Ski Greenview's big Nordic spaces from mountains to meadows
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From mountains to meadows, MD Greenviews big spaces serve up big experiences and big taste, from nordic to downhill, to culinary.
MD of Greenview – As I devour the best damn doughnut I’ve eaten in my life, paired with a refreshing haskap berry kombucha, I reflect on the wonderfully unexpected moments on our first ever winter road trip to the municipal district of Greenview in northwest Alberta.
If you’re looking for a less-travelled road trip this winter that will blow you away with mountain vistas, rolling meadowlands, and an insane amount of outdoor space for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and hiking, Greenview’s vast landscape will keep you busy exploring for days. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for moose, a common sight along twisty, tree-lined Hwy 40.
Feeling energized by our stop heading to Young’s Point on Sturgeon Lake, just one of dozens of places in Greenview, two hours south of Grande Prairie and four hours northwest of Edmonton, where you can get blissfully lost in raw nature miles away from other humans.
Here’s how to explore the MD of Greenview (and find amazing doughnuts, kombucha and other locally crafted delicacies) over a few days.
Be sure to stop at the Grande Cache Visitor & Interpretive Centre. This is more than a place to pick up a trail map. You can rent snowshoes and cross-country skis here (a bargain at $20 for 24 hours), check out local art, books, history, and get a lay of the winter landscape and activities from the folks who know where the locals go to play in the snow. The centre also offers beginner cross-country and snowshoe lessons.
“We are a hidden gem,” says Jenny Daubert, who works at the centre and moved to Grande Cache about seven years ago from Calgary and fell in love with her new home. “This is now my place on the planet … the mountains never look the same.” (Grand Cache is also Alberta’s third highest elevation town next to Banff and Lake Louise.)
As Daubert and co-worker Matt Patterson talk enthusiastically about the 700 kms of trails and 21 mountain peaks surrounding Grand Cache, it makes us want to get out and explore. Those peaks are a bucket list item for hikers. Each peak is designated as Bronze, Silver or Gold in the Passport to the Peaks program – the crown jewel being the twin peaks of Mount De Veber, at 2,573 metres. People can tick off their hikes and earn a plaque for completing all of them.
For a sample of some of the spots to check out the raw and natural snowshoeing and Nordic trails around Grande Cache, see the “When You Go” section.
Little Smoky Ski Area
You might be surprised that you’re still in the MD of Greenview as you drive north of Grande Cache, about three hours to the gentle, rolling landscape of the Valleyview area. But there are several surprises, both for winter activities and for foodie delights, tucked away in its quietly meandering hills.
In between Nordic jaunts, for some downhill skiing or tubing fun, head to Little Smoky Ski Area. Started in 1986, with a ski hill, five lanes of snow tubing and a skating rink, Little Smoky is a hub for winter activity in the Valleyview region. And it's just around the corner (about one hour) from another Nordic hotspot, Young's Point.
Young's Point, Valleyview
The gentle, rolling landscape of Young’s Point, a provincial park along Sturgeon Lake, makes it an excellent spot for Nordic skiing, especially for those just getting into the sport.
Compared to Grande Cache, the two areas “couldn’t be more different,” says Daubert.
This is also where you’ll find Crooked Creek General Store. At first glance the store simply looks like a nondescript highway gas station. But once you’re inside this local institution on Hwy 43, between Grande Prairie and Valleyview, there’s literally a lineup of people ordering doughnuts. Be sure to pop in for those out-of-this world doughnuts, or stock up on salsa, honey and snacks for the day.
On our visit, we have the trails at Young’s Point to ourselves; the only other human we can see is a lone ice fisher on the lake. The mid-afternoon sun glints through the aspens, as we glide through the trees on the track-set trails.
As the sun begins to set, the squawk of a raven breaks the silence. We feel like we could go forever on this calm, magical winter day. But we’ve got a date at a local distillery we’re excited to check out, a warming way to cap the day.
The Crabbie Goat Distillery, housed in an adorable red barn-style building, is just the place to sample some spirits and creative libations, dreamed up by Cheryl Gordon. She and husband Jamie own and operate the distillery.
The distillery sits on their 10-acre orchard, giving them the distinction of being Alberta’s first farmstand distillery, where they also sell hand-made sweet and savoury pies. In the year since they’ve opened, the couple managed to snag the best in class at the Artisan Distillers Canada for their London gin.
Leaving the distillery with a warming glow in our bellies, we’ve savoured every minute of our time in the wild and wonderful MD of Greenview, feeling like we’ve discovered a whole new way to winter in Alberta.
WHEN YOU GO
Find some sweet Greenview nordic spots here:
Grand Cache Municipal Campground & Golf Course
On a rise overlooking town, the golf course has 10 kms of track-set trails. You can also night ski here. Check out this story for more.
Pierre Gray’s Provincial Park
The Smokey River Nordic Ski Club keeps the 15 kms of trails nicely groomed at Pierre Gray’s Provincial Park, which has a chain of five lakes, day lodges and warming huts.
Daubert says she will often recommend people head up this road, which in the winter is maintained for 12 kms. From there, the trail possibilities for snowshoeing and winter hiking are endless.
On the edge of the Willmore Wilderness Area, the Sulphur Gates offer a spectacular lookout over sheer cliff walls hugging the confluence of the Smoky and Sulphur rivers.
Young's Point Provincial Park
Groomed trails just minutes from Valleyview, with rolling hills for easy gliding.
Check out more #SkiNorthAB adventures
Alberta's north abounds with winter activity. Visit our #SkiNorthAB expedition page, or check out some of the stories below for more winter inspiration.