Yep, it’s cold in Saskatchewan in wintertime. But the sun shines most days in that big prairie sky, sparkling on the snow and turning the frozen landscape into a wonderland made for outdoor adventures. Plus, you’ll get a chance to brag that you braved minus 10 F temps when you get back home.
Folks in this farmland-filled province welcome winter — and the chance to get out and ski or sled across the frozen lakes, party and play outside, and celebrate the season. You’ll want to do the same. Here are the top five ways to savor winter, try something new, and have a blast in Saskatchewan.
1. Winter celebrations
Saskatchewan knows how to party in the colder months. Folksy and lively with a good dash of humor, community festivals and quaint holiday markets are filled with local color. Late January into early February is the time for the Nutrien WinterShines events in Saskatoon. There are ice sculptures and whimsical creations (like a life-sized ice castle), a crackling fire pit inside dry ice, a soup cook-off, ice carving competitions, and 40-foot-high inflatable igloo. To-dos include kiteboarding on the snow, sleigh rides, a fat bike fondo, and Snow Park with games constructed in ice. In Regina, check out beloved Waskimo Winter Festival in late February. There are traditional faves like the Hole-ympic Outhouse Races and the dress-up-your-dog contest, plus ice skate-windsurfing, tobogganing, snow cricket, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, and sleigh rides — all outdoors on frozen Wascana Lake.
2. Dog sledding
If you’ve never zipped through the snowy woods pulled by a pack of six yapping Huskies, it’s an absolute rush. Sundogs Excursions is the longtime local expert, taking guests through the north-central wilderness of Anglin Lake and Great Blue Heron Provincial Park on one-hour, half-day, and overnight backcountry guided expeditions. Try your hand at mushing to feel like an explorer at the southern edge of Canada’s great northern forest. The experience is about solitude in nature, companionship with the dogs, and bursts of high adrenalin, not to mention a connection to Canada’s explorer past.
3. Ice fishing
Home to some 10,000 lakes, Saskatchewan is a premier North American fresh water angling destination, and that includes ice fishing — a favorite local winter sport. The are stocks plentiful (you can catch trout, walleye, perch, and pike), and the lakes are frozen for up to six months a year. The pros recommend Piprell Lake, three hours northeast of Saskatoon, Last Mountain Lake, an hour north of Regina, and the Fishing Lakes in the Qu’Appelle Valley, an hour northeast of Regina. Got it alone or find a guide to get you set up and show you the best spots. Anglers have caught three world-record-sized fish here. Will you be next?
4. Winter cowboy
Anyone can ride the range in summer, but winter is for the adventurous. Historic Reesor Ranch gets that. The guest ranch hosts wannabe cowpokes year-round at its scenic spot near Cypress Hills Provincial Park close to the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. Go for horseback riding in the snow (weather permitting: contact the ranch first to arrange), snowshoeing, snowmobiling, downhill and cross-country skiing, and tobogganing. Lodging includes a 1906 bunkhouse, cowboy or log cabins, and, for big groups, a 1904 log barn. Even visiting Texans admit the country hospitality at Reesor rivals that of the Lone Star state.
5. Outdoor sports: Hockey, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling
Pretty much anything in the snow is great in Saskatchewan. But cross-country skiing (for quiet gliding across open expanses of white) and snowmobiling (for high-speed adventuring in the backcountry) are especially fun. Prince Albert National Park in the province’s north is one of the best places for Nordic skiing November to March with 93 miles of trails, most around pretty Waskesiu Lake. But Saskatoon has 18 miles of scenic skate and classic trails right in the city, too; as does Regina, with a nine-mile groomed trail network. SnoRiders names Hudson Bay, Yorkton, and North Battleford among the best places to snowmobile. Though there are 6,200-plus miles of signed, mapped, groomed, and connected trails crisscrossing the province, from easygoing to epic.
The most quintessential of all is outdoor hockey, a wintertime must. There’s January's Canadian National Pond Hockey Championships, if you want to catch a major competition featuring men's and women's teams. Pond and lake hockey? Virtually everywhere. Just step outside, and you’re bound to see a game in progress — watch or borrow some skates and join in.
Pack your mittens, parka, and winter boots to prepare to play prairie-style. Whatever you do, you’ll see winter — and Saskatchewan — in a whole new light.
Get ready for your winter vacation at the Tourism Saskatchewan website.