By Devin Trefry
It was five days from Christmas in 2010 and we were set to head out on a winter retreat.
Although my daughter was celebrating her fifth birthday, my sisters in-law were home for the week from Dryden, Ont., and Calgary, Alta, (one of whom brought a worthy boyfriend home with her to meet the family for the first time) and my father in-law was celebrating his well-deserved retirement, no official occasion is really ever necessary to hold a winter family retreat. Any excuse will do!
Nova Scotia winter weather can be unpredictable to say the least. Sometimes you can get the most idyllic winter's day with sunshine and a fresh snowfall perfect for enjoying a ski, hike, or sledding with the kids. You might even be so lucky to have the temperature be just right to freeze over the nearby pond for an afternoon skate.
But other times, it's often best to just hunker down indoors to enjoy a cozy setting, time with family, good food and drink, and ,in our case, a heated battle of the board games.
Needless to say, during our family retreat the weather didn't necessarily cooperate but the huge mega-chalet that we stayed in at Rafters Ridge Cottages (a.k.a Tidal Bore Rafting Park) near Shubenacadie by far made up for the dreary weather.
There were nine of us all together (seven adults and two kids) and there was a ton of space for all of us to sprawl out. There was a massive common room just off the fully-equipped kitchen that was the perfect space to enjoy together. But the spacious five bedrooms and five bathrooms offered plenty of room to escape if needed (I'm not suggesting anyone required a place to escape in our case. Just saying the opportunity was there if ever needed).
Anyway, we even took advantage of the outdoor deck and barbecue where Grampa braved the elements to prepare his famous gourmet burgers. Retired or not, we still like to put him to work every now and again.
The chalet we stayed in was the largest of three newly built Russian-style log chalets though Rafters Ridge had a number of other one and two-bedroom deluxe cottages available as well. The ambiance, and Russian inspired furnishings, and décor of our chalet was unlike any other I've experienced in Nova Scotia. It created the perfect setting for our family retreat.
Despite the inclement weather we also managed to take advantage of the chalet's woodsy location and took a short hike to catch a glimpse of the Shubenacadie River, the largest river in Nova Scotia and only place in the world to experience tidal river rafting - in season of course.
The river lived up to its reputation as being home to one the highest concentrations of bald eagles in North America as well. We first heard, then saw a bald eagle fly overhead just before dusk.
There are numerous cozy chalet getaways to explore throughout central Nova Scotia this winter, and the bonus is that many offer great winter rates. Find one that suits you and your family this season, and regardless of weather take time to get together and just enjoy one another.
Devin Trefry is the marketing director of the Central Nova Tourism Association. He lives in Debert.