Joy out of Misery
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Alberta’s north is the perfect winter wonderland setting for all kinds of snowy outdoor recreation: cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, sledding, and it's home to seven ski hills! Follow along with us and don’t forget to tag #SkiNorthAB to tell us what you’ve discovered.
Rediscovering flow in the Mighty Peace
PEACE REGION, AB - Day and night, earth and sky, history and the future, the north contains so many dualisms in its dancing auroras, the kind you can see lighting up the firmament in Peace River on a clear night — green, orange, yellow, purple — visible with the naked eye as you stand beneath the corona, on the road to a place called Misery.
The sun rises on Peace River, as mist lifts from the water and town slowly stirs. Golden rays kiss Judah Hill as Zahra and Robyn Robertson look on. There is a call that emanates silently from the land, the kind poets have written about, and it is calling on Robyn and Zahra today.
Their destination is Misery Mountain, a ski area with a name so perfectly northern it could have been christened by Robert Service. Pulling up to the lodge, with its grey-brown river stone, bright red roof and locally made stained glass, the place exudes warmth. Sticker-style lift tickets on triangle metal wickets are still in use here.
The ski hill is a great equalizer. Robyn may have more years of snowboarding on her daughter and an advantage in physical development, but Zahra has the fearlessness of youth on her side.
Laughing on the chairlift with her mom, Zahra shows no signs of reaching the generational chasm of teenagerism just yet. “It’s nice having one-on-one time,” says Robyn. “It’s always different when you have that time to just connect with one person, rather than having others around. It’s a different dynamic.”
In between laps, the chairlift provides bonding time but on the way down, it’s go time: Misery’s rolling humps and bumps inspire the kind of playful riding that we could all use more of. Imagine a gentler version of Lake Louise’s Rock Gardens, Marmot Basin’s Caribou Knoll, or Sunshine’s Teepee Town. You’re not going to find extreme challenge here, but that’s not the point — this is about sheer good times.
“It’s not as daunting as the big mountains, it’s affordable, and it has a pretty chill vibe, which makes it really comfortable and open,” says Robyn, on first impression. The family comes from Fairview, where they are regulars at the local hill, but this is the women’s first time at Misery.
With slopes that pitch halfheartedly down towards town, and the hibernating river it perches on, there is a rural sense of ease here. Coffee shops like J’s Java Domain, with bright windows, local art and abundant greenery, the piano in the mall, murals of wildlife on downtown buildings and the greying walls of an old fur-trading fort-turned-museum give Peace River a perfect “North of 60” feel.
When the light comes out on a day like this, even in the shortest days of winter, it feels like you can go forever. Or at least until last load on the lifts. When that time comes, Peace River Brewing hits the apres spot with its warehouse chic, full-bodied beers and giant pretzels.
“It’s a really cute little town in the north,” Robyn says. “It has a lot of the amenities of a bigger city, but at the same time it’s still a small town. I always run into people I know.”
Dusk finds Robyn and Zahra cozying up in a one-bedroom wooden cottage, on the sprawling plateau of The Rise AirBnB. The property’s mascot, Henry, a butterscotch-coloured spaniel curls up on the foot of the bed as a fire burns in the potbelly stove. The promise of northern lights simmers in the back of their minds.
“This is a little hidden gem,” says Robyn, “the kind of place where you can just find yourself.”
Fierce and beautiful contrasts have always drawn adventurous minds north but it’s the bonding with family and friends, the feeling of community and belonging as you flow through the Peace region that will instantly bind you to this place.
WHEN YOU GO
- Check our #SkiNorthAB Experience Series for package deals and great rates on hotels, dining and activities.
- Learn more about the natural history, indigenous culture and fur-trading past of the north at the Peace River Museum.
- For some indoor fun, check out the pickleball courts at the Baytex Energy Centre multiplex. It also has a skating rink, indoor running track and outdoor skating.
- Watch the aurora forecast! Especially in the winter, Peace River gets some breathtaking northern lights displays when skies are clear.