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St. Albertans embrace winter with bevy of outdoor activities

Here is a closer look at three hot spots in the city to get the blood pumping.

As Old Man Winter ushers in the frostiest of weather, plenty of St. Albertans have opted to bundle up and head outside to make the most of what the city has to offer.

Many have found ways to enjoy the outdoors while embracing the cold and snow, whether to stay fit, or just have fun with the winter cards we've been dealt.

Whether that means racing down a toboggan hill at top speed or enjoying a relaxing stroll across some riverside trails, there are a variety of activities to keep residents and visitors busy. 

Here is a closer look at three hot spots of winter activity St. Albertans were spotted taking full advantage of.

Cross-country skiing along the Sturgeon

Cross-country skiing is a fixture in St. Albert, with a dedicated group led by an active Nordic Ski Club based out of Kingswood Park. 

The club has added more trails that straddle the Sturgeon River. Some trails go as far as the Sturgeon Valley Golf and Country Club, ensuring that anyone who makes the trek is sure to get both an effective workout and a great view of local wildlife. 

Steven Boyko was out and about with his wife and two-year-old daughter on the trails on Dec. 22. He said cross country skiing is the perfect way to get some quality time with his family while also staying as safe as possible in a COVID world. 

“We said what better way to get [our daughter] outside and enjoying the outdoors,” said Boyko. “With COVID, there isn’t a lot of indoor things we can do, so we thought we could get her started.” 

The new trails have provided the Boyko family with plenty of new adventures to embark on as well. 

“The trails are great. As soon as it snows, they are groomed,” said Boyko. “It’s just beautiful wilderness along the Sturgeon River, with great trees and lots of birds.” 

Also out on the trails were James McDonald, 73, and Malcolm Connell, 70. McDonald was out for just the second time in 45 years while Connell is a regular skier. 

“I’ve been skiing out here since 1984,” said Connell. “I don’t like doing indoor sports that much. I like to be outside no matter what the weather.” 

“[The trails] are much better. We haven’t skied right up to the golf course yet. Now they can have good races here, up in Riverlot 56. Before it was too narrow to have a race. This is much better to have races, a more regular club, and people have a chance to get fit because it’s a longer trail.” 

McDonald may be a newcomer, but that didn't stop him from enjoying the trails. 

“I’m discovering parts of my lungs are reopening for business,” laughed McDonald. “I took this sport up a long time before in Winnipeg and if you wanted to ski in Winnipeg, cross-country was the natural one.” 

Their advice on getting into the sport is simple: just get a pair of skis. Both McDonald and Connell mentioned that low-income families should scour for second-hand skis if they want a cheap and quick way of coming out. 

Tobogganing at Seven Hills

If cross-country skiing isn’t scratching that adrenaline itch, you won’t have to look much further than Seven Hills on Vital Avenue. The hill is almost always bustling with people of all ages as they prepare to hit new speeds on their tubes, toboggans, or downhill sleds. 

More than that, it also provides a breathtaking view of the city as a picturesque winter landscape. 

Morinville resident Laura Berry brought out her two kids to enjoy the hill on a Dec. 22. She said they were drawn to the hill because of the view and the fact that they had never tried it out before. 

“We came to check it out because we just have never been to this hill,” said Berry. “We live in Morinville and already tried out all the local hills, so we thought we’d bring the kids out to try something different!

“Everyone has been really enjoying themselves and it really is just a beautiful location.” 

For newcomers, especially kids, the hill can be a bit intimidating. It appears to be quite a journey to get to the bottom but, after a little self-motivation, the reward is sure to be worth the risk. 

Kendra Drader was one of the kids who went through this exact thought process. 

“The hill is really steep!” said Drader. 

However, there were a few brave kids who were less concerned with the hill being steep and more focused on the view. 

“I can see the whole town from here!” shrieked Nadia Berry 

Then there were others, who were quickly distracted by the other people enjoying the hill, such as Nadia’s sister Elena. 

“I see a puppy!” Elena said.

It doesn’t matter what kind of apparatus you use to get down the hill, as long as you have one it seems like a good time is all but guaranteed. 

Skating on the Rotary Park Freezeway

Those first two options satisfy both the adrenaline seekers and the relaxing outing folks, but where is the happy medium? Look no further than the Rotary Park Freezeway which lies just past Larry Olexiuk Field off Riel Drive. 

Here you will see a sheet of ice that evokes all the feelings of a winter wonderland. A pine tree sits in the middle of the icy surface, which conjures up that classic Charlie Brown Christmas scene. 

Gwen Grant grew up in the community, but is visiting from Calgary. She said the freezeway seemed like a fun afternoon activity to do alongside her son. 

“We just wanted to get out and skate,” said Grant. “We searched online and found this to try out in the daytime and maybe come back at night when the lights are on.

“It’s fun to get out.” 

When the clock strikes 4 p.m. holidays lights of all colours decorate the area all the way up until 10 p.m. It's a must for any family trying to get into the winter spirit. 

Brothers Memphis and Wells Ford were two of the many kids who enjoyed all the freezeway had to offer on Dec. 22. They also had a few competing thoughts on what they liked to do the most. 

“[My favourite thing about the skating is] going fast,” said Memphis. 

“I like going slow,” said Wells. 

Hockey sticks and pucks are not permitted on the freezeway, as it is meant to be used solely for skating.