Who says you can't downhill ski in Manitoba? For about half the cost of a lift ticket at a Rocky Mountain Resort, you can enjoy a day of skiing or snowboarding near the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border at Asessippi Ski Resort.
The 25-run ski hill cannot compete with the vertical drop offered in the Rocky Mountains, but its beginner-to-intermediate terrain is the - dare I say best - place to learn to ski or snowboard. An added bonus: it's only a two-and-a-half to three-hour drive from Carlyle.
Nestled in the Shell River Valley, Asessippi is a gem in the typically flat Prairie landscape. The 25 runs are serviced by three chair lifts - two triples and a quad - with a carpet tow in the beginner area.
Asessippi also features two terrain parks, a tubing park, and cross-country ski trails, making it a all-encompassing winter resort.
"Our terrain parks are always changing," explains Roz Pulo, Asessippi's director of marketing. "We try for at least one new feature each year."
There are lessons available for almost every skill level, from beginners to those wanting to increase their abilities in the terrain parks.
"All of our instructors are certified by national program," says Pulo. "We are able to offer a high quality level of lessons for half the price of larger resorts. We have speciality lessons too, with lots of different options."
The specialty instruction includes the Jumps and Bumps clinic and the Freestyle clinic.
"It's not just about learning anymore," says Pulo. "It's about getting better and changing it up."
And Asessippi is all about changing it up. This past weekend, Jan. 15-16, it hosted the Prairie Ski Cross Open, organized by Canada Ski Cross. Snow sports have changed a lot over the past few years, and Asessippi has stayed on top of the game by holding clinics and contests introducing Prairie folk to as many of these advances as possible.
After a morning out on the runs, the base chalet is the perfect place to warm up and recharge before heading back outside. Pizza Hut Express, KFC Express, Asessippi Grill and the Powder Keg Pub all offer excellent value-minded food.
Need a bite before hitting the slopes? The base chalet offers a breakfast bar in the morning hours.
As for apres ski, the Powder Keg Pub is the place to be.
Mother Nature has been kind to Asessippi this year. Thus far, the resort is having a fantastic snow-filled season.
"We have tonnes of snow," says Pulo. "But if you can believe it, we're still making more. We are busy stockpiling for the spring season so when we need it we can move it in from where we tucked it away."
While Mother Nature does have a hand in the snow conditions - the resort is built facing north for better natural snow coverage - the resort uses snowmaking machines to ensure there is a solid two-foot base on every run. And, as mentioned, snowmaking continues throughout the season to ensure good spring conditions.
While Asessippi is close enough to home for some people to make it a one day trip, it's nice to stay and play for a couple days, or more. Accommodations are available in nearby communities including, Russell, Birtle, Inglis, Shellmouth, Roblin or Langenburg. Some of these places offer Stay and Ski packages. See the resort's website for more information.
Or you could enter the for a chance to win a family package for Asessippi, valued over $1,600, by entering your name in the Observer's Weekend Ski Getaway at one of the participating businesses. (See promo page for list of businesses).
The weekend ski package for a family of four includes two youth and two adult 3-day lift tickets, four ski or snowboard rentals with helmets, a group lesson for four, one day of tubing, a $200 gift card, a two-night stay in a two-room suite at the Russell Inn, and a $100 gift card for dinner.