a group of people standing on top of a snow covered mountain: The Marmot Basin ski resort in Alberta's Jasper National Park on Saturday. March 30, 2019.

© Wes Rosa, Global News
The Marmot Basin ski resort in Alberta’s Jasper National Park on Saturday. March 30, 2019.

The sun has set on the summer of 2020 and the first winter amid the COVID-19 pandemic is almost upon us.

As the colder weather approaches and Albertans are forced to spend more time back indoors, residents may be looking for an escape.

With several outdoor activities ready to enjoy, some questions have arisen as to how the virus can spread in the colder weather.

Colin Furness, An infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, noted germs may linger in the air longer this winter.

“As the weather cools down, this means the coronavirus may actually stay in the air longer,” Furness said.

As the virus leaves your body, the cold air helps preserve it and keep it alive longer, he explained.

“That’s one of the reasons we have the flu season in the colder months.”

That said, officials note since this is the first winter that Alberta will weather in the pandemic, at this point increased transmission of the virus in cold air is still speculation.

While international travel is still discouraged, Alberta offers plenty of scenic destinations, ready to be embraced this winter.

Read more: Tips to cope with a pandemic in the winter months

Head to the mountains

If you love nature, the picturesque mountains at Alberta’s national parks are the place to be.

Waterton Lakes, Banff and Jasper national parks all boast both scenic landscapes and a slew of fun activities that can be enjoyed in the colder months.

You can get in touch with your outdoor self while enjoying activities such as ice skating, ice fishing, snowshoeing and ice walking.

Travel Alberta’s vice president of destination development Shelley Grollmuss noted in the coming weeks, the organization is looking to launch a campaign to help drive traffic to Alberta’s tourism destinations.

“We are looking at a winter warmth campaign for this year to help encourage people to get out and enjoy winter and embrace winter here in Alberta,” Grollmuss said.

“We’ll have lots to enjoy.”

Grollmuss added the local tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic and she hopes more Albertans will travel locally for a winter getaway in the coming months.

Hit the slopes

Alberta boasts several ski resorts that residents can enjoy, including Sunshine Village and Lake Louise in Banff, Marmot Basin in Jasper and Castle Mountain in southwestern Alberta.

WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park in Calgary is also scheduled to re-open this year, with a tentative start date of Nov. 27.

Although resorts are gearing up for the 2020 season, as the pandemic continues, some new rules and regulations may be in place at Alberta’s ski hills to keep visitors safe.

Dale Oviatt, a spokesperson with Winsport, said the Calgary ski hill will see several changes upon reopening for the 2020-21 season.

“We have set some guidelines in place that we think will help satisfy the requirements from a health and safety perspective,” Oviatt said in an interview with Global News Radio 770 CHQR.

“First and foremost, there’s limited hill capacity. We have a big hill but we still have those congregation areas, so we still have to try and minimize that.”

Oviatt said those looking to purchase a day pass will have to do so in advance and will be given a scheduled time to attend the park.

“If you’re a season pass holder you won’t have to make those reservations, you’ll be able to just come out,” Oviatt added.

“Face coverings will also be mandatory, anytime you’re inside and outside in the public areas such as lines, lifts or any other pubic gathering spots.”

Take a virtual tour of the Canadian Rockies

If the cold weather isn’t quite your thing, then a new virtual offering could give you the best of both worlds — visions of the scenic Rocky Mountains — from the comfort of your own home.

The tours, operated by Uplift Adventures, feature videos from Alberta’s Rockies for all to experience.

“We know that not everyone can get outside, and connecting with the outdoors is so ingrained in us as humans,” the website states.

“These tours range from storytelling to adventure, to relaxation and connection. Every day is different.”

The video uploads share everything from stories to photography tips, scavenger hunts, hiking and more.

To check out the virtual tours, click here.

Read more: A Canadian coronavirus winter is looming — and it could ‘amplify loneliness’

Get in touch with your city’s art scene

As the pandemic continues, the province’s art sector has suffered from lost revenue, gathering limitations and job cuts.

Nonetheless, Alberta’s art scene is still alive and well, with many upcoming events available this winter to satisfy your creative side.

In Calgary, several events have been planned for the upcoming months, including comedy shows, theatre productions, dance workshops and art shows. Online and virtual shows and productions are also taking place in the city.

In Edmonton, comedy shows and workshops as well as pageants and shows will also be taking place in the coming months.

Many museums and libraries have also re-opened across the province.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, residents are encouraged to look at each event’s restrictions and make sure to plan ahead or book tickets in advance.

Read more: Calgary library prepares for reopening, launches curbside pickup program

Catch up on your reading with a virtual book club

Staying indoors with relatively small cohorts is a new reality, but that doesn’t mean you can’t socialize with people outside your bubble this winter.

Try turning the page to a virtual book club, where you can connect with residents from your city and beyond as you delve into literary artwork with fellow bookworms.

Some virtual book clubs to check out locally include the UAlberta Virtual Book Club. It’s open to all members of the University of Alberta community, including alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends.

The Virtual Bookworms is a Calgary-based women’s book club that meets through Zoom and attends select local events.

If you’re looking to explore book clubs outside the province and connect with a larger network, here are a few to check out:

The Quarantine Book Club features spirited Zoom calls with a variety of authors. Anyone can join the discussions after purchasing a $5 ticket.

Quarantini is a virtual LGBTQ+ book and movie club that features weekly updates and assignments members can follow along and engage with.

Reese’s Book Club: each month a new book featuring a strong woman presence is picked for members to read. Members can join online conversations across several social media platforms. Members can also sign up to receive exclusive updates as part of the community.

— With files from Katie Dangerfield, Global News

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