How and where to get into cross-country skiing in Alberta
New to Nordic skiing? Welcome! Here’s your chance to learn something new without spending a fortune.
If you're one of those few people who didn't get into cross-country skiing during the pandemic, there's no reason you can't start now. Grab these tips and get skiing: there's so many cross-country skiing areas across Alberta, whether you're in busy urban hubs like Calgary or Edmonton, or in quieter rural areas.
How to cross-country ski in Alberta
While I've done some nordic skiing, I'm not an instructor nor an expert. But what I can tell you is, next to snowshoeing, cross-country skiing is a pretty easy sport to get into.
- Put on skis.
- Start walking, with a gliding motion, lifting your heel as you slide each ski forward.
- Stride with one leg and push with the opposite pole.
- Voila - you're cross-country skiing!
The point is, don't be intimidated. You may not look like those spandex speedsters at the Canmore Nordic Centre, but that's okay. It takes time. The hard part is getting good at it.
For that, you'll want to practice a bit, and maybe look into lessons.
Beginner cross-country ski lessons in Alberta can be found XYZ
Where to cross-country ski in Alberta
There are lots of places to rent Nordic ski gear onsite in Alberta, including the Canmore Nordic Centre, Kananaskis Outfitters in K-Country, Pure Outdoors and Totem Ski Shop in Jasper, Chateau Lake Louise, and Trail Sports in Canmore.
Find cross-country ski clubs like the Vermilion Nordic Centre where rentals are available at the clubhouse for as little as ten bucks per day. Vermilion is only two hours east of Edmonton and is hometown to Olympic Gold medalist in cross-country skiing (and Chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency Athlete Committee) Beckie Scott. The clubhouse is in the Vermilion Provincial Park with over 15 kilometres of rolling prairies and river valleys out every door of the restored 1905 train station.
To make it easy to pick the spot for your next outing, we've broken down some trail recommendations by
The "lunch break" loop – In summer, everyone watches the clock and starts lacing up before the clock strikes noon, so why not have the skinny skis ready and pop off to the local golf course or city park for a fast lap?
Edmonton’s River Valley offers a vast array of groomed trails. William Hawrelak Park is always a good bet. Golf courses open to skiing include Riverside and Victoria.
In Calgary, fast laps on cross-country skis can be made at Shaganappi, Maple Ridge and Centennial Park golf courses. Other good spots for tracks are South Glenmore Park and Bowness Park.
Short trips – A few hours east of Edmonton, you can spend a few hours cross-country skiing at Cold Lake, Lac La Biche or to the west, enjoy the trails in Drayton Valley or Hinton. West of Red Deer is Rocky Mountain House with cross-country trails spidering out in all directions. Check out Crimson Lake just south of town.
Calgary is delightfully close to a bundle of cross-country trails just west of Bragg Creek. Go a little further into Kananaskis Country and there are trails to keep you busy all winter long.
Expeditions – Pack a lunch and hit the trails early for all-day adventures. After a hard day on the trails can there be anything better than ending your day at a remote ski lodge? Cross-country ski 11 kilometres through magnificent terrain into Skoki Lodge behind Lake Louise Ski Resort, or almost the same distance to Sundance Lodge from the Sunshine Ski Resort turn off (Here’s a secret! You can use fat bikes to get to Sundance, too!). Each day-long trek ends with delicious meals, warm fires, and excellent accommodations. Best of all, you wake up to remarkable terrain to start another day.
Romantic getaways – A ski chalet or a mountain lodge are wonderful weekend romance and ski ideas but trekking in might not be your style. Mount Engadine Lodge and the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge are easy to access by car and offer cross-country trails at your ski tips. At Mount Engadine, wake up to moose walking across the meadow out your window. The Pomeroy is home to the absolutely marvelous Kananaskis Nordic Spa.
The best part about cross-country skiing is that you are out there with friends, drinking in that fresh air and soaking up the Vitamin D. But don’t forget to tip your waiter. Huh? If there is a donation box at the trailhead, support the folks that are out there grooming and setting track. Drop a few bills in the box. You know it’s worth it.
WHEN YOU GO
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