A unique side-by-side family sleigh near Morningside in the 1940s.

Reflections of Ponoka: We must always enjoy our winter wonderland

Even though our winter weather can be quite unpredictable and extremely cold, we can be thankful

Even though our winter weather can be quite unpredictable and extremely cold, we can be thankful that our Alberta is a fabulous white and wonderland playground full of so many invigorating or casual activities for young and old alike!

For decades and to the present day, families and individuals have found many exciting ways to have fun in the ice and snow, creating the means out of what nature has provided, and then dressing up warmly to challenge the fresh and chilly elements each winter.

Here are some of the sports, activities and events most everyone has enjoyed in the great outdoors of our winter wonderland, and the best fun and frolic is to strive to take part in them together at whatever pace we may wish to indulge.

• It has always been easy to find a slippery patch of ice to clean off and then spend delightful hours of skating, playing a game of hockey or jam can curling, or just plain slip-sliding away however we may wish. Many folks build their own outdoor rinks, with some that even have lights, benches and a warm up shack. If you are venturing out on a pond, lake or river, please make sure that the ice is thick and safe enough first. One can always find lots of great sliding hills and whether on a toboggan, sleigh, cardboard box or those new speedy plastic gizmos, you can create your own daring jumps and curves, but it is always a good idea to wear a couple of pairs of ski suits to cushion those heavy bumps and crash landings.

• There is nothing more invigorating than a brisk adventure outdoors on a bright and sunny winter day. Some may use traditional snowshoes, others are avid cross-country skiers or snowboarders, while others just like to get out and walk or run with the dog, pull the kids on the sleigh, or maybe even some behind a trusty horse, snowmobile or quad. Always dress warmly, take your camera and maybe even a few treats. For those who are more avid skiers and boarders, there is the beckoning of the majestic mountain resorts or groomed ski hills in the region, and whether we choose to casually travel down the bunny hill or to challenge a thrilling trip from the top, have some thrilling fun, slide safely, and always take along a buddy.

• Among the longstanding winter traditions over the years has always been the magic of a sleigh ride, by day or under the stars on a clear and cold night. There are still many horse-drawn sleighs out and about, and many come complete with bells and comfortable hay bales, where families, school classes, and special groups can cuddle up together, get close and personal with nature, and sing and sway for hours. How great it is also to stop along the way, build a big bonfire and enjoy hot dogs, chili, marshmallows and just a little nip to warm up the insides. Others love to ride their trusty horses, who always know how to get you home, no matter how bad the storm or deep the snow might be, but course nowadays everyone takes their cellphone everywhere.

• It won’t be long before our ice fishermen and women will venture out on the lake, set up their stools and spend hours trying to snatch a big one from out of the frigid depths. I understand this hardy breed of sportsman has now modernized quite a bit, with many owning fancy huts that come equipped with heaters, cushions, stoves, a fish finder and even music.

• And what can we say about kids in the great outdoors? Amazing hours spent building snow forts or statues, then choosing up sides and tossing snow missiles at each other or maybe chasing rabbits, sliding, skating, playing some good old road hockey or whatever other adventures they can find in Coolville. They will come home when they are hungry and at the end of the day are always blessed with a very healthful complexion of red cheeks and runny noses. Outdoor exercise and play, whether vigorous or casual, along with the brisk fresh air usually creates the perfect formula for a healthy appetite, a relaxed mind, and a real good night’s sleep in the comforts of our homes.

• Of course for those who can’t get outside there are always many indoor activities on most days at the Ponoka Recreation and Culture Complex, curling rink, schools, churches and at many other centres in and around our community. It is also much appreciated when we go and visit those who are unable to brave the winter cold. On many occasions, local groups, families, or individuals will take seniors and shut-ins to the game or to special events around our town and districts.

Please take every advantage that you can of our magical winter wonderland this time around, and thank you for always respecting and protecting its precious and natural beauty.

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