Winter recreation on public land

Find opportunities to enjoy and explore public land over the winter.


There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy winter activities on Alberta’s public land, such as:

  • backcountry skiing or split-boarding
  • cross-country skiing
  • fat biking
  • snowboarding
  • snowmobiling
  • snowshoeing
  • winter camping
  • winter hiking

Winter recreation does come with a heightened risk of being outdoors in cold temperatures, often encountering snow and ice. Use the information on this page to help you plan safe and fun winter adventures.


Plan your trip

  • Step 1 | Check for area and weather conditions

    Before heading out, check:

  • Step 2 | Plan your route

    • Choose a trail suited to the ability and skill of yourself and others in your group, and plan your route on open designated trails. Find a trail at: Alberta’s public land trail guide.
    • Many of Alberta’s designated Public Land Trails have winter activity restrictions in place permitting certain types of use and restricting others over the winter months. Winter activity restrictions can be found on public land recreation maps, as well as on signs at trailheads.
    • Non-motorized winter activities are permitted on public land unless access to an area is closed.
    • Be prepared to change plans and/or turn around if weather conditions change, or if the trail conditions are too wet, soft or icy.
    • Be aware of closures. Check the public land closures and advisories pages for current area closures.
    • Download directions to the trailhead and trail maps, before heading out.
    • If your planned route travel involves accessing agricultural public land, contact the disposition holder for permission to access public land held under lease and public land that is occupied. Construction or heavy equipment, fences and buildings are indicators that land is occupied.
  • Step 3 | Plan ahead and prepare

    • Carry a map. If using a digital map, download it to your phone for offline use.
    • Remember, phone batteries often die faster in the cold. It’s wise to carry a back-up paper map, especially in the winter months.
    • Dress in layers appropriate for the weather conditions. This includes protective layers like a wind and waterproof jacket, pants and footwear.
    • Go prepared with:
      • bear spray
      • extra clothing (wool or synthetic clothing performs better than cotton in outdoor environments)
      • fire starting materials (including a waterproof lighter or matches)
      • flashlight and/or headlamp with extra batteries
      • food and water
      • a map
      • a satellite communications device (if you have one)
    • Don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses! Snow is reflective and can increase your risk of a sunburn on clear days.
    • Keep the following in your vehicle:
      • Blanket
      • Extra fuel
      • First aid kit
      • Snow shovel
      • Warm layers
    • Tell someone where you are going, when you will be back, with instructions to call the RCMP if you miss your check-in.
  • Step 4 | Play safe

    • Despite the forecast, check the weather and snow conditions when you reach the trailhead. Use caution if the conditions don’t match the weather forecast.
    • Don’t go out alone in the winter. Plan activities for a group.
    • Carry bear spray year-round. Keep it within reach and know how to use it. Learn more at: Alberta BearSmart
    • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia in yourself and others.
    • Use caution before traveling on ice; hazardous and thin sections can exist at any time during the winter:
    • Ice can vary in thickness and strength due to air temperature, time of year, snow cover, water movement (currents, drainage, runoff), springs and fluctuations in water levels.
    • Avoid traveling on ice at night and never go onto ice alone.
    • Measure ice thickness in several locations.
    • Never walk on ice that is less than 10 cm (4 in.) thick and do not drive on ice that is less than 30 cm (12 in.) thick. When in doubt, don't do it. Learn more at: Lifesaving Society – Ice Safety Tips
  • Step 5 | Know the rules and laws

    • Follow all signs, publications, notices or direction from a conservation officer.
    • Follow permitted activities on designated trails.
    • Know and follow the rules for your activity:
    • Keep pets under control and pick up after them. Manage your pet’s noise and behaviours, ensure they come when called, and keep them from harassing wildlife and other trail users. Follow signs that indicate areas where pets are prohibited or need to be on a leash.
    • Stay off private and leased land unless permitted.
    • You may require a permit for group commercial and recreational activities. See: Group activities on public land
  • Step 6 | Follow best practices

    • Ensure adequate snow cover for winter travel—avoid travelling on top of trees and other vegetation that may be broken or damaged by direct contact with skis and other equipment.
    • Share the trail. Yield to equestrian users and stay off track-set trails if not skiing.
    • Leave gates and fences as you find them, open or closed.
    • Avoid disrupting alpine wildlife. Respect wildlife; never feed or approach them.


For more information, or to report public safety incidents or illegal activity during your trip, call 310-LAND (5263).


  • Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for reporting public safety or illegal activity concerns 
  • For general information, call during regular business hours (8 :30 am to 4 :30 pm, Monday to Friday)

Toll free: 310-LAND (5263)
Toll free: 1-833-310-5869 (outside of Alberta)