Grabbing a post-game rink burger (photo: Gary Davidson)

Rink Burgers, Bright Lights and Skijoring: Ways to Love Alberta Winter (Even More!)

By Conan Tobias

Check out these fun ways to make the most of the snowy season across the province!

When the small town of Dewberry, Alberta, replaced its local hockey arena last year, some wondered if it was time to also upgrade the homemade rink burgers its hockey parents had been serving up for half a century. “We cooked about six different burger patties from six different suppliers—as well as our own secret recipe—and we did a taste test,” says Holly Holmen, a hockey mom who’s been involved with making the arena’s rink burgers since the 1980s. “Our homemade recipe far outweighed the others for flavour, texture and juiciness, so we carried on.” Holly won’t give up the secret behind the mix of spices used in the Dewberry burger, only that they’re made with pure Alberta beef. “They are also served with a smile by our volunteers, which I think makes them a little tastier.”

What’s a Rink Burger?
It’s just that: a hamburger made in a hockey rink, usually by hockey parents or local volunteers. Many small-town arenas pride themselves on their secret home-cooked recipes. The Dewberry Arena has used the same spices in its burgers since the 1960s, and goes though 700 pounds of beef for the 2,800 burgers it sells each year—in a town with a population of only 200.

Winter nights may be long, but they don’t have to be dark

Winter Lights Festival: More than 100,000 lights brighten the beautiful Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden in Lethbridge. Select dates from Dec. 1–Feb. 2

Super slopes for beginner skiers and snowboarders in Alberta

Airdrie Festival of Lights: Western Canada’s largest outdoor walk of Christmas lights celebrates 23 seasons. Dec. 1–31

alberta winter skijoring
A vigorous skijoring session

Looking for a new snow sport? Consider skijoring, a sport in which one is pulled around on cross-country skis—usually by a sled dog, but a tractor, snowmobile or horse will work just as well. Though it was invented in Norway, skijoring was made for Alberta winters. Klondike Ventures—west of Rocky Mountain House—and Mad Dogs and Englishmen in Kananaskis Country both offer guided outings. Or check out Skijordue (Feb. 9), a multi-day competitive event held each year just outside of Calgary.

Trees that aren’t tied securely can damage your vehicle

Vehicle: Use a car with a roof rack, a truck with a flatbed or the inside of an SUV or van.

Tools: Bring strong rope or ratchet straps, an old blanket to protect the top of your car, and a pair of gloves.

Wonderful winter activities for non-skiers

Tying: Wrap the tree in netting to keep it manageable. Prevent move-ment by tying it at its bottom, centre and top. Place the bottom of the trunk at the front of your vehicle.

Drive slow: Take back roads if you can, and be cautious.

In December, Fort Edmonton Park hosts its second annual Christmas pantomime—a British theatrical tradition that combines music and comedy with audience participation. Performances are loosely wrapped around a well-known fairy tale or fable. This year, it’s Little Red Riding Hood. Dec. 13–28

Snowshoeing offers fun, exercise and scenery, from the shores of Lake Louise to guided tours on Elk Island to trails near Lake Minnewanka. And Urban explorers can book a Pursuit Adventures “snowshoe in the city” tour of Red Deer for a two-hour trek followed by a cozy dinner. Make sure you strap on the right shoes for your trek, whether you want to travel in modern or traditional style.

Alberta winter snowshoe styles