While it's a little more challenging, the great outdoors is still available for campers and adventurers in the southwest.
Camping in the winter, especially over the holidays, is a unique experience. It offers insight as to what it would have been like to explore the rugged prairies, making a shelter to escape the cold.
Of course, the equipment now is a fair bit more durable, comfortable, and safer to use than it was back then. Here in the southwest, there is even an option to stay in fully maintained camps over at Cypress Hills.
Robin Campese, executive director of visitor experiences with Sask Parks, encourages folks to make use of the fantastic services available.
"We've undertaken some initiatives to promote to people that Saskatchewan provincial parks are four-season destinations," said Campese. "So this year at Cypress Hills Provincial Park will have all kinds of stuff."
They will have their lodge resort open, along with Ivan's restaurant, for families looking to enjoy some more standard programming. Guides will be offering to take people along on programs, like astronomy and snowshoe hiking, in a protected environment.
For campers, they have yurts available. These ready-to-go setups come equipped with a wood-burning stove and offer an easy way to get acquainted with the winter camping experience, with none of the hassles of setting anything up out in the cold on your own.
For those feeling a little more comfortable out in the cold, and looking to have complete control of their shelter, the provincial park also has sites prepared for anyone looking to set up camp themselves.
"There are five sites available at five provincial parks around the province, and Cypress Hills is one of those," said Campese. "Obviously it's more rustic camping because there aren't that many amenities available this time of the year, but there would be pit toilets and that sort of thing."
The sites are maintained and cleared of snow regularly, ensuring easy access to and from the road. Another great thing about the park is that they do maintain its roadways so that anyone looking to explore the park can do so, albeit with a little caution.
"We really encourage people to have some expertise there, because due to the cold weather, camping in Saskatchewan is extremely adventurous," said Campese. "So you want to make sure you have warm clothing, the proper gear, and those sorts of things."
For the advanced, they can even hit the trails, choosing to camp for the day where the will to wander takes them. These offer the seclusion that many people often seek when camping. Getting away from it all can take on a whole new meaning when you're all alone in the quiet of the snow-covered landscape, where the insulation of the snow bed can dampen everything to a murmur.
"People are sort of free to explore the park at their leisure, but we want to encourage people to be safe if we're doing something like that," said Campese. "Some of the more remote areas of the park would not be patrolled this time of year."
Of course, anyone who does decide to make their way out is encouraged to let others know where you plan to camp and to take everything they will need. Ensuring that you have someone to check in with, be it over the phone or in person, can help ensure that everyone stays safe during their trip.
If you would like to try out camping this holiday season, the folks over at Cypress Hills are equipped to set you up with as much or as little infrastructure as you want.