I recently attended the YEG Snow & Ice Fest on Feb. 11. The original ice wall of the YEG Snow and Ice fest started back in 2021. This was the second-year jam-packed with winter activities. This year, the festival had sections where visitors could try backcountry skiing, ice climbing and fat biking. If you missed the festival but still want to learn more about each of these sports, keep reading for basic instructions that will get you ready to get outside.
If you have ever tried rock climbing, ice climbing is a whole other beast. When you arrived at the ice wall, ran by the Alpine Club of Canada, you first put on a harness and spiked boots. Yes, you read that right:spiked boots. You’re also handed ice picks. With all the ice climber gear on, you feel like you are about to fight the boss of a final level. The expert ice climbers help climbers discover the wondrous world of ice climbing by guiding people how to climb safely and use best practices. Make sure you pay attention to safety demonstrations as an “uninjured climber is a happy climber,” I always say. Those spiked boots and ice picks are not just to make you look cool.
You find a spot to settle your weight to hook those spiked boots onto the ice, while the ice picks find crevices to latch onto. If you cannot find a spot to remain stable, make one by kicking or hitting the ice with the ice pick to create a stable hold. When going back down, hold ice picks together in one hand while pointing it away from your body.
Think regular skiing, but you can go up the hill with these. These backcountry skis can be found at many local shops like Sundance Ski & Snowboard. First, the skis have skins. The skins create enough surface friction to stop you from sliding down the snow too easily. The boots are connected at the front and back of the boot when connecting the skis. However, when going uphill only the front is connected which gives the skier the ability to walk uphill. Then when you reach your mountain peak destination, take those skins off on the skis to expose the smooth underside of the skis. Now let gravity do the work by building momentum! Keep in mind that the more parallel your skis, the faster you’ll go.
Ever mistakenly rode your bike onto sand? That’s fat biking! Fat bikes are designed for the traction on hard to grip surfaces like snow, ice and sand with wider tires and thicker treads. They can be found at stores like Mud Sweat and Gear. Uphill biking has a bit of resistance due to gravity, but cycling up a snow covered hill was not difficult at all.
If you had FOMO after missing the festival, say less. These winter activities are still available as long as winter is still around!