Winter is my favourite season. It’s not the most popular opinion though, as most people prefer the warmth of summer. And I get it – there’s nothing more incredible than sitting out on a summer’s night until nearly 10 PM (or later if you’re further north) and watching a sunset over the lake in front of a fire in shorts and a t-shirt.
But I think there’s something equally magical about snowflakes drifting down from the sky making piles of soft, fluffy snow that we can use to slide, glide and ride our way through some of the most incredible scenery on earth.
To encourage others to get outside and embrace what winter brings (it’s here for nearly 5 months after all), I’ve put together 24 bucketlist-worthy winter experiences in Saskatchewan. I hope it inspires some snowy wanderlust and a deeper appreciation for our winter season. After all, not everyone in the world gets to experience snow as we do!
READ MORE: 12 Outdoor Winter Activities to Try if you Live in Saskatchewan
The Ultimate Saskatchewan Winter Bucketlist
How many have you done?
To help you keep track, I’ve put together a bingo card of each of these experiences. Feel free to print it out, put it on your fridge and mark them off each time you complete another activity this season.
Here are all the details of the ultimate Saskatchewan winter bucketlist (in no particular order).
1. Skate the Loop at Echo Valley
Echo Valley Provincial Park has flooded a 2-kilometre skating loop that winds through Aspen campground. The “Skate the Park” trail is free to enjoy with a valid park pass but BYO skates. On weekends, there are often food trucks, hot chocolate and outdoor firepits to enjoy and warm up around.
2. Try Winter Camping
The best part of winter camping? There are no mosquitoes.
I realize winter camping isn’t for everyone. But it’s not as hard as you’d expect especially if you already have snow gear to wear, cooking gear to use on an outdoor fire and a couple of extra blankets and a tent. Most importantly is bringing along extra dry clothing to change into and a way to keep yourself off the ground at night when sleeping – whether it’s an insulated sleep mat or even a cot in your tent. I promise it’s not as intimidating as it sounds.
There are many ways to winter camp: hot tenting, cold tenting, front country and backcountry. The easiest is to start with car camping so you can bring extra items until you figure out exactly what you need.
READ MORE: Where to Winter Camp in Saskatchewan
3. Go to the Outdoor Spa in Moose Jaw
We don’t have many natural hot springs, but we do have a hidden gem in Temple Gardens Hotel & Spa in Moose Jaw. The spa has a geothermal mineral pool sourced from a natural artesian well with a well-head temperature of about 45 degrees Celsius.
The water contains several minerals including Epsom salts and is said to be therapeutic. There are two warming pools – one indoor with an outdoor pool connected via a water passage. The outdoor pool is the perfect place to get your hair a little frosty and enjoy a cold winter night from the warmth of the water.
4. Go on a Cabin Getaway in the Woods
There is nothing more iconically “winter-in-Canada” than heading off to a cozy cabin in the woods with a mug of hot chocolate and a book in front of a fireplace and maybe even a hot tub for later. Thankfully, Saskatchewan has dozens of amazing cabins around the province that fit into these descriptions. One of my favourites is the Cedar Suite at Ness Creek.
5. Experience a Candlelit Night Ski at Moose Mountain
Every year Moose Mountain Provincial Park plays host to its annual candlelight cross-country ski event. Hundreds of glowing paper bag lanterns line the 3.2km Riding Academy trail and light up the forest to make for a unique skiing experience. The event is family-friendly and free with a valid park entry.
6. Polar Dip at Boundary Dam
Estevan’s Boundary Dam is unique in that the water at the reservoir doesn’t freeze over in the winter months. Built in 1957 on a tributary of the Souris River, the dam and resulting reservoir aid in cooling the Boundary Dam Power Station. Cold water is pulled into the plant and the resulting warm water is discharged back into the lake. This leaves parts of the reservoir an open water oasis and makes for a unique environment in winter. It also makes it the perfect spot to go polar dipping for those brave enough to handle the close-to-zero water temperatures. Make sure to bring a towel and flip-flops down with you so you can cover up for the run from the beach back up to the vehicle afterwards.
7. Watch the Northern Lights
One of the benefits of the longer days we experience in the winter is the amount of time we get to enjoy the night skies. Saskatchewan is fortunate to experience the natural phenomenon of the northern lights and winter is the perfect time to see them as they appear once it’s dark out. The best tip I can give if you want to see them is to head north and away from light pollution. It also pays to be patient – some nights the aurora dance all night long and other nights they flicker for a few minutes and disappear.
8. Go Ice Fishing
Only in Saskatchewan will you find a group of people so passionate and dedicated to fishing that they’ll sit on a frozen lake in the winter and stick poles in holes in the ice in hopes of catching a wriggly fish. But we absolutely love it. We also catch some world-record-breaking fish in this province so I can see the allure of it. While most lakes in the province have excellent fishing, popular locations include Lake Diefenbaker, Last Mountain Lake, Tobin Lake and Boundary Damn Reservoir. (In fact, at the reservoir you can both open-water fish and ice fish in the same day due to warmer water temperatures from the nearby Powerstation).
9. Make a Snow Angel
It’s a classic childhood activity but it embodies all that is fun and playful about winter. When properly dressed, creating a snow angel in deep, untouched snow is incredibly satisfying.
10. Build a Quinzee
A quinzee is a mix between an igloo and a snow fort. It’s both stable and warm enough that you can sleep inside it overnight, even on the coldest nights. It’s not difficult to build as it mostly requires shovelling snow in a giant pile then hollowing it out, but it does take time. I recommend carving out small shelves inside the quinzee to set tealights on as well as stringing up twinkle lights to add to the ambiance.
READ MORE: How to Build a Quinzee
11. Chop Down Your Very Own Christmas Tree
Christmas isn’t Christmas until you’ve chopped down your very own Christmas tree. There are two parks in the province that allow you to do this as part of their forest management plan. In designated areas in Cypress Hills Provincial Park and Prince Albert National Park, the permit is free with a valid park pass. You can also cut down a tree on any crown land per the Forest Resource Management Act – one tree per family under 4 metres in height.
12. Ski and Snowboard Powder at Duck Mountain
Saskatchewan holds our own on the slopes with all the trimmings of family-friendly alpine adventure and après ski sociables close to home in our river valleys.
In the hilly terrain of the Manitoba escarpment, Duck Mountain is a gem tucked into the valley on the border of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The hill has 22 runs ranging from beginner to expert that boasts all-natural powder. It’s not uncommon for the resort to receive two feet or more of snow a season which makes it a great hill to play on.
READ MORE: Ski Hills in Saskatchewan: A Complete Guide
13. Snowmobile 1000 Miles of Snow
It might be one of the most unique ways to adventure in Saskatchewan – on 1000 miles of marked snowmobile trails between 12 communities in northeast Saskatchewan. The entire region is linked with groomed trails across fields, through forests and into incredible scenery only accessible on sled in the winter months. Along the route are more than 40 snowmobile shelters as well as cabins to rent and unique small town restaurants to dine in.
14. Have a Patio Beer
Yup, for real – have a hot cider or a beer on a patio. While many of us can’t wait for the first patio beer of the season when summer comes, those of us in the know don’t stop just because the snow flies.
Shelter Brewing in Saskatoon keeps their street patio open year-round and warmed with outdoor heaters. Crossmount Cider has a patio backing onto a skating pond. It’s the perfect setting for a mulled cider outside in front of the fire. I always recommend bringing a blanket to sit on or wrap around you (and wear ski pants and boots for maximum comfort).
15. Turn Boiling Water into Snow
*Please proceed with caution if you attempt this. The boiling water can cause serious burns if it drips, spills or splashes on skin and clothing.
During the coldest days of winter, temperatures can dip below -40 degrees Celsius with the windchill. When you throw a container of boiling water in the air, it quickly condenses into a cloud of microdroplets and creates a spectacular white cloud that drifts as it falls. The trick is making sure the water is boiling as it evaporates much more rapidly than cold water.
16. Go Dogsledding
While the province is home to professional mushers who compete in trail races like the Canadian Challenge International Sled Dog Race and the Iditarod, we also have several companies that offer dog sledding tours. It’s an experience like no other to drive a team of dogs and feel the energy of a pack that wants nothing more than to run and pull.
17. Experience a Twinkle Light Tour
While Saskatchewan is known to be one of the sunniest provinces in Canada, darkness is no stranger in the midst of winter due to our northern latitude. To counter the longer nights, many communities have been lighting up the dark, especially during the holiday season.
While residents often set up personal light displays, many towns and cities are decorating their parks and streets beyond the usual seasonal decorations. Check out Moose Jaw’s Wakamow Valley, Saskatoon’s Enchanted Forest, Elfros’ Folster residence and of course the sparkle tours in nearly two dozen communities across the province, to name a few.
18. Have a Winter Picnic
Planning a winter picnic can be as easy as ordering pizza to a nearby skating rink or putting together a charcuterie board to snack on around an outdoor campfire. A bonfire makes it easy to keep foods like stews and soups warm and is also perfect for roasting marshmallows. The most important thing is to have proper winter gear (i.e. ski pants and boots. I can’t stress this enough for staying warm and being comfortable). A blanket to sit on and a cooler to keep foods warm and stop them from freezing are also helpful.
19. Snowshoe Tree Beard Trail
Prince Albert National Park has one of the most magical trails to snowshoe in the province. Treebeard Trail winds through an old-growth forest. What makes it so enchanting is the tuffets of snow that catch in the tree boughs and the piles on fallen trees. The loop is 1.2 kilometres and a great interpretive trail with eight educational stops along the way. It’s perfect for families with little ones.
20. Try Kicksledding
When the trails are covered in a fresh skiff of snow, it’s the perfect playground to rent a traditional Norwegian kicksled from Escape Sports in Saskatoon.
A kicksled is a chair mounted on a pair of skis. When using it, you kick along the ground to move, similar to skateboarding but while facing forward. It’s a family-friendly activity and even my mom loved it when I took her out on the Meewasin Valley Trails in Saskatoon.
21. Play Crokicurl
Crokicurl is the latest winter sport sliding across Saskatchewan. This outdoor game is a life-sized mash-up between curling and the board game crokinole. Teams of two alternate sliding stones towards painted rings in the centre of a circular ice sheet. Crokicurl rinks can be found in numerous communities around the province including Carrot River, Manitou Beach, Pike Lake, Elk Ridge Resort, Humboldt and Rosthern.
22. Fat Bike to Nistowiak Falls
You’ve likely seen fat bikes – or bikes with oversized tires – on trails or bike paths where you live. They’re efficient at rolling through snow which makes them perfect to use in Saskatchewan during our long winter season.
For an epic adventure, plan a 40-kilometre round trip expedition from Stanley Mission and bike to Nistowiak Falls, one of the province’s largest waterfalls. It’s spectacular to see it in its winter glory.
While a trip like this is possible unassisted, the Boreal Outdoor Recreation Association (BORA) community organization has planned a weekend event to the falls and back in previous years. Participants overnighted at Jim’s Camp and had their gear transported for them and meals provided. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for any updates.
READ MORE: How to Get to Nistowiak Falls
23. Feed Chickadees at Beaver Creek
Beaver Creek just south of Saskatoon is an excellent location to feed chickadees. The pudgy little birds here are so used to getting treats from humans, they literally flit around you just waiting to snap up unsalted sunflower seeds from the palm of your mitten. The on-site interpretive centre has seeds if you haven’t brought your own.
24. Go Downhill Tubing
Tubing is one of those activities that makes me laugh so hard I can barely breathe! I feel like a kid again, especially when the tube spins fast down the track. There are several locations in Saskatchewan to try tubing including Mission Ridge near Regina, Optimist Hill in Saskatoon, Elk Ridge Resort and Duck Mountain Ski Area. But you can also grab an old tractor tire inner tube, a toboggan and a crazy carpet to head down hills all around the province.
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