I have fond memories of meeting up with our entire extended family and spending a winter day in the woods behind my grandparents’ acreage. Everyone dressed for the weather and we traipsed into the forest with food and recreational gear. In a clearing we made a fire pit and arranged fallen trees as benches so that we could cook over the fire and eat around it. We took our sleds down the hill more times than we could count and broke off in groups to hike the area. On those hikes we’d find remnants of the tree forts that my mom and her siblings spent hours building in their youth. We’d hear the stories of sleeping up in the trees and having wildlife investigate below. Because of these memories and my adoration of snow sports, winter camping has a special place in my heart and we try to do it frequently throughout the season.
One of the things I’ve always appreciated about living in Estevan is that the city is so close to it’s outlying recreational hubs. Woodlawn Regional Park and its Boundary Dam additional campground are minutes from the city and boast campsites, fire pits, hiking trails, wooded areas, the Souris River, Boundary Dam Reservoir, and more. Because of their proximity to each other and the city we like to make a base camp for the day but have no problem hopping in the truck to get to another activity. Setting the intention to spend the day outside moving from activity to activity makes it feel like you’re on trip and is a great staycation for those in the area and a great option for those visiting for the day.
My first consideration when planning a day of winter fun is to make sure that we’re dressed appropriately and prepared for weather changes or to swap out gear that gets wet.
Next we want to make sure we’re prepared for activities and for food. It’s best to bring a box of your own firewood so that you don’t have to scrounge for deadfall. Make sure you have matches and kindling as well.
• Cooler or box of food to cook and snacks
• Water bottles with an extra jug of water (and
another jug for putting out the fire).
• Roasting sticks
• Jiffy Pop (popcorn you can make over an
open flame is a HUGE hit in our family!)
• Thermos with hot drinks or soup
• One burner propane stove if you’d like to
make soup outside
• S’mores ingredients
• X Country Skis
• Snow Shoes
• Hiking Sticks
• Lawn Games
When we’re winter day camping we like to keep moving a lot. That’s our trick for most winter activities. The more we move, the warmer we are and the longer we last. Between activities and when we want to rest or eat, we build a fire in the fire pits provided and congregate there.
We love using the Preddy Trails during the winter. Park staff keep them groomed so they can easily be walked but we also love to ski them when there’s enough snow. Wildlife sightings are frequent and we love that we get to be in the woods and also get frequent glimpses of the river.
To both the North and West of Woodlawn Regional park there are areas of elevation that sit on R.M. land and make for fun short hike with great views of the surrounding area. It’s a good way to get the blood pumping and the kids even enjoy bringing their sleds so that they can slide down to the bottom. If you’re up for a more leisurely stroll, walking the paths at the TS&M Woodlawn Golf Course is another great option.
Cross Country Skiing
While there aren’t currently groomed trails in the area that doesn’t stop us from skiing when we’re out day camping. As mentioned earlier we ski the Preddy Trails and when the river is sufficiently frozen and safe to be on we love to ski it. The high banks and trees provide a lot of protection from the elements and because the river has so many curves and bends it provides an interesting landscape that begs you to see what’s around the next corner.
Snowshoeing is an excellent winter activity and thankfully in Estevan, even if you don’t have your own you can access them at the Estevan Public Library free of charge. All you need is a valid Saskatchewan Library Card in order to sign out snowshoes and then you can head out
to any of the above-mentioned areas! Another option would be to explore the shores of Boundary Dam on snowshoes.
While there are hills out of town that you can sled down we still typically head into the city for tobogganing. Our favourite hill is in the Westview area (1700 block of 1st Street). There you’ll find a wide expanse of hill that perfectly slopes down into the valley. On good snow you can get a nice long sled run in and you’ll stay plenty warm hiking back up to the top of the hill. Another great hill is in the Pleasantdale area and can be accessed at the pathway entrance on Wellock Road.
While you’re sledding at Westview hill you can also switch activities and skate at the volunteer maintained outdoor rink. You can also head out to any of the other three outdoor rinks in the city. The Kinsmen rink on Henry Street is the largest and often has games of shinny going on. You can also check out the rink at Rusty Duce park on the corner of Dyer Road and Nicholson or the Hillcrest rink on Rooks Ave. There are no shortage of areas to go skating in our city as long as the weather stays cold enough for good ice!
While back at the campground where we’ll get our fire ready we enjoy having a few lawn games on hand. Though obviously marketed for summer they’re a blast to play in
the snow! Our favourite is a Norse game called Kuub that involves throwing thick wooden dowels to knock down your opponents rectangular wooden kuubs. Disc Slam, Lawn Darts (the safe kind) and Corn Hole are also a ton of fun.
Periodically throughout the day we make fires to warm up by and to cook our food. A winter hot dog roast is one of my favourite activities and is a standard lunch or supper while we’re day camping. With the shorter days it often means that supper time will be pretty dark. It’s very hygglelit (Danish for cozy and inviting) to sit around the fire with the flames reflecting off the snow while you drink hot cocoa and make s’mores and Jiffy Pop popcorn.
Another highlight is creating Swedish Snow Lanterns or Glowing Snow Sculptures. The lanterns are constructed by piling snowballs in a cone shape and adding a tea light to the middle. Snow sculptures can be made by packing snow and then hollowing out the middle and creating holes for the light to peek through. We find using battery operated tea lights to be the easiest and most reliable.
If you tackle even half of these activities on a winter camp day it’s sure to result in a great night’s sleep for everyone! It’s so refreshing to spend the day outdoors in the
winter and our area has no shortage of fantastic ideas to keep you moving and enjoying your time together.