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Lifestyle Essentials

The business person’s guide to life after five

Nov 1, 2009

by Mifi Purvis

The Coolest Season

British husband-and-wife team Peter and Felice Hardy took a critical look at 6,000 downhill resorts around the world in their tome, Hardy’s Skiing & Snowboarding Guide. In ’09, the Hardys declared Alberta’s resorts tops in six of eight categories. The acclaim is nice but there’s more to Alberta’s winter sports than hitting the slopes. The coolest season is also the longest, so you may as well embrace it.


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There’s more to winter recreation than hockey and downhill skiing

“The sports I do in summer are basically training for winter,” says Dale McNeely, accomplished cross-country skier and director of career services at the University of Alberta’s School of Business. “Winter is my sport season.” With years spent as an elite gymnastics coach and still heavily involved in amateur sport, McNeely says cross-country skiing “is as close to pain-free exercise as you can get.” It works all major muscle groups without significant joint jarring and it’s a great cardio exercise.

The Edmonton resident can grab a couple of hours of skiing on a winter’s evening at Gold Bar Park or Victoria Golf Course. “On weekends I head out to Blackfoot Recreation Area east of the city,” he says. “They do a great job of maintaining the trails.” Every February, McNeely participates in the Canadian Birkebeiner Ski Festival, an XC ski weekend featuring races of various distances that draws enthusiasts from all over the province and beyond. For a $99 registration fee (2009), racers can undertake the premier event, a 55-kilometre race skirting Elk Island National Park in which racers carry a 12-pound pack – said to be the weight of the infant prince of medieval Norway when he was spirited to safety by warriors on skis – the legendary event the race commemorates.

Winter also offers the chance to watch and participate in curling, hockey and skating. But have you ever considered skijoring? Snowmobile racing? Two-foot high kick? Winter weekends will run out before your options do.

What the heli?


Canyon Ice Walk
$369 per person

Picture a short helicopter tour of the Rockies culminating in a snowshoe wilderness walk and champagne toast. Ralph Sliger calls it the Romance Package; it’s one of several his company, Icefield Helicopter Tours, offers. “We’re positioning these products as a day off from downhill,” Sliger says. Near Rocky Mountain House on Highway 11, Icefield also features day-long snowshoe trips, suitable for most abilities. If you’re more ambitious, the pilot puts down at one end of the Cline River Canyon, and you and your guide (packing lunch) spend the day hiking the length of it.

The Arctic in Alberta
dogs dancers
Cool Thrills
Dog mushing is one of AWG’s top competitions

Head out to Grande Prairie from March 6 to 13, 2010, for a rare opportunity to see the Arctic Winter Games: it’s the most southerly place the biennial event has been held. The AWG is the chance for 2,000 young people from remote, northern communities to participate in competitive sport. It’s also a cool cultural exchange. Athletes from the circumpolar world compete in events such as basketball and indoor soccer, alongside mainstream winter sports. But the real thrill is watching Arctic and subarctic sports, such as the two-foot high kick, knuckle hop and Dene snow snake. Cost: $15 for a day pass or $45 for all eight days, with tickets for opening and closing ceremonies, cultural galas and medal rounds sold separately.

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