Winter is officially here… And we Manitobans can make it through this. Although the past few weeks have been surprisingly mild, you may be waiting for the times where you’ll be scraping your car windows, getting stuck in the deep, heavy snow, or freezing at the bus stop. However, as stated once before on this blog, winter rules in the Whiteshell, and we’re not just saying that. Some even say winter is their favourite season at the lake. Winter is what you make it, and the Whiteshell has endless opportunities for fun winter activities in the most beautiful and scenic place in Manitoba. So instead of staying cooped up inside counting down the days until the snow melts, bundle up and venture out to the winter wilderness wonderland of the Whiteshell, where winter truly rules. To kick off a season of winter fun, here is our 2015 Whiteshell Winter Wonderland Bucket List:
1 – Ski the Whiteshell – Winding trails through the tall pines, uphill and downhill, or across a flat snow-covered lake – The Whiteshell is home to a network of beautiful groomed ski trails for all levels. Cross-country skiing is a great activity to do solo or with a group of friends and, according to a 2013 article from The Globe and Mail, it is also an excellent form of exercise with ‘jaw-dropping’ physical benefits. Some great groomed ski trails to check out include the South Whiteshell Trail (part of the Trans-Canada Trail) and the ski trails at Falcon Ridge Ski Slopes! The South Whiteshell Trail takes you from the Nite Hawk Cafe in West Hawk Lake down a scenic woodland trail to the Faloma Beach Marina on Falcon Lake and then onto the Falcon Lake Community Club. There is also a loop that takes you into the isolated McHugh Lake and this August, the South Whiteshell Trail was extended with a new portion leading from the Falcon Lake causeway and into stunning and secluded High Lake. Falcon Ridge has a variety of groomed trails including everything from a 1 km loop on Falcon Lake to a 7.5 km ski to High Lake and back. The ski resort is also home to one of the two biathlon courses in Manitoba, hosting competitions throughout the winter.
2 – Sled the Whiteshell – “Braaappp, braaaapp” is a sound that most snowmobilers anticipate for eight months of the year. And once the snow Gods grace us with some powder, many riders will get to fix their sledding itch on the amazing snowmobile trails of the Whiteshell. The Whiteshell Snowmobile Club has erected and maintained many warm up shelters along the main trails, so you’re never far from a warm fire. Be sure to stop in for lunch at some of the local restaurants in the area. See a list of restaurants here.
3 – Ice fish the Whiteshell – Some might say that ice fishing in the Whiteshell is just as fun as open water fishing. The Whiteshell is a winter anglers’ paradise with endless chains of lakes with an abundance of walleye, northern pike, black crappie, whitefish, and stocked trout. Ice fishing is a great way to spend the day with friends, either catching dinner and searching for those trophy fish. And if the bite is slow, you’re still in the great outdoors surrounded by beautiful scenery – It doesn’t get much better than that. If you’re interested in ice fishing in the Whiteshell but not sure where to start, book a trip with local guiding company Shield Outfitters.
This year also marks the 12th annual Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off, set for March 21, 2015. The all-species fishing tournament offers over $40,000 in cash and prizes and $10,000 for the heaviest fish. Check out this brief documentary about why people love to ice fish, filmed in the Whiteshell and at last year’s Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off:
4 – Hit the slopes in the Whiteshell – The Falcon Ridge Ski Slopes have been a local attraction in the Whiteshell for years. Every weekend, Falcon Ridge is bustling with downhill skiing, snowboarding, tubing, cross-country skiing, and biathlon. The hill includes several groomed runs for beginners and intermediate levels as well as a terrain park complete with boxes, jumps, and rails. If skiing or snowboarding isn’t your thing, the hill also has slippery run for downhill tubing – Great fun for the family. But that’s just the outdoor stuff; Falcon Ridge is also home to a lively music scene in their cozy chalet. The chalet offers tasty food and drink and hosts several live music performances throughout the season. It’s a great place to come warm up by the fire and hangout with your friends while listening to some talented local musicians. Once again Falcon Ridge will be hosting the Snowdance Festival of Music and Winter on January 17 and 18. This year, the event has a great lineup of artists as well as several outdoor activities including igloo building, an arctic clothing workshop, a ski wax demo, a turkey shoot, ice bucket curling, shinny hockey, and more. Find more information and ticket prices here. 5 – Skate the Whiteshell – It was so much fun the first year they decided to do it all over again this year; the Whiteshell Hockey League has kicked off its second year, with games every Wednesday on the outdoor rink at the Whiteshell Community Club. The playoffs are set for the final weekend in February. The new outdoor skating rink is open to all members of the Whiteshell Community Club. 6 – Curling in the Whiteshell – The Whiteshell Curling Club has a great league that runs every week throughout the winter. If you’re not on a team, the community club bar is open and everyone is welcome to come watch and socialize. The league will be hosting a bonspiel at the end of the season.
7 – Beaver Days Winter Festival – Beaver Days is the definition of winter fun in the Whiteshell. This year the annual winter festival is scheduled for February 6 to 8. Head down to Falcon Lake and West Hawk Lake for a variety of family fun activities throughout the weekend, including a snowmobile poker derby, a sponge hockey tournament, sleigh rides, kids games and crafts, wood carving demonstrations, a poker tournament, demo rides courtesy of Enns Brothers and Winnipeg Sport and Leisure, various activities at Falcon Ridge Ski Slopes, a variety auction and much more. Stay tuned to Experience the Whiteshell for more information on this popular winter event!8 – Wildlife-watch in the Whiteshell – Timber wolves howling after a kill, whitetail deer stepping through the snow, red foxes trotting through the woods, Great Grey Owls swooping in on a mouse scurrying through the snow – Those are just a few examples of some of the wildlife sightings in the Whiteshell. The Whiteshell is home to many species of wildlife and in the winter, the chances of seeing wildlife increase as the frozen lakes serve as pathways for many animals, including the elusive timber wolves that are a rare, but beautiful, sight to see. 9 – Sleigh rides in the Whiteshell – Nothing says winter more than dashing through the snow in a two-horse open sleigh…The team of Belgians at Falcon Beach Ranch can tour you through the beautiful winter scenery of the Whiteshell. The ranch offers sleigh rides and trail rides throughout the winter, making for a great outdoor activity to do with family or a group of friends. Contact Falcon Beach Ranch to inquire about booking rides. 10 – Snow shoe the Whiteshell – Strap on a pair of snow shoes and get out to explore the winter wonderland of the Whiteshell. The big open lakes and backcountry trails make the Whiteshell a perfect place for a winter expedition.
11 – A Whiteshell Winter Wonderland – It’s no secret that the Whiteshell is one of the most beautiful places in the province, and that rule applies to all four seasons. The glistening white snow on the lake, the tall pine trees covered in hoar frost, and big snow flakes falling on the front deck make winter potentially one of the most beautiful seasons in the Whiteshell.
12 – The Peacefulness of the Whiteshell – Last, but certainly not least, the Whiteshell is a great place to get away from it all. The Whiteshell is a perfect place to take refuge from the daily grind. Curl up beside the fire, grab a great book, or watch the snowflakes fall out the window. Don’t have your own place? No problem – Several businesses in the Whiteshell have some beautiful and cozy cabins available for rent. Check out the list of businesses at falconwesthawk.com.
– Written and compiled by Marney Blunt, Experience the Whiteshell editor/founder. Photos submitted by Marney Blunt, Chris Benson, and Emily Christie.