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travel / travel magazine / winter 2006

GateWay

Skiing  |   The view from here  |   Food  |   One city, three venues  |   Festivals  |   It's a great time of year to...  |   Preservation  |   Technology  |   Museum watch  |   Resources


Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/Cam Spence

ONE CITY, THREE VENUES
Saskatoon
By D. Grant Black

LOOKING FOR a hedonistic winter weekend? You won't find it in Saskatoon. The city's first settlers came from Toronto in 1883, led by the Temperance Colonization Society, which wanted to establish a city free of alcohol's evil grip. Some Victorian- era moderation still lingers, but what Saskatoon lacks in sinful pursuits, it makes up for in eclectic Prairie experiences.

FOR BUSINESS TRAVELLERS — Pack in some culture. After Frederick Mendel fled Europe and Nazi oppression, he moved to Saskatoon and founded Intercontinental Packers Limited in 1940. He had two divergent personas: meat-packing magnate and art collector. Opened in 1964, the Mendel Art Gallery squats beside the South Saskatchewan River, a Modernist landmark that includes a botanical conservatory, a welcome tropical refuge during a Prairie winter. Mendel donated 13 paintings for the gallery's permanent collection. Today, it boasts more than 5,000 works, the largest public art collection in the province. The Mendel is Saskatchewan's Guggenheim, and best of all, admission is free. — Mendel Art Gallery, 950 Spadina Crescent East. (306) 975-7610; www.mendel.ca

FOR FAMILY TRAVELLERS — Pimple of the Prairies. When Saskatoon wanted to host the 1971 Canada Winter Games, it was told downhill ski events require mountains. We might not be Lake Louise, the city responded, but we'll make it happen. Mount Blackstrap was built 40 kilometres south of Saskatoon with 450,000 cubic metres of plains soil and rock. Olympian Nancy Greene inaugurated it, hurtling down its 90-metre vertical, past new ski lifts and even mature evergreens, frozen into place for an alpine look. Thirty-five years later, Mount Blackstrap is a family ski resort where Saskatonians can try the old race courses or slide through the snowboard park. Then there's the economical Prairie lift-pass price: under $30 per adult. Compare that with Lake Louise! — Mount Blackstrap, Blackstrap Provincial Park. (306) 492-2400; www.skiblackstrap.com

FOR ADVENTURE TRAVELLERS — Running back to Saskatoon. The Meewasin Valley Trail includes more than 55 kilometres of paths along the South Saskatchewan River and through the city. It has peaceful routes for hikes, paths for runners and easily accessible trails for cross-country skiers. Meewasin (Cree for "beautiful") encompasses conservation areas, parks and the University of Saskatchewan lands. The Meewasin Skating Rink, beside the historic Bessborough Hotel, operates about 100 days per season. Skates are complimentary, but donations are accepted. — Meewasin Valley Interpretive Centre, 402 Third Avenue South. (306) 665-6888; www.meewasin.com

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The Diefenbaker Canada Centre at the University of Saskatchewan features John G. Diefenbaker's gravesite, memorabilia and the Sir John A. Macdonald collection. Also at the U of S is Canadian Light Source Inc., a stadium-sized structure that opened in 2004 as Canada's national facility for synchrotron light research.

But if dead prime ministers' artifacts or scientific innovations aren't for you, live theatre and music abound. The Persephone Theatre is in its 33rd season, there's jazz at The Bassment on Saturdays, and the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra performs at TCU Place, September to May.

Families can visit Kali, a two-year-old Bengal tiger, temporarily residing at the Saskatoon Forestry Park & Zoo, and kids can ogle the more than 1,000 new and antique dolls on display at Gladys' Doll House. The Roxy Theatre (1930) is one of the last "atmospheric" movie theatres in Canada — a design concept that emulates a Spanish courtyard.

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