Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
This blog is titled Manitoba Parks: A(sessippi) to Z(ed) Lake. I travelled to Zed Lake early on in the journey, but after visits to 75 provincial parks I still had not been to the "A" park from the title, Asessippi Provincial Park. That all changed the weekend before Christmas, when my odyssey to visit all of Manitoba's road-accessible provincial parks came to an end with a trip to Asessippi.
Asessippi Provincial Park was one of Manitoba's first provincial parks, opening in 1964. Located just off Highway 83, between Roblin and Russell at the western edge of the province, the park surrounds Lake of the Prairies.
When the Shellmouth Dam was built on the Assiniboine River in 1972, the lake was created when the river backed up behind the dam. The southern end of the 67 kilometre-long lake is the focal point of the park, however the park also is home to wide, steep valleys that are remnants of ancient glacier-fed Assiniboine and Shell rivers. Today, the flow of these rivers is minute, but their legacy remains in the shape of the landscape.
The drive to Asessippi is long (381 kilometres from Winnipeg), but your efforts to get there will be rewarded in all seasons.
In the open water season, Lake of the Prairies is home to some of the best Walleye fishing in Manitoba. If fishing isn't your thing, the lake is also excellent for boating and swimming.
For hikers, there are excellent trails up and down the Assiniboine Valley, while history buffs can visit the remains of the Asessippi townsite. Built in 1882, the town was one of the first in this part of Manitoba. Unfortunately, the railway never made it to Asessippi and as a result it became a ghost town by the early 1890s.
Now that winter is here, ice fishing on Lake of the Prairies and snowmobiling are popular activities in the park. The main winter attraction of the area, however, lies 10 kilometres east of the park. When most Manitobans think of the name Asessippi, the first thing that comes to mind is the Asessippi Ski Area & Resort. Being an avid snowboarder, that's why I chose Asessippi Provincial Park as the last stop of my journey.
Opened in the late 1990s, Asessippi Ski Area & Resort is Manitoba's largest ski and snowboard hill, with three chairlifts and 25 runs in operation. Aside from being the largest, the resort offers the best skiing and snowboarding in Manitoba and has developed from a small to a full-service winter getaway destination, featuring ski and snowboard lessons, tubing, and a lodge with good food and a excellent apres-ski bar.
Driving up to the resort is strange because it literally appears out of nowhere. There is nothing but flat prairie as far as the eye can see. Then a small, pimple of a hill rises out of the prairie.
My travel companions, who had never visited the ski hill before, were questioning why we had bothered to drive all this way. As we drove through the resort gates, the road dropped down into a valley and the full extent of the resort came into view. It's not the Rocky Mountains, but by Manitoba standards it's excellent.
The resort charges $44 for a full-day lift ticket and between $28 and $32 dollars for rentals, depending on whether you would rather ski or snowboard.
Once on the slopes you never have to wait more than a couple of minutes to get on a lift and the snowpack this year is excellent. A series of beginner "green" runs and intermediate "blue" runs descend from the quad chairlift, located near the lodge. A small snowboard park, featuring rails, fun boxes, and small jumps, is also located off the quad chair.
Further away from the lodge, more difficult "black diamond" runs cut through the forest beneath the resort's two triple chairlifts. The resort's main snowboard park, which featured the beginnings of some massive table-top jumps, was still in the process of being constructed when we were out there.
Asessippi offers an excellent experience for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. Beginners and intermediates can hit the freshly groomed meandering "green" runs, while those with more skill can test the steeper runs like "Roller Coaster" and "Giant Panda."
We had a great day on the slopes. The temperature wasn't too cold and the snow quality was excellent. It was great to get out on the hill and bomb down the trails for the first time this year.
The trip to Asessippi Provincial Park concluded my Manitoba Parks: A to Z adventure. This journey was unforgettable and I now have a much better appreciation for the great diversity of landscapes of our province.
I'll be back in two weeks time, with my final post, wrapping up my eight-month Manitoban adventure.
Parks visited in today's post:
View A(sessippi) to Z(ed Lake) in a larger map
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