The Beginner’s Guide to Cross Country Skiing in Edmonton

With the winter well underway and COVID-19 continuing to limit outdoor recreation options, Edmontonians have taken up cross country skiing in huge numbers. As a sport that is accessible to almost any level of fitness and one that makes social distancing easy, it’s not hard to see why. If you’re new to the sport like me and managed to get a hold of some gear, or just dusted off some old stuff, congratulations – you’re one of the lucky ones. Getting started might feel intimidating, you’ll have to figure out technique, how to wax, and where to ski. While I won’t be able help you out with those first two (YouTube is your friend), I can most definitely share my experiences with different trails around the city. While I’m just learning this year, I’ve had the chance to ski at most of the Edmonton-area sites already, so if you want a beginner’s perspective of where to ski, keep reading!  

Where You Should Ski


Information, Maps

The Goldbar trail system, composed of the Capilano, Goldbar and Goldstick trail networks are maintained by the Edmonton Nordic Ski Club and therefore are the class of the lot when it comes to grooming in the city. They offer several lit trails at night so you can get in an early morning or late night ski. Goldbar has a mix of loops for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers, so if you’re just starting out and haven’t already, head there for a great ski and try to hone your skills on some uphill and downhill segments. 

City Maintained Trails:

Trail Conditions, Maps

My favourites: Victoria Golf Course, Riverside Golf Course, Mayfair Golf Course, Hawrelack Park, Argyll

The golf courses are almost entirely flat, so they are great for new skiers. However, I enjoy all these trails for how you can get into a good rhythm, zone out and relax while working on your technique. I find these trails have a nice relaxed atmosphere and are super family friendly. Victoria’s main loop is 2.5km, so if you’re working up to a 5 or 10 kilometer ski, just count the laps. Riverside,  Hawrelack and Mayfair offer slightly longer loops, but nothing crazy.

Dark Horse: Argyll. While I’m certainly biased as this one is the closest to me, Argyll definitely deserves mention, especially for beginners. It has two loops, 1.2km and 0.8km, and is entirely flat. Earlier in the winter when the temperatures were above freezing and there was little snow, I found Argyll held up better than anywhere else. I’m not sure why, but for whatever reason they didn’t melt like other city trails. Since the loops are in a field above the Mill Creek Ravine trail system, they don’t accumulate debris from trees after strong winds. Argyll is one of the least intimidating places to ski, if you want a relaxed place to practice your skills without worry. Also – it’s skijoring friendly, so you can ski with your pup! If the weather hasn’t been cooperating, definitely consider Argyll. 

Near the City

Strathcona Wilderness Center

SWC Information

SWC is a popular spot and for good reason! It’s expertly maintained and has countless loops that can be combined into any length of ski, truly a first-class Nordic center. It’s the one ski area nearby that has rentals on site – bring a friend! If you want to head there over weekend, either go super early, or in the afternoon, since parking can be at a premium. SWC is a great option if you’re wanting to try a longer ski, or if you want to ski in a beautiful Aspen-Parkland setting. 

Devon Golf Course

Maps, Information

The Devon trails are volunteer run by the Devon Golf Club and the Devon Lions Club, who do a great job with grooming and are exceptionally friendly. Devon trails are located down by the river and so often receive different weather conditions than in the city. As a result of its location, Devon holds up better during warmer temperatures, so as the days pass and we move to spring skiing in March, I imagine Devon will continue to be a great place to ski. It’s beautiful here and is a worthy day-trip from the city.

Cooking Lake Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area

Maps, Trail Report

I love it here. CLB has over 100km of trails, so there’s no shortage to explore. It’s impressively wild, your ski is almost as likely to feature moose, deer, porcupine or coyote as it is other skiers. The trail network has several backcountry shelters, meaning it’s a great place to double up your ski with a picnic or a fire. It has four staging areas, Waskahegan, Islet Lake, Central, and Blackfoot. Waskahegan is the most popular starting point, and the parking lot can get busy on a nice day. Skate skiers should note that the only trails wide enough to provide skate skiing are accessed from the Blackfoot staging area. CLB is also the site of the famous Birkebeiner race! With such a big trail system, grooming is obviously harder to maintain, however after a big snowfall Cooking Lake Blackfoot is bliss. If having a good adventure while you ski sounds fun, this is the place for you. 

Wrap Up

Listen, this post is far from a complete guide, but it might help you get started. Below I will include links to sources that will describe other places to ski, as well as more detailed accounts from more experienced skiers. Edmonton has an abundance of places to cross country ski and we’re lucky for it. It’s important we thank the dedicated people who contribute to this sport wherever possible.

Embrace the winter! 

Additional Resources

There’s an app for that! Your one-stop-shop for user reviewed trail conditions is the YEG Cross Country Ski Conditions app.  Android users can get it from wherever they get their apps, while the app is under development for Apple products. Stay tuned…

Mike Stern has compiled a comprehensive guide to Edmonton area skiing, he offers his own take on the trails, as well as details concerning trail facilities, access points, and way more. By all means check out Mike’s Guide.

Another great resource is the Northern Region Trail Report, it’s your go-to source for northern Alberta grooming reports and trail descriptions all in one place.

If you’re looking to ski Banff, Kananaskis, Yoho, or anywhere near Calgary, check out Bob’s blog. There are daily posts from Bob and contributors with trip reports – often with pictures! Thank you Skier Bob!

Happy skiing!


Author- Callum Macnab

Check me out – Instagram: @macnabcallum

Your Guide to Missoula, Montana

Mount Sentinel

Nestled in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Montana, Missoula is a hidden gem where urban lifestyle meets adventure. Completely surrounded by seven wilderness areas, this city is rich with culture and endless outdoor recreational activities. In no particular order, here are the 5 best things to do when visiting Missoula, MT.



Clark Fork River Float
Clark Fork River

During the summer, floating down the Clark Fork River is one of the best ways to cool down and relax. Every day, hundreds of locals on tubes, paddleboards, and rafts pass through town enjoying the sunshine and clean air.



Arcade at GILD Brewing
Arcade at GILD Brewing

GILD is a locally-owned brewpub that just so happens to have an awesome arcade in the basement. From pinball to board games, GILD has everything you need to start the night off right. Not to mention, they have some of the best-tasting beer and hard cider in town.



Mount Sentinel Trail
View on Mount Sentinel

Going for a hike on Mount Sentinel is a favorite for people visiting Missoula, and for good reason. As you gain elevation, you are able to see the entire city and the vast valley that lies below. In the distance, you can see the Rattlesnake Wilderness and Snowbowl Ski Area (shown above).



Montana Snowbowl
Montana Snowbowl

If you happen to visit Missoula in the winter, be sure to check out Snowbowl Ski Area. Conveniently located only 12 miles from Missoula, Snowbowl offers some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the West.



Rainbow Trout
Rainbow Trout

It wouldn’t be a trip to Missoula without a fishing excursion in the mix. Missoula is world-renowned for its trout fishing streams, with a variety of different species to hook into. There is an impressive number of outfitters to choose from, so take your pick and get out there!


The Montana Snowbowl

— History — 

Created in 1962, The Montana Snowbowl is what I would consider “Missoula’s Ski Resort.” Over the years, Snowbowl has remained almost exactly the same which is part of its charm. The resort still has a small-town feel despite the large crowds it draws. The most notable development in recent years opened this year with the addition of the Snowpark lift. Prior to this addition the resort catered more towards intermediate and advanced skiers with beginners sticking to cat tracks and a few easy runs. This addition is a great upgrade to the mountain, and I look forward to seeing what the future has in store for the mountain.

— Location —

Snowbowl is located 13 miles north of Missoula, Montana and is about a 25-minute drive from downtown Missoula. A paved road covers the first 8 miles, but the last five miles is a gravel road that can get a little treacherous if you aren’t properly prepared. Most vehicles traveling to Snowbowl should have four wheel drive and chains or snow tires in order to deal with the rough winter conditions.

— The Resort — 

Snowbowl has lots to offer whether it is the mountain itself, food, gear, or lodging. At the resort you will discover three lifts, one t-bar, and one rope-tow which provides access to 950+ acres of skiable territory. All the chair lifts are two seaters and only one of the lifts begins at the base of the mountain which results in some long lines on weekend mornings but those crowds quickly disperse. The lodge itself contains two restaurants, The Last Run and The Double Diamond Café. Both of these restaurants have good food, plenty of seating, and a fireplace to warm up by. Snowbowl also has a rental shop for all the gear you might need, a ski school with fantastic instructors, and Gelandesprung Lodge. Gelandesprung is the available lodging above the rental shop and is essentially ski in/out lodging with different room layouts and a community hot tub. All in all, Snowbowl is a wonderful small town ski resort and one of the best parts about living in Missoula.

Photo Gallery

A Weekend Guide to Whitefish, Montana in Winter

Wintertime in Whitefish, Montana is one of the most beautiful seasons to enjoy the small ski town and all it has to offer. This town doesn’t slow down after a winter storm, it celebrates it! Are you thinking about exploring this hidden gem for a weekend getaway? This article will give you the perfect weekend itinerary for what to see and do while you’re here.


8:30 am – Breakfast at Buffalo Cafe

A local favorite, Buffalo Cafe offers amazing breakfast options to keep you energized for your full day ahead!

10:00 am – Ski on Big Mountain

A trip to Whitefish is never complete without a day at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Endless slopes and an approachable mountain offers a day of fun for all level of skiers and snowboarders.

3:00 pm – Apres Ski at Hellroaring Saloon

After hittin’ the slopes, enjoy an apres-ski drink and nachos at Hellroaring Saloon, located next to the village on the mountain.

5:00 pm – Massage at the Spa at Whitefish Lake

You’re bound to be sore after a day on the mountain, so treat yourself to a massage at the beautiful Spa at Whitefish Lake!

7:00 pm – Dinner at Tupelo Grille

Be sure to book a table here, and be ready for one of the best meals in town. Featuring local cuisine influenced by cajun and southern flavors, the superb service completes a meal here.


8:30 am – Breakfast at Loula’s Cafe

Loula’s breakfasts include the standard fare as well as popular originals like Lemon Stuffed French toast with raspberry sauce or Eggs Benedict with white truffle oil.

9:45 am – Pick up a Packed Lunch from Montana Coffee Traders

Before you head off for the day, pick up a packed lunch from Montana Coffee Traders. They offer a variety of sandwiches and snacks that you can bring with you to the park which is helpful because most restaurants in West Glacier are closed in the winter!

10:00 am – Drive to Glacier National Park to snowshoe

The beautiful Glacier National Park is only a 30-minute drive away from Whitefish and offers miles of scenic snowshoeing trails.  You can rent snowshoes from multiple places in town as well as outside of the park.

7:00 pm – Dinner at Abruzzo’s

Finish off your day with a delicious traditional Italian meal at Abruzzo’s. They offer extensive selection of shared plates, grilled steaks, fresh seafood, and a small but decadent dessert list, all prepared in-house and served alongside an Italian-focused cocktail program and an Italian-centric wine list.





Top 6 Ski Areas Near Missoula…

There are a ton of options for skiing within the western part of Montana, whether this is in our beloved home state, or one of our close neighbors. There is plenty of fresh powder to go around…

To Start off this list we are going to lay down a few guidelines. All of these ski resorts are within 200 miles of Missoula, and for those of you that were worried…They all sell beer as well.

  1. The Montana Snowbowl  (15 miles outside town)      

Snowbowl will always have a special place in the hearts of Missoulians, for its close proximity to town, and your ability to go from class to the slopes in under 20 minutes.  While Snowbowl may have its ups and downs, you can always count on good skiing when they get some fresh snow up in the bowls. Priced at $48 for a student day pass, it’s not going to break the bank too bad. But they make up for it with $4 beers in the lodge at the base.

2. Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area (105 miles outside town)

Lookout pass ski area is known as the #1 Powder Place, and they definitely live up to that name. Lookout gets the most fresh snow out of all the resorts near Missoula, and for the most part, has pretty good weather. This resort is about an hour and 45 minutes from campus and never gets too crazy so you’ll always have a parking spot. A student day pass for Lookout will run you about $46, but the snow makes it worth it!

3. Discovery Ski Area (91 miles outside town)

Discovery ski area is located about an hour and a half from Missoula and will never let you down. With a really good mix of steep groomers and powder-filled trees, this resort is perfect for everyone. For those seeking a thrill, Discovery has an expert only backside of the mountain with some truly crazy runs. The only downfall of this resort is the road up to the lodge can get pretty bad, but you’ll always be able to find a ride up from the bottom. Discovery will run you about $50 for a day pass, but you’ll be able to go on a different run every time all day.

4. Lost Trail Powder Mountain (75 miles outside town)

Lost Trail is another favorite among locals, for its close proximity to town and amazing snow. You can almost always count on fresh snow at Lost Trail, and when the Montana side is open it is absolutely mind-blowing. This resort is never too crazy, and it also has a hot spring just down the road for an after skiing relaxation break. A day pass will run you about $45 and you’ll be able to get food and beer at the base lodge for a pretty reasonable price.

5. Whitefish Mountain Resort (140 miles outside town)

Still known to many locals as “Big Mountain” because of the name change back in 2007, but none the less this mountain is absolutely insane. The most powder you can find in western Montana and offers some of the most diverse terrains. Even though this resort is pretty far from Missoula, it makes up for it with the beautiful views and the chance to go on an inversion day. A day pass will run you about $83 and that’s pretty steep for most college students, but a trick it to go buy 2 day passes for $120 from Costco.

6. Blacktail Mountain Ski Area (120 miles outside town)

Blacktail is known for having some serious terrain, with steep faces and ungroomed runs all over the mountain. This resort gets a good amount of powder and can definitely prove to be tough in some spots. With its close proximity to Whitefish, the resort is pretty easily accessible and doesn’t break the bank at $45 for a day pass.