Winter Fun in the Cypress Hills
If you, like so many other Canadians, have decided to stop complaining and start embracing winters in Canada, the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park which spans both the Alberta and Saskatchewan borders, offers great getaway experiences and activities that will have you loving winter in no time.
A winter wonderland like no other, whether you like nothing but the sounds of a serene swoosh as your cross-country skis, skates, or snowshoes go gliding across a chilly surface, the adrenaline rush of downhill skiing and/or snowmobiling, or you prefer to just cuddle up with that special someone in a cozy townhouse or cabin with a fire roaring and a glass of wine at the ready, the Cypress Hills has it all.
Cypress Hills Alberta
Home to Hidden Valley Ski Hill, owned and operated by Alberta Parks, it is the only ski hill of its kind for miles around, a convergence for ski aficionados in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Montana alike. A quick trip to Hidden Valley will make it clear that there’s no need to head to the mountains if you’re just looking for a relaxing and easy-going adventure with few line-ups, short wait times, and less people on the hills. At only an hour from Medicine Hat, an hour from Maple Creek and an hour from Havre, it’s a no-hassle quick getaway that will help you get over the hump of loving winter.
PRO-TIP: Make it an inexpensive winter vacation with the Elkwater Lake Lodge’s Ski, Stay & Play Vacation Package which includes lift tickets, breakfast and accommodation for one low price.
Also on the Alberta side of the Park is the Elkwater Visitor Centre whose staff will have you loving winter in no time with the numerous activities and equipment they offer. From cross-country ski and snowshoe rentals, to kick-sleds, and skates to use on their skating loop nestled in a campground. They even have toboggans to use on their family-friendly backyard styled luge if you forget your own.
Event to look for:
Winter Festival – February 1st, 2020. Celebrate winter with fun activities for the whole family and a $25 Beginner Ski Lesson Package at Hidden Valley.
West Block – Cypress Hills Saskatchewan
A wilderness area that is home to Fort Walsh National Historic Site, this area is generally inaccessible during the winter months, unless you happen to go to the Historic Reesor Ranch. Winner of the 2018 National Tourism Business of the Year, you will feel like you’ve come home the minute Scott and Theresa Reesor welcome you to their ranch.
In addition to lovely private cabins for families and couples, and a large group facility for those who want to get the whole gang together, they also have an abundance of winter activities available for guests, without ever having to leave the Ranch. From tobogganing, to ungroomed cross-country ski and snowshoe opportunities (and snowshoes for guests to use). They also have vast amounts of wilderness to explore for those adventurous sledders who want to bring their own snowmobiles.
PRO-TIP: Take advantage of the cold to cuddle up with that special someone with their Cowboy Comfort Winter Romance Package which includes one night’s accommodation, a gift basket of goodies, a bottle of Cypress Hills wine, and breakfast supplies for two.
Centre Block – Cypress Hills Saskatchewan
The core of the Cypress Hills is hopping with activity all winter long thanks to the partnership between The Resort at Cypress Hills and Sask Parks. Offering groomed trails for cross-country skiing, flagged trails for snowshoeing and a thrilling toboggan hill with warm-up shack to take the chill off before you head back up. Rent both snowshoes and cross-country skis from The Resort, or enjoy a post-activity meal or beverage at their in-house restaurant.
PRO-TIP: Make a day of it, and schedule in a trip to Maple Creek as you pass through on your way up to or from the Park. Only 20 mins from the Centre Block, Maple Creek offers a luxurious spa with multiple types of massage (the perfect way to ease sore muscles after a day of winter activities), restaurants such as The Shop, which can provide you with a picnic to eat in the warm-up shack or on the trail, and the Rockin Horse Cookhouse and Bar where you can get a hot meal on your way home. Grab a freshly roasted cup of Cowboy Coffee or a latte from the Daily Grind, or take a peek at the unique shopping offerings this small but mighty town offers, including more than 6,000 puzzles offered by Cowtown Kids Toy and Candy.
If ice-fishing is your jam, in addition to opportunities on the small Loch Leven within the Centre Block, there is a much larger lake 42kms south of the Park known as Cypress Lake. A Sask Parks Recreation Area, it’s a favourite of locals and visitors alike and offers Walleye, Brown Trout and the occasional Jack.
Events to look for:
Dec 30th – Annual Christmas Bird Count – a walk in the Park with staff, looking for feathered treasures.
Jan 1st – Annual New Years Day Tobogganing Party – A family-friendly event with hot dogs and hot chocolate for only a twoonie!
Feb 16th – Family Day in Cypress Hills – a day of activities and specials.
Feb 15th – Battle of the Little Big Puck – the annual battle between Cowboys and Indians hockey style.