Oksana Kosteckyj expresses a common sentiment when she says, “I think winter in Manitoba is pretty harsh.”
In 2015, CBC News reported that as many as 35 per cent of Canadians experience the “winter blues,” with another 10 to 15 per cent experiencing a mild form of seasonal depression. Two to five per cent of Canadians have a clinical form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Kosteckyj believes that the best way to manage winter is to embrace it by getting outside and doing things.
Laurie Penton, manager of the Windsor Park Nordic Centre in Winnipeg, agrees.
“Being outside is the best way to enjoy winter,” Penton says. “There is always lots of cheerful chatter after people go skiing!”
A 2009 study by researcher Kelly Rohan outlines the proven effects of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) on SAD. In simple terms, the study shows that focusing on the positives and incorporating enjoyable activities into the winter months can improve mental and physical health and is especially effective at managing seasonal depression.
Kosteckyj says that, thanks to snow kiting, the winter has become something she is excited about rather than afraid of.
Snow kiting is the icy cousin of kiteboarding, a sport Kosteckyj says she fell in love with off the coast of Spain during a sun-drenched vacation. Back home on the windy prairies, Kosteckyj wanted to continue learning the ropes, so she connected with the modest but vibrant Winnipeg kiteboarding community.
In the summertime, these folks kiteboard by harnessing themselves to large kites and stand on something akin to a surfboard, so they can sail across the water. Since Manitoba’s lakes are frozen for much of the year, Winnipeg kiteboarders have learned to “snow kite” by riding the snow instead of the waves.
“Snow kiting has definitely enhanced my experience of the winter, because I’m excited when there’s snow and there’s wind, and I want to get out there,” she says. She’s noticed a difference in her physical and mental health since taking up this activity.
While exhilarating, snow kiting is not the easiest or most affordable winter activity. Kosteckyj recommends taking lessons through Boost Kiteboarding, located at 201 Regent Ave. W in Winnipeg.
An hour-long intro lesson runs for $99, with the practical second lesson ranging from $200 (for one person) to $400 (for three people). Equipment is included in the lesson price.
“It’s quite expensive to get started, but then once you have all the gear, it’s free to go,” Kosteckyj says.
Skating and cross-country skiing are two slower-paced activities that are popular in Winnipeg. Many residents take advantage of the famous river trail at The Forks in downtown Winnipeg. Skate rentals are available for adults ($5) and children and seniors ($3). The trail is free to access, and many people enjoy walking beside the skating path as well.
Another option is the Windsor Park Nordic Centre at 10 Des Meurons St. There, the Cross Country Ski Association of Manitoba maintains ski trails. A one-day adult trail pass is $5, and ski rentals are available for $10 for two hours or $15 for a full day.