How to #SkiNorthAB

BuffaloEditor's note: With the unpredictability of COVID-19, some 2020-'21 events are up in the air. Be sure to watch the local organizers' websites for the latest updates. 

Jasper/Marmot Basin, Grande Prairie/Nitehawk Adventure Park, Edmonton’s Snow Valley, Wood Buffalo/Vista Ridge, MDofBVille/Kinosoo Ridge, Lac La Biche and Vermilion, home to the Beckie Scott Nordic Centre - invite you for a visit to #SkiNorthAB this winter. SnowSeekers will show you why.

Did you know that Edmonton isn’t even 50 per cent of the way north across the top of Alberta? There’s so much more north of the capital. 

Alberta’s north is home to thriving communities with locals keen to show you their winter adventure experiences. We bet you didn’t know that there are 17 ski destinations in Alberta’s north standing alongside the world-renowned Marmot Basin. Whether it’s Nordic skiing, downhill skiing or snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating, ice fishing, or seeing the Northern Lights, we can help you plan a memorable winter escape.

We @SnowSeekers have teamed up with an inspirational group of digital storytellers who love to dig in and introduce you to treasures from the North. Check out their work below and the recommendations of some locals who can help you uncover a new kind of awesome this winter. Head north to experience and #SkiNorthAB.

People and experiences make a #SkiNorthAB adventure unforgettable.

Fort Mac
Photo: Doc Pow

Fort McMurray (Home to Birchwood Trails and Vista Ridge)

Local - Inger Kleppe-LeBlanc, program coordinator, Ptarmigan Nordic Ski Club

Is there a favourite event in the winter people can’t miss?

The Birchwood Classic. This is a cross-country skiing race/loppet for all abilities, held every year in January on the Birchwood Trails. You can choose from 5km, 8km or 13km and it’s followed by a potluck dinner. 

Of all the options, what is your favourite winter experience in Fort McMurray or Wood Buffalo and why?

It has to be cross-country skiing on the Birchwood Trails, groomed by the Ptarmigan Nordic Ski Club. The 25-plus kilometres of trails are nestled in the Birchwood Trails, which are located in the middle of Fort McMurray. And the Doug Barnes Cabin is a great place to warm up after your ski.

The Ptarmigan Ski Club is opening up a new clubhouse this season, follow them on Facebook.

Explore Fort McMurray and its winter options here.

Watch Sliding through one of the World’s biggest forests in Fort McMurray #SkiNorthAB on YouTube.

Where to eat? What are your top two or three places to eat in Fort McMurray

  • Mitchell's Cafe: This is a great place for soups and sandwiches, plus it has excellent coffee.
  • Dedicate Health Kitchen: This is a great spot that offers pre-made healthy meals for pickup. 
  • Surekahs on the Syne – This spot has great food and great ambiance and a large menu featuring everything from fancy poutine to gourmet burgers and a great selection of international dishes.

Where to stay: Check out Fort McMurray Tourism for more activities and places to stay.

Getting there: From Edmonton, it's about a 4.5-hour drive to Fort McMurray and is home to FlyYMM - WestJet and Air Canada (with a reminder to fly carbon neutral)

Photo: Doc Pow

Jasper (home to Marmot Basin)

Local - Bob Covey, newspaper publisher, The Jasper Local 

Where to play: Marmot Basin Ski Resort, Northern Lights tours, festivals, ice walks and snowshoeing.

Is there a favorite event in the winter? By now, most winter warriors will have Jasper in January on their radar. Jasper in January has dozens of family-friendly events, discounted lift tickets at Marmot Basin and plenty of other libation-sampling soirees that scream Get-a-Babysitter. But the pick of the litter, for this culinary connoisseur, is the Craft Beer and Barley Summit, held at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge on the Super Bowl Weekend. Tailgating never seemed so opulent!

Watch Marmot Basin and Jasper are literally all yours #SkiNorthAB on YouTube.

Of all the options, what is your favourite winter experience in Jasper and why? One of my favourite winter experiences comes a little later in the season, when the sun stays out longer and the American dippers start to appear at icy creek mouths, dunking their entire bodies underwater to feed. That's when I like to bust the cross-country skis out and make a break for Maligne Lake, which by now is frozen solid and safe to travel upon. Five kilometres down the lake, on the western shore, lies Hidden Cove. With a backpack full of lunch, hot chocolate and maybe a few sticks of kindling, just to be sure, it's an incredibly scenic place to have a winter campfire. Surrounded by 10,000-foot, glacier-capped peaks, I can't think of a better place to roast a hotdog. There's even a shelter in case the wind comes up.  

Bookmark Covey’s "Jasper Local" to and stay connected with one of Canada’s most top quality ski towns.

Find out why Marmot Basin in Jasper National Part is literally all yours.

Where to eat? What are your top two or three places to eat in Jasper: There are lots of places to eat in Jasper, but if you want an exceptional dining experience in a chef-owned, intimate bistro, go to Syrahs of Jasper. Specializing in game meats, the dishes are fresh, creative and thoughtful and the service is outstanding. For a casual apres-ski, a great place to smash a burger and a salad is the D'ed Dog Bar. And if you want to get your charcuterie on, a new joint opened last year called Harvest.  

Where to stay: Check out Tourism Jasper and plan your trip.

Getting there: Road tripping into Jasper: From Edmonton, about 4 hours; From Lloydminster, 6 hours, from Grand Prairie, 41/2 hours

Photo: Doc Pow

Vermilion (home to Beckie Scott Nordic Centre)

Local - Brina Samuelson, #ExploreVermilion, social media reporter

Where to play: Beckie Scott Nordic Centre, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing

What does it mean to be very Vermilion this winter?  Read on.

Is there a favourite event in the winter? We have a big week of Christmas events that brings in the season at the end of November. There is a Santa Clause parade, Hallways of Handicrafts show and the businesses always have something on the go during that same weekend. This year there are so many great events going on in November like the Harvest Gala, Savor and a Father Daughter Dance. We also have a snowmobile expo at the end of November. Our JR B Tigers hockey team is also in full swing of their season. People like to come out and cheer them on.

Watch Nordic Skiing in Vermilion #SkiNorthAB on YouTube.

Of all the options, what is your favorite winter experience in Vermilion and why? I love to snowmobile or riding the side-by-side during the winter months. Being on the farm we do a fair bit of it as part of our work there, but it doesn’t feel like work to me. I also love the Santa Clause parade and taking in all the events we have on during that weekend in town. It’s so nice to see town bustling, people out shopping, Christmas lights aglow. My fave time of year!

Where to eat? What are your top two or three places to eat in Vermilion? I enjoy eating at Nicks Family Restaurant. It’s been around for a long time and is a hot spot for morning coffee with numerous groups and for breakfast. The attached pub is a busy place as well usually. I also love to check out the Red Brick, which has been a great addition to Main Street with really cool offerings. And of course, Anthony’s Grill. They are very passionate about what they do and their restaurant feels like a family dinner each time you go.

Where to stay: Learn where to stay by visiting

Getting there: Road trip into Vermilion: From Edmonton area, 2 hours, from Lloydminster, 45 minutes.

Photo: Nancy Shields

Grande Prairie (Home to Nitehawk Adventure Park)

Local - Ricardo Pillay and his family are from South Africa and are making a whole new life for themselves in Grande Prairie.

Where to play: Nitehawk Adventure Park and Philip J. Currie Museum where you have to check out the multi-million dinosaur-themed water park at the EastLink Centre.

  Is there a favorite event in the winter people can’t miss?

  • Festival of Trees at Evergreen Park

  • Nitehawk Adventure Park is the place for many winter sports, including a natural luge. 

  • Northern Spirit Light Show, a place to get in the holiday spirit, starting in mid-November and running through December. 

Watch Go Nitehawk, it’ll light up your life #SkiNorthAB on YouTube.

Of all the options, what is your favorite winter experience in Grande Prairie and why?

Nitehawk Adventure Park. The place has a nice vibe during the winter. There’s fun for everyone, whether you ski or snowboard, accommodating all experience levels. The tube zone is also great fun. 

Where to eat? What are your top two or three places to eat in Grande Prairie?·  

  • Jeffrey’s Cafe for its menu for its international flair from Bahn Mi Sandwichs to the Butter Chicken and loads of fresh salads. 

  • Ramona’s Pizza, an institution that’s been around for 30 years. 

  • Butter Chicken Co. when you’re craving, yes butter chicken, but also all kinds of delicious Indian and flavours of the world. 

Where to stay: Check out where to stay here.

Getting there: From Edmonton, Grande Prairie is about a 4.5-hour drive. 

Snow Valley

Edmonton - (Home to Snow Valley)

Linda Hoang is an Edmonton-based Canadian blogger who writes about travel, lifestyle and food. Follow her Learn to Ski stories this winter as she gets back on the slopes after a long absence and tackles skiing. 

Is there a favorite event in the winter people can’t miss? Skiing and snowboarding at Snow Valley is an event that is special at any time of the year, such a cool ski spot right in the middle of town. The Silver Skate Festival and Ice Castles, as well as Deep Freeze Festival are winter favourites each year, too. Silver Skate is the perfect celebration of the season with snow sculptures, ice skating, and lots more!

Edmonton is the only Canadian city with the Ice Castles, a stunning outdoor experience with frozen thrones, ice slides and endless photo ops.

Follow Linda on her Facebook page for more.

Of all the options, what is your favourite winter experience in Edmonton and why?

It’s too hard to pick one. Whether it’s winter Segwaying through the river valley — the largest urban river valley park system in North America — taking in one of many winter festivals (Edmonton is a winter city after all!), skiing or snowboarding at one of the city’s snow parks like Snow Valley, skating around Hawrelak Park or just taking a winter walk under the blue sky and sunshine, winter in Edmonton is an amazing experience!

Editor’s note: we know one event Linda is really looking forward to is her take to skiing via Snow Valley’s women's only learn to ski camp.  Follow Linda on her Facebook page for more.

Where to eat? Your top two or three places to eat in Edmonton — good places to go for apres or after outside winter time.

Warm up with hot soup! I’m partial to my parents’ restaurant for Vietnamese noodle soup (pho) at King Noodle House, all you can eat at Chinese Hot Pot, Japanese ramen and curries at Kazoku Ramen, or Korean soup like the “army stew” from HanJan. Or warm up with comforting pasta at Uccellino, in my opinion, the very best in Edmonton. Then grab cocktails at Bar Clementine.

Lac La Biche (Home to Lakeland Provincial Park)

Local – Jaclyn Denman, parks development officer with Alberta Parks and avid outdoors person.

What is the can’t miss event in Lac La Biche? 

The Winter Festival of Speed. It’s set to run this winter Feb 22 and 23. We’re looking at organizing our February Music in the Forest concert (which we do monthly as well!) on Feb 22 to pair with the festival.

Watch Winter Festival of Speed on YouTube.

In your view, what’s the best winter experience? 

Cross-country skiing at Shaw Lake. If you can luck out with a warm evening, or a full moon night and go ski under the stars with a head-lamp, it is magical – even if it is snowy and you can’t see the stars and the moon.

What are your favourite places to eat in Lac La Biche

La Bones has great beer and food with a pub atmosphere. Queen Bean, a new café, absolutely delicious breakfast and lunch options at great prices.

Kinosoo Ridge
Photo: Doc Pow

M.D. Bonnyville (Home to Kinosoo Ridge)

Local - Raymond Cowell, owner, Wicked Watersport Rentals in Bonnyville

Is there a favourite event in the winter people can’t miss?

  • Cold Lake is a community that thrives in the outdoors. The Kinosoo Ridge Ski Hill offers ski enthusiasts the chance to hit the slopes or hit up the tube park for some family fun. 
  • Cold Lake Provincial Park offers beautiful hiking trails along the shores of Cold Lake while experiencing the great outdoors. There is also no shortage of ice fishing in the lake.
  • The Cold Lake Energy Centre has a free walking track during the winter, along with a climbing wall and indoor soccer park, ice skating rink and gym. 
  • Hit up J.J. Parr Sports Centre at 4 Wing Cold Lake and wade in the kid’s pool or hit up a diving board or rope swing into the deep end - and then relax in the hot tub or sauna after hitting the weights at the gym.

Of all the options, what is your favourite winter experience in Cold Lake or within the MD and why?

Family Day in February is a big community event, held both within the local community and at the 4 Wing military community. During this event, there are sleigh rides and ice skating at the Cold Lake Marina and other events throughout the community.

What are your top two or three places to eat in Cold Lake or within the MD?

Cold Lake has many restaurants to suit any taste. But two restaurants compete for the top spot on TripAdvisor and Yelp -  The Picante Café and Mamacita’s Mexican Restaurant.

The Picante Café is perfectly situated on the shores of Cold Lake and offers scenic views from their beautiful patio complimenting their Mediterranean menu house wine and decadent desserts. The menu changes daily.

Watch The Magic Makers – Kinosoo Ridge Snow Resort #SkiNorthAB on YouTube.

Mamacita’s Mexican Restaurant is praised for fresh, quality ingredients in its authentic Latin food. The atmosphere perfectly complements the food and service offering patrons something different from anywhere else in Lakeland.

If you prefer pub food, there are several to recommend. The Pour House, located near the Cold Lake Marina, has the best chicken wing selection and food and drink specials. And, O2’s Bar and Grill has the only rooftop patio in Cold Lake and offers a great selection of food and draft beer and big screens for enjoying your favourite sporting events. The Muster Point has standard pub fare with live music and other events on a weekly basis.

Where to stay: Check out this website for ideas.

Getting there: Edmonton is about a three-hour drive from Cold Lake.

When You Go

Stay tuned. We will be connecting you with more information on all things #SkiNorthAB soon. For the latest please bookmark this page - the #SkiNorthAB Expedition home page.

This season Marmot Escape Card owners can purchase lift tickets for half price at Ski Marmot Basin, Jasper and receive 30% - 50% off full day lift tickets at 10 other ski areas when they buy a card for $79.00 + GST.  Details are at  

In the meantime check out our partners' links to learn more about #SKiNorthAB. 

And again for all things #SkiNorthAB visit our campaign hub here.

Use the tag #SkiNorthAB to let us know what you discover and we might feature your discoveries and you could be featured on our social media channels!

Like Our Facebook Page