The long lingering autumn of 2023 is finally over.

Significant snowfall and lower temperatures across the Lakeland over the weekend have brought a sense of normalcy and a bit of relief to the region. The lack of snow cover had raised concerns of a serious moisture deficit, with potentially disastrous consequences for farms and forests.

The 4 Wing Cold Lake meteorology section reported 5.23 centimetres of snow between Thursday and Monday, or just over two inches. While that’s not enough to overcome the dry winter we’ve had so far, it at least brings a familiar wintry look to the region.

A spokesperson for the 4 Wing weather office says long-term trends, with a moderate El Nino effect this year, are suggesting a warmer than average winter “which we’ve been seeing up until this deep freeze that’s coming, with slightly more precipitation than normal.”

Cross-country ski enthusiasts are among those encouraged by the snowfall, but many of them are more concerned about drought than they were about missed recreational opportunities.

“We’re excited for the snow,” said Les Parsons of the Bonnyville Nordic Ski Club. “To be honest, we’re more excited for the farmers and the forest than we are for the skiing. That’s a much bigger concern for the skiers because we’re all outdoor people, and we like nature.”

Skiers from St. Paul and Bonnyville clubs had been able to skate-ski on frozen ponds, but they will need more snow for classic-style track setting.

While volunteers have begun to set tracks on Long Bay and in Cold Lake Provincial Park, the St. Paul trails will need more snow yet.

“To date we do not have enough snow to even think of tracksetting on our sites,” said Joanne Lamoureux of the St. Paul-based Lakeland Cross-Country Ski Club.  “Everyone does get excited when they see a few hoar frost flakes fall to the ground.” 

Though unseasonably mild, the temperatures have been cold enough for snowmaking at Kinosoo Ridge Snow resort, and for making ice at outdoor skating rinks. And the current colder weather should enable ice to form on Cold Lake and allow ice fishing season to get underway soon.

Opportunity knocks: Ryder Herve earned some money shovelling driveways on Sunday. JEFF GAYE

When Ryder Herve is on the job, be careful not to stand too close. The snow is flying! JEFF GAYE

Some mist rises from the open water on Cold Lake, but the ice cover is finally closing in. JEFF GAYE
Here comes the snow…and here comes the ice! Freeze-up on Cold Lake is only slightly later than normal, and cold temperatures in the coming days will help the ice thicken up for fishing. Stay patient, be careful! JEFF GAYE
Snowy boughs on the trees in M.D. of Bonnyville’s Cold Lake campground. JEFF GAYE