Clear Hills County is an easy going place to enjoy winter’s outdoor comforts and push yourself at the same time, whether skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice fishing or snowshoeing.
This winter is different, I told myself, “it’s go time.” I had made a promise to myself that I would try new things this year, leave my comfort zone, and really embrace life to the fullest. I did not imagine the universe would basically plop free snowboard lessons in my lap only days into the new year. I took it as a sign – my soul craved more joy and adventure… but first I would have to overcome my fear of speed on snow.
In Clear Hills County, there is no shortage of options to bring some light and joy to the winter months. Snowshoeing is my usual winter jam, so I figured taking to some of the area’s winter comforts was a good warm up to getting out of my comfort zone (soon enough). You can snowboard, ski, snowshoe, sled, ice-fish, cross-country ski, and there’s an incredible snowmobile trail network – just check out this video for a taste of all there is to offer.
SNOWBOARDING LESSONS AT WHISPERING PINES
So can someone who is afraid of speed and in their 40’s learn to snowboard? Absolutely, and I am the proof. I still have many more practice hours to go, but I’m hooked and highly recommend that newbies of all ages check out Whispering Pines. It’s a super mellow, family-friendly mountain with instructors and staff that felt more like my cheering squad.
But a lesson at Whispering Pines Ski Area is not just for those new to the slopes – those looking to fine-tune their skills or switch it up are sure to level up under the guidance of skilled and super encouraging instructors. They offer private and group lessons in skiing and snowboarding for pre-school children to adults.
I will always refer back to the guidance and memories of my instructor, Jean. Especially seeing his enthusiasm as he floated by me down the hill wearing his yellow instructor jacket, arms stretched wide, telling me to “be like a bird, Vanessa.” I know, that might not work for everyone, but for me, it was an AHA moment. Props to all the teachers out there like Jean that dig deep and try different ways to make things stick.
And for all those out there that are terrified of the T-bar, no worries, they have a magic carpet (conveyer belt) that easily gets new bunnies up the slope during lessons and practice time.
It was just enough of a challenge, without pushing me too far out of my comfort zone, that I plan to try snowboarding again soon, so stay tuned for my next adventure! Meantime, there’s lots of other winter fun to be had in the county so read on.
SNOWMOBILING PEACE VALLEY
If you are looking for like-minded sled-loving people to explore new snowmobile trails, be sure to check out the incredible trails located in Clear Hills County, maintained and groomed by Peace Valley Snow Riders Association (PVSR) members and volunteers.
Ernie Brauer, 62, Clear Hills County’s 2021 Volunteer of the Year (and PVSR President), says that PVSR membership has dramatically increased, and he is happy to see more people getting out enjoying the trails.
“Having this network of trails available gives residents and visitors another fun winter activity to take part in,” says Brauer. “It really enhances the quality of life, and it also brings more people to the area.”
“There’s so much to see along the trails – buried scenery, wildlife, birds, and trees, and it’s good to get outside, be with others, and get some exercise,” says Brauer.
PVSR has four trails that cover a total of 205 km. In addition, Brauer looks after the maintenance of the west end (30 km) of the Smith Mills Trail that spans 60 km of breathtaking backcountry from north of Figure Eight Lake to just east of Stony Lake and, he also helps out with the Canfor Hines Creek Trail. Find more details on snowmobiling in the Mighty Peace here.
“Every trail has different scenery and magnificent views,” says Brauer.
SNOWSHOEING AND ICE FISHING CLEAR HILLS COUNTY
Strapping on my snowshoes in Clear Hills County is my ticket to winter wellness. There’s no shortage of places to go. An abundance of lakes offers open space to get away from everything. Take your pick – Running Lake, Stoney Lake, Ole’s Lake and Sulphur Lake – all are great places to snowshoe or enjoy a winter wiener roast.
I’m always pumped to explore the lakes and trails in the area. Not only that, four of the lakes have fish. There’s nothing like spending the day on the lake ice-fishing, sipping warm drinks, and soaking in the sweet winter air.
That’s the thing about Clear Hills County. With such large, diverse landscapes, you can go as big or small as you like, whether you’re looking for a new challenge or just a winter recharge. As for me, after pushing myself on the snowboard and overcoming a personal barrier, it’s nice to celebrate by settling back into the winter comfort zone.
WHEN YOU GO
Skiing and snowboarding
Book a lesson with the Whispering Pines snow school to up your skills.
My tips for new skiers and snowboarders:
- Go on a weekday – less traffic on the hill
- Pick warm weather – environment is important
- Know what to expect – watch some YouTube videos
- Fresh powder is a plus – easier to learn in fresh snow
- Take lessons – learn from the pros
- Try the cinnamon buns at Whispering Pines – they are the best! And known for it!
There are three other ski areas in the Mighty Peace region (of which Clear Hills belongs). Learn more here and plan your next downhill skiing adventure.
Snowmobiling the Peace Valley
Over 205 kilometres of trails await – learn more about snowmobiling in Mighty Peace here.
Exploring the Mighty Peace
Visitors who venture beyond Whispering Pines Ski Hill will discover there are more than slopes to explore in this beautiful part of Northern Alberta. Check out all the great places to explore in Clear Hills County..