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A day of superb cross-counttry skiing in Camrose, Alberta

Cross-Country Skiing in Camrose, Alberta

When you think of cross-country skiing in Alberta, heading to Camrose, in the heart of Alberta’s agricultural country is unlikely to be the first place that comes to mind. So what a pleasant surprise it was to find well-groomed, beautifully kept cross-country ski trails thanks to the Camrose Ski Club, one of the oldest ski clubs in Canada.

Cross-country skiing in Camrose surpasses all expectations – and by the time I leave I’m actually a tad jealous of the locals with such a fantastic network of trails in their backyard.

The Camrose Ski Club - founded in 1911
The Camrose Ski Club – founded in 1911

Ski jumping has been popular in Camrose for a long time

Camrose, according to Hazel Cail, Executive Director of Tourism Camrose, has strong Scandinavian roots – so back in the early days skiing and ski jumping was popular with the majority of residents. The original ski jump, built in 1911 is long gone and so is the one lost to a fire in 1921. The present ski jump dates to 1932.

As one story goes, there is tell of skiers doing their jumps and one landed far out into the snow and just kept sinking…. right into a pig manure pit from the pig farm existing right next to the ski hill. 

Beautiful cross-country skiing in Camrose

Fortunately the manure pit is long gone. What you’ll find now in Camrose are approximately 18 kilometres of ski trails following the Stoney Creek Valley.

Don’t expect a wilderness feel to the trails that form a loop at the north end. In fact, some lucky residents can ski right out their back door onto the trails. But at the south end, away from the homes, you’re skiing in an area that feels far removed from civilization.

The north end of the trail system is closer to homes
Bridges spanning the wetlands make for a seamless cross-country skiing experience
Look for brightly coloured bird houses along the trails
Look for brightly coloured bird houses along the trails
Really pretty skiing in the trees
Really pretty skiing in the trees
The ski trails take you behind the ski jump; it doesn't look like it's been used in awhile
The ski trails take you behind the ski jump; it doesn’t look like it’s been used in awhile

Skiing under a trestle bridge – one that’s still in use today – was one of the highlights of my ski tour. The first was built in 1910 and because of fires, it’s been rebuilt twice.

Hazel tells me that at one point up to eight through-passenger trains arrived daily in Camrose from Calgary – along with freight trains.

Ski under an old wooden trestle bridge
Ski under an old wooden trestle bridge
Ski trails heading south into a wilder section of the ski area
Ski trails heading south into a wilder section of the ski area

Skiing in Camrose on well-marked trails

You’ll find signage at any major trail intersection; often the choice lies between taking the easy, valley route or climbing one of the hills. I opted to climb hills wherever I could and was surprised at the steepness of many of them and how tiring it actually was if you climbed them all.

You can get a serious work-out here if that’s what you’re after.

Mostly empty trails - even on a long weekend
Mostly empty trails – even on a long weekend
More skate than classic skiers at Camrose
More skate than classic skiers at Camrose
Beautiful vistas on the southern section of trails
Beautiful vistas on the southern section of trails
Ski through a tunnel of trees
Ski through a tunnel of trees
More elevation than II expected and far prettier in Camrose
More elevation than II expected and far prettier in Camrose
You feel like you're finishing a race when you come full circle
You feel like you’re finishing a race when you come full circle

Located at the end of the southern trails is a Biathalon range. The bang of a gun could be heard in the area though I don’t know if it’s actually used for races anymore.

The Annual Ole Uffda Loopet

In February the annual Ole Uffda Loppet takes place. Race lengths vary from 1.5 to 22.5 kilometres – so this is one family-friendly event. I asked who Ole Uffda was and learned that it’s a Scandinavian mascot designed for the 1990 Winter Games.

When Ole isn’t living in the Viking Shop at the Visitor Centre, Ole shows up in parades and likes to start races.

The annual Ole Uffda Loppet takes place on February 21st this year - Photo credit: Sand L Photography
The annual Ole Uffda Loppet takes place on February 21st this year – Photo credit: Sand L Photography
Ole Uffda - the Scandinavian Mascot - Photo credit: Tourism Camrose
Ole Uffda – the Scandinavian Mascot – Photo credit: Tourism Camrose

What to see in Camrose 

The old part of Camrose is very pretty. Lined with tidy houses, large trees and a downtown area of several blocks with loads of independent businesses, it’s a great place to check out after skiing – unless it’s a Sunday and then it’s more like a ghost town.

Fiona’s Coffee & Gifts offers organic baked goods or stop by The Lefse House, an authentic Scandinavian bakery. There’s a main strip of malls running through the town so if it’s Starbucks or Tim Hortons you’re after, you’ll find them as well.

Old town Camrose is very pretty - and filled with independent stores
Old town Camrose is very pretty – and filled with independent stores

I was disappointed to see so few people out when I skied last weekend. The trails are truly beautiful and very accessible if you live in the Red Deer – Edmonton corridor. From Calgary, it’s a three hour drive, so it’s a long day trip, though doable.

Further reading about winter in Alberta

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A day of superb cross-counttry skiing in Camrose, Alberta

Thank you to Travel Alberta for making this post possible. All thoughts and opinions as always are strictly my own. 

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. I love visiting Camrose. It’s close enough to where I live for a nice day trip and the city is quite pretty. I know Camrose has a large Scandanavian community so it’s not too surprising that they have cross country skiing trails although I never really thought about checking them out before. Maybe next time I’m in Camrose during the winter I should.

    Also I don’t know when the ski jump was last used but about 15 years ago, when I was in high school, Camrose hosted a youth conference for the United Church of Canada (or the ones in the Alberta/BC region) and I remember the attendees had the option of doing the ski jump. Heights aren’t my thing though so I passed on it.

    1. @Alouise I loved this comment. I hadn’t appreciated the connection to Scandinavia before my visit. The trails are a great way to see the area and you can rent equipment in town. I chuckle when I think about people being offered the chance to go off the ski jump – wonder how many actually did it??

  2. I love cross country skiing but unfortunately do not have often the opportunity. Camrose, Alberta seems like the perfect place for cross country skiing. The town is really beautiful as well.

    1. @Sophie I know they have a jackrabbit program which tries to get young kids out skiing – but I don’t think we compare to the Norwegians unfortunately. In Canmore, near Banff NP you see lots of kids Nordic skiing.

  3. Those are some gorgeous trails, Leigh. But, I’m very disappointed that there isn’t a snap shot of you going for it and flying off of the ski jump!! 🙂

  4. It looks just beautiful Leigh! Don’t you love when you discover someThing about a place that you wouldn’t expect? I don’t currently cross country ski but definitely want to give a go soon.

  5. Hey Leigh, we have a Camrose near Montego Bay but that’s as far as the similarity goes. Looks absolutely inviting, the views are spectacular. I’m sure it’s lovely place to ski. Do you know what replaced the pig farm or what they grow during the season? I bet it’s a beautiful Camrose is a beautiful place to visit in the summer as well.

  6. I have never been cross-country skiing but I can certainly see its appeal…one with nature and surrounded by sheer beauty! Leigh, you are truly an inspiration to get out and see the world!

  7. I live in camrose and use the trail system all spring summer and fall. It is a wonderful place to go walking or biking. I feel as though camrose is the perfect size to raise a family and has a vibrant arts and sports culture as well. So glad to see you write about a place so near to my heart.

    1. @Laura-joy Thanks for stopping by. I’m just a little amazed at how little it’s used. It was such a lovely day I figure it should have been crawling with people. I’d never seen Camrose and was impressed by how much it had to offer.

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