Winter Activity Series – Skate skiing in the river valley

Gregg Becker is one of our volunteer ambassadors, and contributed this guest blog as part of our new winter activity blog series.

I was introduced to skate skiing a few years ago, and it didn’t go well at first. Lacking instruction, my technique was what I liked to call “early egg-beater.” To be honest, I don’t think I have improved much, but it has been enough to get comfortable expanding my search for terrain, including more hills and less groomed paths.

There has been a steady growth in skate skiing trails available in Edmonton over the past few years. These trails offer an amazing range of ski options and are sprinkled through our river valley and offering an amazing range of ski options. 

Groomed cross country ski trails.

So what is skate skiing exactly? Skate skiing resembles ice-skating. A skier kicks off the edge of one ski and glides on to the other ski, resulting in a “V-shaped” footprint. Learn about cross-country ski areas in Edmonton on the City website.

One place many people get their start in the river valley is at Goldbar Park, which has great groomed trails for skating and classic skiers. There are some small hills to challenge yourself – whether you’re powering up with skate strides, or herring-boning it when your body power is tapped out. Goldbar Park also offers a place to warm up, as well as washrooms.

The City has expanded ski trails to include the centrally-located Victoria Park golf course. The golf course tracks are mostly flat, but there are several loops which criss-cross and provide for good variety. Since the trails at Victoria are mostly in the open, there’s more exposure to wind, but also to sunshine, which can make the skiing glorious on a bright day!

Skate skiing lets you experience winter in the river valley in a new way.

One of my favorite places to skate ski is Hawrelak Park, which doesn’t actually feature a groomed trail and instead is more natural. There is plenty of parking, and the trails below the park (along the river) are a great way to ski along and take in the winter river scenery. I like to park in Hawrelak, but one can also park in Emily Murphy Park near the Groat Bridge and ski west towards Hawrelak. Just be aware that the current bridge construction means navigating a little to the trailhead on the west side of the bridge. There are two trails along the river, with one groomed for classic skiing, and the other simply flat for runners, walkers and cyclists. I like the flat one (don’t want to mess up the groomed tracks!) as it is closer to the river bank, and wide enough to comfortably skate ski along with the birds, squirrels and passers-by. 

Skate skiing at Hawrelak Park also gives you views of the Ice Castle.

If you head west along these trails, they eventually take you to the far western edge of Hawrelak, but the trail continues from there further west, moving through the trees and eventually ending up (after a nice climb) on Saskatchewan Drive, near where Keillor Road connects with the street. There has been some construction on this part of the trail over the winter, but with the recent snow, conditions have improved quite a bit. 

Other parts of our trail system can also be used for skate skiing, and though many are too narrow to get a good stride going, there are more and more trails opening up for skating. I look forward to seeing others out there trying it out!