If you're looking for a good dose of northern hospitality and some great sledding, head to The Pas, Manitoba. People from all over the prairies and the U.S. brave the cold to experience an amazing trail system that takes you through beautiful forest and incredible frozen lakes. Robert Vipond, with the Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders, said although it may sometimes be -40 C outside, it's never cold in The Pas. That's the warmth of northern hospitality.
Vipond highly recommends the following three loops. In this part of the trail system, there are four warm-up shelters and opportunities to see wildlife including moose. All loops are great for any skill level, including family riding. They also all start at the same trailhead.
Staging in The Pas can happen from any hotel including the Super 8, Kikiwak Inn and Wescana Inn. There is parking for all sizes of trailers and vehicles. All hotels and motels have maps as well, and Vipond suggests sledders call members of the club. Members are very accessible and always love to provide advice on shortcuts and different routes.
Poker Derby Loop
This is one of Vipond's favourite loops. Leave The Pas on Trail 2 and go north to what they call the Flin Flon Junction. Go straight from here across the highway to Trail 410. This takes you up the Pas Moraine (a prominent glacial feature) where you're fairly up high and can see over 60 kilometres.
From here, go west onto Trail 412 which is a nice wide trail and has been improved since last season. You will go across a fairly shallow lake called Root Lake and in this area it's not uncommon to see moose.
From here, you go back into the bush, which is great protection from the wind. You'll come upon Big Bend Shelter which was relocated last spring to be farther away from the eroding Saskatchewan River. You'll then carry on along the south shore of Rocky Lake which offers some gorgeous scenery.
You'll come upon "Slippery Corner" where you take a right turn (don't go too fast—hence the name) and you'll head east on Trail 410 which is very clearly marked. This will take you to the town of Wanless which offers fuel. From there, keep heading south and stop at the Halstead Shelter, make some new friends and continue south back to The Pas.
The loop is about 100 kilometres and would take a family about three hours to complete, depending on stops.
Leave The Pas the same way as the first loop but this time stay on the 410 and head north to the Halstead Shelter. Then turn east onto Trail 411 where some new work has been done on the trail. You will again head up the Pas Moraine for some fantastic views. You will be able to look over Rocky Lake which is quite beautiful. Then head south on Trail 2 and you'll be on the hydro line which has a few ups and downs. Turn off and head east on Trail 414. You will come upon the Clearwater North Shelter which is the club's oldest shelter and is scheduled to be replaced by next season. Continue south and follow Clearwater Lake on the trail. Clearwater Lake is one of only two true blue water lakes in the world. There are several points you can leave the trail and ride along the lake which is almost always super smooth riding. The 414 will take you all the way south where you meet back up with Trail 2 which will take you south back into The Pas.
This loop is about 60 kilometres and would take about two hours to complete.
Once again, start at the same trailhead and go north on Trail 2 and head east onto Trail 413. You are in cabin country here. You will cross a little lake called Campbell Lake and will find the Campbell Lake Shelter which is the newest and nicest of all the shelters. The 413 will take you to the The Pas Airport where there's fuel and coffee.
Do a 180 and head back the way you came on the 413 until you hit the 414. Go north on the 414, stop at the Clearwater North Shelter and then head south on Trail 2 on the hydro line, which will take you all the way back to The Pas.
This loop is about 50 kilometres and can be done in about an hour and a half, depending on stops.