 1.2 km Deer Trail that splits Moose Trail into two halves for a shorter skiing route.
3. Great Blue Heron Provincial Park – Anglin Lake Trails
Number of Trails: 20km classic, 6km skate ski
Trail Conditions: Typically groomed once a week
Trail Type: Classic + Skate
Trail Map: Download here
Dog Friendly: No
The are several cool things about the trails at Anglin Lake. Not only is there a fire tower you can ski up to for fantastic views of Jacobsen Bay and the spruce, pine and aspen forest but the trail also has a second warm-up hut and connects into the Spruce River Highland Trail in Prince Albert National Park.
The hills on these trails are no joke – I may have landed in the bush a time or two on the downhill while I tried to make it around a curve. Make sure to check the trail map before you head out and be prepared to be out of service in the lower areas.
4. Eb’s Trails, near Duck Lake
If you’re a skier based out of Saskatoon, you’ll likely have heard of Eb’s Trails. Built in the 1970s by Eberhard Fass, the trails are located 16 kilometres north of Duck Lake on Highway 11. These trails are the perfect escape from the city. The trail system is varied, ranging from beginner to experienced as it winds through the southern edge of Saskatchewan’s boreal forest. They’re accessible by two parking lots two kilometres from each other. There are also warm-up huts and bathroom facilities for use.
5. Blue Mountain Adventure Park
Number of Trails: 30km, 8 trails, easy to expert
Trail Type: Skate + Classic + Biathlon
Trail Map: View here.
Dog Friendly: No
Blue Mountain is an amazing all-in-one winter destination. A few years ago I packed my tent and headed out with a friend for a weekend of winter camping and cross-country skiing. Not only do they have 30 kilometres of expertly groomed classic and skate ski trails, but they also have a tubing lift and a cozy chalet to warm up in. They also have on-site cabins you can rent.
A day pass is $10 and they also offer ski and snowshoe rentals. This season visitors must book in advance.
6. Ness Creek, near Big River
There is nothing more magical than skiing through the forest at Ness Creek as the snow begins to fall. Either that or heading out with a headlamp at night into the quietness of the forest and only the sound of the swish-swishing of your skis in the tracks. Ness is one of my favourite winter getaways for a variety of reasons. They make it easy for guests with ski rentals available on site as well as a hot wax service. Afterwards, make sure to warm up in their sauna.
You can sign up for a ski club membership here.
7. Don Allen Trails and Lac La Ronge Provincial Park
Number of Trails: 61km, 5km night skiing
Trail Conditions: Facebook updates
Trail Type: Classic + Skate
Trail Map: PDF’s here
Dog Friendly: No
One of the coolest experiences I’ve had was skiing with five kilograms of gear on my back and camping overnight in the snow near the summit shelter on the Don Allen trails. As part of their annual Saskaloppet, my friend Jenna and I completed the 52-kilometre Kupeswin race. It’s an event I talk about frequently as we had such a great time. (Hot tip: the snacks at the aid stations on the ski-out our second morning were SO good. We were concerned less about our competitive time and more about stopping for hot chocolate, roasting hot dogs and pocketing gummy bears for the ski).
There are trailheads at two locations within the park at Don Allen and Nut Point. They are connected by the 18-kilometre Saskaloppet trail. The trails wind and roll through rugged Precambrian Shield outcrops and jack pine, black spruce and aspen forest as well as across the lake which makes for a gorgeous ski. There are also 5 kilometres of ski trails lit at night.
8. Finlayson Island, North Battleford
Number of Trails: 14km
Trail Conditions: groomed every Thursday and Friday
Trail Type: Classic
Dog Friendly: No
I’m not sure what I was most excited about when cross-country skiing near North Battleford: that I was skiing on an island in the middle of the North Saskatchewan River or that I got to stop and feed chickadees along the way.
The four-kilometre-long island is set between two arched bridges that used to connect Battleford to North Battleford. In winter, the nature trails turn into a cross-country skier hot spot. Along the way, you’ll find birdhouses hanging in the trees full of seeds. If you scoop a few up, the birds will come land on your hand to feast. There is also a picnic area on the south side of the island to enjoy pre or post-ski.
If you’re looking for more trails in the area, hop out to The Battlefords Provincial Park. Locals groom a few trails within the park and along Jackfish Lake.
9. River Ridge, near Langham
New this year is the River Ridge Nordic Ski Club located five kilometres north of Langham on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. What used to be a nine-hole golf course is now a multi-use site in the winter.
It’s not just for skiers – the park is open to hikers, snowshoers and bikers. But best of all, they’re also dog-friendly. While dogs are to remain on-leash within and near the parking lot, they’re free to roam with you on the trails.
Make sure to bring a little cash to spend at the Apres Cafe, a locally owned and operated coffee shop that offers hot beverages, freshly baked goods and snacks perfect post-ski.
You can donate directly to this non-profit here.
10. Buffalo Narrows
Buffalo Narrows is home to the province’s most northern ski trails – and you don’t need to bring your own gear to experience them. The Buffalo Narrows Cross Country Ski Club was started by two physiotherapists who moved north to work in the community. Today, 10 percent of the town are members of the ski club. There’s even a ski chalet with a wood stove to warm up in. The trails are located on the Waskawihew Trails and open to anyone. Keep an eye out on their Facebook Page as they frequently host Learn to Ski Programs on weekends for new skiers.
11. Rolling Pines Golf Course, near Tobin Lake
During the winter months, Rolling Pines Golf Course and Country Resort turns into the perfect spot for a little cross-country skiing. Carved from natural rolling forest, the course offers an easy and enjoyable ski with a few hilly sections.
On the front 9, there are 3.5 kilometres of trail but several locations to shorten or add loops to your ski. On the Back 9, there are about 4.5 kilometres of trail to explore. The trail is set from the parking lot near the clubhouse and down Fairway 1.
12. Little Red River Park, Prince Albert
Little Red River Park is just five minutes north of the city of Prince Albert yet home to an excellent interconnected system of trails for use in all four seasons. Set within the jackpine and aspen-dominated Nesbit forest, it’s truly a gem in the province. There are more than 45 kilometres of trails for skate and classic skiers ranging from easy to difficult. They are accessible from two parking lots. There are even six kilometres of trails lit for night skiing.
There are picnic sites and camp kitchens available for use and firewood is provided at no extra cost. There are also snowshoe trails, the Kinsmen Ski & Snowboard Centre, a toboggan hill and unleashed dog walking.
You can donate directly to the PA Nordic Ski Club here.