Find your winter stoke in Camrose County
As a skier raising three little skiers in Alberta, it always feels a little strange going east instead of west in winter, until I’m there and then it all makes sense.
It’s easy to be excited about winter in the mountains; the true test of winter stoke is on the rolling prairies. The further east of the Rockies you find it, the brighter, stronger and more colourful it burns.
Our mission - that’s my three kids (age eleven, eight and five) and me (solo parenting for the trip!) - was to find that stoke in Camrose County, over two days of winter adventure.
Exploring Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, Part 1: The Skating Path
Entering Miquelon is like passing through the wardrobe into a Narnian winter landscape filled with frosted aspen, birch, fir and the odd lightpost.
In a clearing at the centre of the park winds a 600-metre skating path. I swing the van gate up and out tumble skates, sticks, pucks, helmets and kids. It’s cold as I lace up, but I’m warmed by nostalgia from my own childhood skating on the prairies. We glide over the land, a frosty breeze tickling our cheeks.
Although we’re a little short for pond hockey, the boys play keepaway on one of the rinks while my daughter drifts along the path at her own pace. Picnic tables and benches arranged around large bonfire rings offer a place to warm up, and one of the rinks is also lit into the night.
Exploring Miquelon, Part 2: The Trails
Skating done, the kids are ready for a more freeform activity, so we go off deeper into the forest. The park has over 18 kilometres of groomed Nordic ski trails including several on which you can also go skijoring (skiing while harnessed to a dog).
Passing through wetland, forest and over hills, the trails are geographically similar to the nearby Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, where the Canadian Birkebeiner takes place Feb 10-11 (making Miquelon a good pre-race training destination or race weekend outing, for those who prefer quieter trails).
We choose to explore on foot, weaving between the trees, finding animal tracks and cedar cones. All three kids are drawn to a grand old climbing tree, clambering around it and digging in the snow around the tree trunks. Behind every bend and under every branch, there’s more to discover.
For even more adventure, the park offers winter camping.
Camrose Aquatic Centre
Few weekend escapes with the family go by without a visit to the pool. The addition of a giant waterslide makes the Camrose Aquatic Centre, with its shallow entry, a perfect place for all ages. After a day of playing in the snow, and a bit of a splash, the kids (and I) are always ready to hit the sack.
Natural Luge at Camrose Ski Club
The Camrose Ski Club is the heart of winter in Camrose. The club acts as an umbrella organization, offering a communal gathering place for winter sport lovers. In a strange twist of fate, the ski club is also the longest continuously running ski club in Canada east of the Rockies, since 1911.
Dave Larson got involved in assisting with organization for the 1990 Alberta Winter Games, and he’s managed the luge program there ever since. Natural luge is one of those unique experiences that has no comparison. Imagine taking tobogganing to the next level - better steering, faster sliding, longer track, without the cement sidewalls of Olympic-style luge. It’s not quite Jon Montgomery levels, but it’s definitely a rush.
Larson offers learn to luge programs to the public through the club. He had all three of my kids, even the five year old, sliding and turning in about an hour. Coming into the sliding turns, there’s nothing like the feel of leaning into the inside corner.
Tobogganing at Tuck’s Hill
With a fresh snowfall, we had to check out a little tobogganing too, and Tuck’s Hill at Golden Jubilee Park is ideal. Named for the former landowner, John Tuck, it has been a popular spot for tobogganing in Camrose for over 100 years.
A wide hill dropping steeply near the bottom, it’s the perfect spot for sliding - and after all, it’s a Camrose tradition. We also spent time playing hide-and-seek among the willow bushes and exploring the park, draped in all its snowy glory.
Bowling at Tabb Lanes
For a late day warm up, Tabb Lanes is a friendly, appropriately retro place tucked just the other side of the tracks from historic downtown Camrose, with its classic early 20th century prairie architecture. A few strikes and a few gutterballs, and a few appies later, the kids were finally out of steam.
There’s plenty more to check out in Camrose area - including farmer’s markets, a small but burgeoning culinary scene (Hart House, Southern State BBQ) and evenings at The Escape Squad, but our days were pretty full, making us wish for a chance to return. Being just over an hour’s drive from Edmonton, it may not be long before we’re back.
If you go
Camrose is a 60 min drive from Edmonton or a 3 hour drive from Calgary via Highway 2 and then take highway 13.
Camrose is home to a series of quality accommodations including the Canalta Camrose.
For more on how to #ExploreAlberta and #AlbertaParks, check out the Miquelon Park trail guide.