Try new outdoor activities in “COVID times”
With indoor activities still limited, it’s time to try some new outdoor activities.
There will certainly be days when freezing or windy conditions may limit what you do, but if you take care to dress warmly, especially your head, hands and feet, you will find that it is possible to stay warm. hot if you keep moving.
Skating is one of the most popular winter activities, and as long as our rinks remain open, public skating at minimal cost, or sometimes free, is usually offered a few times a week. But for many, outdoor skating can be even more enjoyable.
Parents are often recruited to make backyard rinks, limited only by yard size and parental energy. For towns with a lake or river, it’s all about finding enough volunteers and equipment to keep the ice smooth and clear. Last winter, for example, Portage la Prairie residents cleared long skating areas on Crescent Lake; this year, the city plans to provide even more.
Another skating venue is our parks. Spruce Woods and Turtle Mountain Provincial Parks both have skating rings and outdoor hockey rinks, while Riding Mountain National Park has a skating rink near the administration building, as well as an open area on the lake Clear. For a different experience, skate through the trees at night under twinkling lights.
Skiing is another popular winter sport, both downhill and Nordic (cross-country). Unfortunately, several downhill sites are closed this winter, but weather permitting, Asessippi to the west and Falcon Ridge to the east will operate part of the time. Check their websites for opening days.
Over 200 kilometers of cross-country trails are ready at Riding Mountain, with more in provincial parks, as well as other locations such as Bittersweet Trails south of Bagot, Squirrel Hills in Minnedosa or Shannondale to the west of Morden. Check the Manitoba Cross Country Ski Association website for other trails, or the Riding Mountain National Park website.
For those who want something different, maybe you could try the snowshoe. The places for this are almost limitless: parks, golf courses, roadside ditches and open fields. If you haven’t tried the sport, you might want to borrow or rent a pair of racquets to try out first. Friends of Riding Mountain in Wasagaming rents snowshoes ($5 a day or $10 for 24 hours) as do some sporting goods stores in Winnipeg, Brandon, Dauphin and elsewhere. Most parks have one or more snowshoeing trails. At Riding Mountain, try the Brûlé Trail or the Bead Lakes Trail, or beginners can choose to snowshoe a short distance on Clear Lake. Know your limits and don’t try too hard on your first ride.
A new winter activity in Manitoba uses bikes with fat tires. There is even a fat bike association in Manitoba. These bikes can be rented from Friends of Riding Mountain in Wasagaming for a ride around town or on the lake ($10 an hour or $25 for four hours). Snow tubes and toboggans can also be hired here.
For the more adventurous, why not try winter camping? Spruce Woods and Turtle Mountain provincial campgrounds each have a cabin, accessible by ski, which must be reserved in advance for one night. Wasagaming offers several four-season oTEN-Tiks for winter overnight stays, heated by wood stoves. Bring your own food, sleeping bags, dishes, cooking utensils, etc. and be prepared to leave the restrooms hot (outdoor biffy in provincial parks, heated restrooms in Wasagaming). Wood is available in provincial parks and can be purchased at Riding Mountain. For more RMNP information on this experiment, see the Parks Canada website.
Of course, for the less adventurous, some resorts also offer cabins with a few extra amenities available for hire.
Whatever you do, don’t hibernate this winter. If you’re not ready to exercise outdoors, try a drive through the country.
You might spot a snowy owl perched on a utility pole, or a rabbit or coyote on a snowy field.