When I found out that I was to spend my winter break with my extended family in Slave Lake, my uncle, who had spent much of his life in the Region, had other ideas besides TV!
Ice Fishing and Snowmobiling
Lesser Slave Lake is one of the top destinations for ice fishing in Alberta. We started by packing snacks and hotdogs onto my uncle’s ATV, and preparing our bait. Although our family did not own a snowmobile, we were able to rent one from Rusty Steve’s. We headed out to Canyon Creek, where a fully-functional ice fishing shack from Lesser Slave Lake Ice Fishing Shack Rentals awaited us. I learned that ice fishing does not have to be a cold lonely sport! The shack was equipped with cots, a wood stove, lots of firewood, and even a place to cook our supper! What a great afternoon it was, catching and releasing walleye, and enjoying the wide expanse of bright gleaming ice against the azure sky. Dozens of other families and their dogs stopped by to admire our catch or give us advice. A beautiful sunset led to a fantastic light show by one of nature’s most incredible splendors, the Aurora Borealis. Breath-taking pink, green and blue light crackled, danced and writhed in the huge empty sky for over an hour and we gazed in amazement. After a cozy night in the shack, we were ready for some new activity, and Slave Lake did not disappoint. The Outlaw Sled Drags, held annually at Big Fish Bay, provided all the entertainment we needed. We munched on BBQ ribs from the concession as we watched powerful machines race down a quarter mile track for a piece of the prize money. What a thrill to hear the roar of a modified 800 cc engine race by, it’s skis barely touching the snow!
Cross-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing
For those that bring their skis, the Nine Mile Point recreation area near Wagner has more than 10 km of scenic, groomed cross-country ski trails. There's always plenty of snow under the branches and can find plenty of fresh places to adventure. The Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation provides free snowshoe rentals for visitors and residents to experience the 27 km of trails overlooking Lesser Slave Lake. The staff at the Centre are always pleased to point visitors in the right direction. I had never show-shoed before, so trying out this specialty footwear was a hilarious adventure.
Outdoorsmen travel from all over the world to explore the hunting that the Slave Lake Region has to offer. With some of the largest trophies on record, the local hunting area offers moose, whitetail deer, mule deer, elk, black bear, wolves, coyote, cougar, grouse, goose, partridge and ducks. Local hunting guides in the area can host those looking for a full experience. Visitors and locals alike need to possess hunting licenses and adhere to tag conditions.
Throughout the winter, families can enjoy outdoor skating on the three skating rinks in Slave Lake maintained by local volunteers and town staff. These rinks are also sites of friendly hockey matches between neighbours, and competitions between pond hockey teams. Indoors, the Multi-Rec Centre boasts two ice surfaces and plenty of scheduled opportunities for public skating. The local figure skating club presents a carnival every spring, and the ice surfaces are always busy with hockey games and tournaments for all ages.
Like any northern Alberta town, Slave Lake buzzes with activity even on the shortest winter days. There are concerts hosted by Stage North Association, fund-raisers, dinners and dances hosted by the local Rotary, Legion and Elks clubs, to name a few. The swimming pool and the indoor playgrounds and gyms are always teeming with groups of happy youngsters. FrostFest takes place during February each year, and is typically comprised of volunteer-run games and gatherings such as laser tag, an all-seasons market, family skating, family movie nights, pool parties, a curling bonspiel, snowshoeing, and an indoor carnival. There is often a bonfire by the outdoor rink, hot chocolate and lots of sledding for the little ones on the nearby hill. Canadians have always been inventive. When the nights are long and the weather is frosty, some residents come up with amazing hobbies that pull together the whole community. One such example recently was John McPhee and his family. They made an igloo using milk cartons and colored water. The resulting structure took about 120 hours, and was the subject of many news stories and photos! The family had a great time showing us their creative and colorful invention.
Partaking in a winter holiday was a breath of fresh crisp air. The great outdoors - a rejuvenating way to recharge and refresh!