March is marching on apace, which means winter is on the wane. If you’re still iching for an exhilarating cross-country skiing experience in Saskatchewan, Eb’s Trails is the place to go. Only an hour’s drive north of Saskatoon in the Nesbit Provincial Forest is a marvellous 55-kilometre wilderness cross-country trail system, maintained by the Saskatoon Nordic Ski Club. Tons of powder snow still blanket the ski trails.
Cross-country Skiing Trails Created and Cared for by Skier Volunteers
The beauty of this place is that it was designed by skiers for skiers. This means that practically anyone from newbies on their first ski outing to adrenalin junkies can find a trail to suit their taste. There are multiple loops of varying distances to challenge any fitness level. You don’t have to build a fire somewhere on the trail if you want to stop and stay warm. There are two warm-up huts at each end of the system, complete with wood stoves, firewood and outdoor privies.
A lot of pre-season TLC by club volunteers goes into the trails, clearing deadfall, removing overhanging branches and mowing brush. Then there’s the wood cutting – enough to keep the stoves firing for the entire season. This southern end of the great boreal forest is the heart and soul of the ski trails. It provides the scenic backdrop, protection from the vagaries of weather and the occasional momentary glimpse of a moose or a lynx.
Cross-country Skiing Lessons in Real Life at Eb’s Trails
With the varied topography at Eb’s Trails, there’s a hill to challenge every ability, including lots of tame terrain for beginners. To introduce novice skiers to ski touring in a guided atmosphere, CanoeSki Discovery Company has developed a cross-country skiing course called Learn to Ski Plus. It starts out with the usual three sessions getting the basics under control on the Kinsmen Park training track in downtown Saskatoon. The Plus part is the final day trip to Eb’s Trails. Here we continue with instruction, trying to put everything taught on the track into practice on the trail in what is more like a “real life” environment. It’s gratifying to see unsteady technique and fear of falling slowly dissipate after a few kilometres on the trails’ twists and turns and rolling terrain. Of course, taking a nose dive into a giant comforter of snow feathers isn’t so terrifying after all!
The ski trails are fully enveloped by the snow-laden forest which makes for great scenic appeal. Perhaps it also provides a reassuring atmosphere for beginners to gain confidence in their cross-country skiing ability. But more than that, the trails are a fabulous wilderness retreat for everyone – novices and experienced skiers alike. It’s a good place to seek solace for the urban-weary soul!
IF YOU GO
- Follow hwy # 11 north from Saskatoon to Duck Lake. About 17 km north of Duck Lake is a small cross-country skier sign on the highway pointing to the turn-off into the parking lot for the south hut. A couple of kilometres further up the highway is another sign for the north hut. Both huts are located a few hundred metres from the parking areas.
- The trails are set for classic cross-country skiing only and signed with maps at all junctions. If you want a map to take with you, drop into Eb’s Source for Adventure store in Saskatoon to pick one up. Click here to view a copy of Eb’s Ski Trails Map.
- Follow the Boy Scouts motto and be prepared: this is a wilderness area – ski with a buddy, carry a day pack with warm-up clothes and mitts, water and trail mix, matches and fire starter, and cell phone. There is no safety patrol – you have to be self-sufficient on the trail.
- There are no trail fees, but the Nordic Club appreciates your membership to help contribute to the cost of maintaining the trails. You can access regular trail grooming reports from the Saskatoon Nordic Club site.
Skiing Tales of Discovery
For a first hand account read Karen’s humorously informative story A Tale of the Trails about her experiences on Eb’s Trails with the CanoeSki Learn to Ski Plus program. On the Eb’s day tour she recalls, “… I was praying for a hill; my legs were tired and what had terrified me at the beginning of the day was now a great feeling to glide down and give me a rest!”