Ski, skate, sled through this warm January, outdoor enthusiasts urge

The nice weather might make you think winter fun, like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and skating is a distant dream, but here are a few ways to still enjoy your favourite outdoor activities.

You might have to plan a trip out of town but winter fun still possible

Rio, 5, lets out a shriek as he slides down a slope in B.C. Calgary sledding hills have seen little snow in the last month. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The sun is shining and the snow is melting in Calgary these days.

The nice weather might make you think winter fun, like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and skating, is a distant dream, despite it being January. The last big snow dump in the city was in October.

Instead, temperatures are predicted to range through a high of 8 C Saturday, 11 C Sunday and 6 C Monday. They'll drop a little to –10 C by Thursday but there still isn't snow predicted — meaning conditions for outside snow sports aren't ideal.

The snow is "the worst that I've seen in many years and I've lived here 21 years," outdoor blogger and Alberta Parks ambassador Karen Ung said Friday. "For January, it's bizarre."

But put in the work to play outside this season anyway, Ung urged. 

Skating

Across Calgary, the city maintains multiple outdoor rinks for skating and shinny. They're listed online, and if they say open, they're open — even if it's warm outside.

There are volunteer and community run ice rinks, too.

Skating at Calgary's many outdoor rinks is a popular pastime. The city is seeing some warm weather currently so be sure to check to see if your favourite spot is open. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Olympic Plaza might be your best bet for the smoothest ice, Ung said. It has machine-cooled ice so it's not as susceptible to temperature fluctuations.

"It was beautiful as usual, right? They have the lights, the music, the fire pits," she said. "But it was more cracked than we've ever seen it from all the melting and freezing."

Skiing

Colin Norman, president of Foothills Nordic Ski Club, says he's had fun skating at the rink in Canmore, which would make for a nice weekend day trip.

Temperatures are cooler at higher altitudes, and there's generally more snow, too, he said. 

His ski club has had trouble in Calgary, too, where it maintains trails in Confederation Park and Canmore Park.

"Cross-country skiing has been a bit of a challenge with the chinooks and lack of snow," Norman said. "Our normal for three to five kilometres of trails has been reduced to about a 500-metre track, so quite limited."

The programs for young kids are still running at Confederation Park and Canmore Park. The club is looking to set up some snow-making equipment but the warm temperatures have made that hard to use so far, he said.

Sledding, hiking, snowshoeing

As for other snowy activities, head out of the city.

"If you're looking for snow, then I would see Peter Lougheed Provincial Park is your best bet, and it's about an hour and a half away," Ung said. "And then you can do snowshoeing, of course the cross-country skiing down there, and it's winter wonderland."

The Nordic Centre in Canmore, the Chester Lake area and Lake Louise all have the higher elevations and great snow needed for a fun outdoor afternoon, Ung said.

She also suggested Lake Louise for sledding.

"We haven't even bothered in town because it's just not fun for the kids and not that safe when the ground is that hard," she said.

If southern Alberta sees a good snowfall later this season, she recommends checking out Cypress Hills Provincial Park in the southeast corner of the province. There's a luge that gets built out of snow when the weather conditions are right. On Friday, the visitor centre said it's still too warm to build the luge but there is some snow on the hill at the moment.

Have ideas for staying active outside in the warm winter weather? Share them in the comments below.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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