Saskatchewan’s Qu’Appelle Valley is both beautiful and unexpected. Approaching Fort Qu’Appelle from the North on Hwy 35/22 you are surrounded by gently rolling farm land that seems to extend on forever. It isn’t until you’re about a mile out from the valley that you get a sense that there’s an upcoming shift in the geography. The rolling farmland is suddenly split by a deep but narrow coulee as though some Titan decided to plow a furrow in the land. Then more rolling farmland, followed by a quick 180 m descent into a spectacular 2km wide valley that gently twists it’s way from West to East across Saskatchewan.
The Fishing Lakes (From West to East: Pasqua, Echo, Mission, & Katepwa) form the recreational heart of the Qu’Appelle Valley, with Fort Qu’Appelle smack dab in the middle. It is a well known summer playground, with beautiful beaches, fully serviced campsites and cabins, and ample amenities. But “The Fort” isn’t just a one season wonder, it also offers a full range of winter recreational opportunities. Ice fishing – they have it. Snowmobiling – of course. Cross country skiing and snowshoeing – for miles. Downhill skiing and snowboarding – absolutely. But Sean, isn’t Saskatchewan dinner plate flat? Nope, we do actually have some hills, or in this case a ridge, that we can shred.
To celebrate their winter wonderland, and to promote tourism, The Fort puts on an annual winter festival, which is what brought me to the valley over the weekend. It was a great time, that included native dancers, fireworks, croki-curl (crokinole + curling – use your imagination), ice fishing, ice race (cars, bikes, atvs, sleds, & side by sides), and a polar bear dip.
Here’s a little snapshot of my weekend.
Word to the wise – Don’t cannonball into 4 feet of freezing water.
If you ever get the chance I highly recommend checking out the Qu’Appelle valley in either winter or summer.