a really nice 45+ inch Northern Pike! http://t.co/mADgLzdT6A
Winter may soon be coming to an end, but early spring is the perfect time to hit the cross country ski trails! Warm sunny days and and smoothe wet snow trails are perfect conditions for a day of exercise in Northeastern Ontario!
Cross Country Packages With over 150 kilometres of groomed trails, Sault Ste. Marie is a world-class Nordic ski destination
As I near the top of Jackrabbit Hill, my world is reduced to a simple mantra wheezed through parsed lips: Pole-pole-step-glide, pole-pole-step-glide. I’ve skipped out of cocktail hour at the Stokely Creek clubhouse for a lung-burning skate-ski on the Jackrabbit, my favourite 15-kilometre loop amidst a cross-country ski area that sprawls across 3,400 hectares of rugged, forested land north of Sault Ste. Marie.
While challenging to say the least, the climb is always worth the effort. Arriving at the crest, I witness a coppery sunset over Lake Superior and begin the long downhill back to the trailhead where a well-earned meal in Stokely’s lavish dining room awaits.
To cross-country ski in Sault Ste. Marie is to be a part of a Nordic tradition built by generations of hardworking Scandinavian immigrants and an international club of skinny ski visionaries. The story begins in 1953, when the local Canadian Finnish Club was established to help immigrants acclimatize with a social schedule of dinners, dances and most importantly, skiing. Members carved “Sault Ste. Marie Special” wooden skis in basements and barns, and races were regularly held in snowy fields with competitors ranging from toddlers to national-level stars.
Over the years, hand-cut trails in the city’s north end evolved into the impeccably groomed 35-kilometre network of classic and skate-ski routes of the Hiawatha Highlands. This 1,200-hectare landmass is comprised of rollercoaster hills and towering old growth pine. Today, Hiawatha and the Soo Finnish Ski Club are as busy as ever, with a strong jackrabbit and development program for junior skiers, all-levels instruction for adults and an invitational race that celebrates its 55th anniversary in March. Hiawatha’s Pinder network of trails is best for beginners; the Crystal challenges intermediate and advanced skiers; and the Red Pine section offers feelings of remoteness and diverse terrain. All told, Hiawatha is 10 times the size of southern Ontario’s popular Hardwood Hills ski area, so there’s plenty of space for a good workout.
As Hiawatha took shape, the late Chuck Peterson, a ski-crazed American, searched for a snowy wilderness empire of his own. Peterson spent years combing the backwoods of Northern Ontario in search of perfect cross-country skiing. He found ample space, topography and well over four metres of annual snowfall in the Algoma Highlands northeast of Lake Superior. Satisfied with the locale and its innate attributes, he recruited Hakon Lein, a Norwegian Canadian from Sault Ste. Marie, to help plan a network of trails.
Peterson established the Stokely Creek Ski Touring Centre in 1977, and its 120 kilometres of trails ranging in difficulty from beginner to expert soon developed a cult-like following of mostly American skiers. He commissioned an Ann Arbor, Mich. architect to design an angular, red-trimmed and cedar-sided lodge and similarly appointed chalets, which now stand in the valley of the area’s namesake creek. The 25 guest rooms have a Scandinavian flair, making an overnight stay a unique, backwoods chic experience.
Delicious, amply portioned meals are a hallmark of Stokely’s communal dining hall. I take full advantage following my energy-sapping bout with Jackrabbit Hill as I devour a meal of winter vegetable soup, pork tenderloin, sweet potatoes and vegetables, followed by apple cake and custard for dessert. Millions of stars fill the night sky as I walk from the dining room to my suite in the Ottawa Chalet. The absence of television and telephones makes the après-ski atmosphere refreshingly analogue, with options for entertainment ranging from table tennis in the lodge games room, a sauna, or fireside reading in the overstocked library.
The next morning, I wax my classic skis and hit the trails for a glimpse of Stokely’s future. When Peterson died in 2000, the fate of his ski empire fell into limbo. A European logging company acquired much of the estate. However, in 2007, long-time Stokely skiers Gaylen and Susan Byker of Grand Rapids, Mich. bought the lodge and partnered with Astina and the Sault Ste. Marie-based Algoma Highlands Conservancy to maintain Peterson’s trails. In 2009, the conservancy purchased 570-metre King Mountain, appointing permanent protection to nearly one-third of Stokely’s trail network.
I select a scenic loop that circles King Mountain’s flanks. Once again I’m gasping for air as the trail ascends 200 metres through a mature forest of maple and yellow birch that’s now preserved for “silent sports” such as skiing, mountain biking and hiking, ecological research by organizations including the Canadian Forest Service, and environmental education for local schools. En route, I cross a new 6.5-kilometre-long snowshoe trail that switchbacks up to King Mountain’s summit where a warming hut offers sweeping views of Lake Superior from one of the highest points in Ontario. Recently, Stokely general manager Jamie Martin noted his guests have been raving over the ever-expanding web of snowshoe trails.
For now, though, thoughts of snowshoes are pushed aside. Peterson comes to mind as my route veers downhill and the trees whiz by on the rolling, three-kilometre-long King Mountain Run. “You need a tremendous variety of terrain and very skillfully designed trails to bring Nordic skiing into its own,” he once said. Fortunately, Sault Ste. Marie has both in spades.
Did this story peek your interest? Find out more and book a cross country package today!
Where can you go Motorcross Racing, Mountain Biking, Horse Riding and Snowmobiling?
At the Charleson Recreation Area in Atikokan, Ontario. The Charleson Recreation Area (CRA), often called the Charleson Pits, is located in Atikokan, halfway between Fort Frances and Thunder Bay. It takes its name from the original Canadian Charleson Iron Mine (a subsidiary of Charleson Iron Mining Co. of Minnesota), which operated sporadically in Atikokan from 1958-64 in the region of what is now the hub of the CRA, the Sno-Ho chalet.
The CRA committee formed in 2005 in an effort to consolidate the different users of the Charleson area. Amazingly, the users include snowmobilers, motocrossers, 4-wheelers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, Ride for Sight, canoeists, anglers, hikers, picnickers, snowshoers, skiers and more. The area has grown into an awesome multi-use recreational area that is improving each year.
Horse riders get together and camp for the weekend, using the trails and water in the day time and relaxing in the evening. For campers there are 9 high ties, and 8 permanent pens are now available on site to keep your horse in, as well as permanent washrooms with running water. To get an idea of how both the horses and riders enjoy the trails, visit the Equine Riders Horse Club Image Gallery.
The Atikokan Motorcross Club was one of the first users at the Charleson Recreation area. The AMX has 2 race tracks; a fenced in mini track for 50cc bikes and quads for the up and coming rider as well as a more challenging larger track with a 24 position starting gate with lights. The AMX race tracks are open to the public except during race weekends. The AMX is part of the Northern Ontario mx series of which there are 8 races held in the region.
The old roads, trails and single track mountain bike trails in the Charleson Recreation area make it perfect for mountain biking. The Airport trail area is a combination of old roads, double track and single track. They are mostly accessed off the Steep Rock Mine Road (“the paved road”) or the Steep Rock Landing Rd. Trails range from relatively easy (Mirkwood, Evinrude, Bobsled) to more technical single track (D’yer Mak’er, Over the Hills) to short but steep downhills (Cronk’s Crash, Wipeout, Mikey’s). While all trails are open to mountain bikers, only some are open to horse riders. You can download a map of the mountain bike trails (as well as other trails) to see which trails are accessible to whom. Try the Steep Rock Loop or the Pal Lake Lookout Trail for a less technical ride with awesome views.
The Atikokan Mudslingers use the area for mudflings. Water is added to the reddish soil of the Charleson Recreation Area to make a real nice mudpile. The Mud Track, the only one in Northwest Ontario, is 300 feet long. The Atikokan Mudslingers 4x4 club holds an annual Mudfling. In 2010, they had 40 trucks and 63 drivers, and just over 1800 spectators over the weekend.
There are snowshoe trails that are accessible across from the Charleson sign and also at the bottom of the hill. The South Don Park Loop system has a variety of trails that interconnect over various terrain and totals about 5km. What out for the Lookout points that over look the town. It also links up with the Bike trail system around the Airport. The North trail system makes a loop that takes you to Pal Lake, over to Pete Lake and back to the Minnow Pond and is just over 10km.
The Bow to Stern Canoe Association uses the area for canoe races. The Atikokan Sno-Ho Club uses the area for snowmobiling and for snowmobiling events that are based from the Sno-Ho Chalet in the Charleson Recreation Area. There is also an annual Ride for Sight at the CRA.
All in all, the Charleson Recreation Area truly has something for everyone all year round. Check them out!
Snowboarding and Skiing aren't just for the Rockies!
While there are cross-country ski trails in pretty much all communities in Sunset Country, only three areas offer snowboarding and downhill skiing. Atikokan's Mount Fairweather, which boasts the highest vertical drop from Thunder Bay to the Rockies, Dryden Ski Hill, who's Chalet is available for events or large group bookings, and Kenora's Mount Evergreen which has been in operation since 1946 all offer both downhill skiing and snowboarding.
Mount Fairweather was carved out of the bush in 1965 and 1966 and in the winter of Canada's Centennial, Mount Fairweather fired up the T-Bar and rope tows and welcomed the first skiers to the greatest vertical drop in the Rainy River District. The years since have produced regional champions, nationally sponsored racers, and even a member of the Canadian World Cup team, Ms. Lydia Kutra. Lydia has been honoured by having Mount Fariweather's signature run named in her memory: the Lydia Kutra Challenger.
For well over two decades Mount Fairweather has remained a quality venue for the outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy the wonderful winter sports of skiing and snowboarding. To accommodate snowboarders, the Fairweather Terrain Park (FTP) was built in 2007. Riders can test their skill on rails, jumps and other challenging obstacles. Atikokan can be proud to call Mount Fairweather its home to skiing and snowboarding. The ski hill is located 9 km north of Atikokan, Ontario, it has 12 runs, 2 lifts, and a vertical rise of 106 m. In the Chalet you'll find: Cafeteria, sun deck, restrooms, miscellaneous demo equipment, friendly and cozy atmosphere. Mount Fairweather is open weekends and holidays from Late December to Late March. Yearly memberships or daily admissions are available.
Dryden Ski Hill:
The Dryden Ski Hill is fully equipped with all the gear you will need to snowboard, downhill and cross country ski. It featuring five downhill runs for every level of ability. Nestled at the bottom of the hill is the Chalet where you can grab that cup of hot chocolate, enjoy a snack and take a break while watching the winter enthusiasts make their way down from the summit of the hill. Instructors and emergency personnel are available for your instruction and safety. The club is available for events or large group bookings. Make it a spectacular celebration and book your next event at the Dryden Ski Hill. For more information on the hours and fees contact 807-937-4265 or visit the Dryden Ski Hill's Facebook Page.
Mount Evergreen Ski Hill has been in operation since 1946. It is currently a non-profit club and puts all of it's profits back into maintaining the hills and lifts. The 14 runs are varied from the bunny slope to black diamond runs. They are listed on the Mount Evergreen Ski Hill Map. The Terrain Park adds some extra excitement to the hills. If you don't have equipment, the Ski and Snowboard rentals shop is conveniently located beside the chalet. Trained technicians will help you with our rental fleet of Salomon shaped skies. The chalet has food services, washrooms and changing facilities. The Loft area offers a comfortable place to warm up for your après ski enjoyment. The Club offers lessons, both private and group sessions. Yearly memberships are available as are daily and nightly rates.
Plan a day or weekend of skiing or snowboarding in Sunset Country. There are many hotels and lodges open in the winter for you to stay at. For more information on winter vacations and things to do in the winter, visit www.snowontario.ca
Cross-Country Skiing in Northwestern Ontario
Yes it's a fact, the winters are long and sometimes cold up here in Northwestern Ontario! But being the eternal optimist that you are, you see opportunity in this beautiful winter wonderland. We do too so that is the reason we want to encourage skiers to come to Ontario's Sunset Country. There are many communities in Northwest Ontario that have cross-country ski trails. Here's just a sampling of them.
Kenora: The Kenora Nordic Trails system offers up some pretty good cross-country skiing that's for sure! In fact there are over 20 km of groomed runs for you to try out. Only a two hour drive from Winnipeg, Kenora is easy to get to and you can leave the City in morning and be on the trails well before noon. After your day on the trails, check out the many amenities Kenora has to offer - places to eat, shop, stay and part are plentiful and affordable. Contact Tourism Kenora for more information.
Sioux Narrows and Nestor Falls: Just south of Kenora on Highway 71 are the communities of Sioux Narrows and Nestor Falls, Ontario. These small tourist towns have some excellent cross-country trails as well. Nice vertical rises pose a bit of a challenge but think of the endless cardio-vascular benefits you'll receive! Both towns have accommodations you can stay in and some excelllent restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat.
Fort Frances: Fort Frances is your next stop and this mill town on the Canada-USA border is a gem from a cross-country ski trail perspective. After your day at the Eight Street and Rocky Inlet trail; systems stay in one of many local hotel accommodations, go shopping and dine out at a wide variety of restaurants.
Atikokan: Your next stop in Atikokan could easily turn out to be the highlight of your trip as this small Northwestern Ontario town is big when it comes to skiing. Not only can you try the trails near town but there is the vast system inside beautiful Quetico Provincial Park. Ski amongst old growth pines and see abundant wildlife inside the park boundaries. Stay overnight in accommodations in Atikokan.
Dryden: The City of Dryden has some great ski trails to offer you. The Dryden Ski Club maintains two trail loops for your skiing enjoyment. There is lots to do after the skiing is done and you check into a local Dryden hotel for the night. Enjoy great Dryden dining, shopping and the local nightlife.
Red Lake: The Red Lake District Cross-Country Ski Club is responsible for maintaining over 40 kilometers of groomed and tracked trails in the Red Lake area including the Golf Course trail located in Balmertown, Centennial Park located in Red Lake, and the McKenzie Island Trails. The trails offer excellent classic and skate-skiing opportunities alike. The Club also offers programming, such as Jackrabbits, to encourage fun and participation by all ages and abilities in the sport of cross-country skiing.
If you love cross-country skiing then you'll love visiting the Sunset Country region of Northwestern Ontario. You can also call 1-800-665-7567 for more information and to help you plan your trip.
Come for a Weekend Visit - Yes, in the Winter!
No we're not kidding! Winter is a great time of year for a short getaway to Ontario. The cities and towns in the region have some great accommodations and there are many fun activities that you can do. Winter is one of the best times of year to play outside and your getaway weekend can include a bundle of different activities. Why not consider:
- A Ski/Shop Combo - try our ski trails and enjoy some great shopping and dining!
- Snowmobile Touring - visit a couple of communities over a weekend on your sled!
- Ice fishing and New Year's Celebration - party at night, catch fish during the day!
- Second Honeymoon - rent a honeymoon suite and re-connect!
Choose from downhill skiing, snowmboarding or cross-country skiing. Most communities have cross country skiing and Dryden and Kenora have downhill skiing/snowboarding as well. The Dryden Ski Club offers both cross-country and alpine skiing as well as snowboarding. The Club is located 15 km north of Dryden and is fully equipped with all the gear you will need to Snowboard, downhill and cross country ski. Nestled at the bottom of the hill is the Chalet where you can grab that cup of hot chocolate, enjoy a snack and take a break while watching the winter enthusiasts. For more information on the hours and fees contact 807-937-4265. Take a break from skiing and head into town to do a little shopping, whether it is for clothes, souvenirs or that something special. For a small city, Dryden has quite a few good shops to choose from. The Mount Evergreen Ski Club in Kenora also has a lot to offer. Operating since 1946, the Club is well run and hills are well groomed. It has many runs including 5 black diamond runs, a Terrain Park and even has a Magic Carpet lift for the little ones or beginners. There are over 20 km of beautiful cross country ski trails that offer both classic and skate skiers the chance to experience the magnificent Canadian Boreal Forest. All trails are groomed for classic skiing and almost 7 km of trails also accommodate skate skiing. Kenora has many year-round shops that are filled with goodies. From the many clothing stores, to souvenirs shops to that one-of-a-kind store, you can find what you are looking for in Kenora. A little retail therapy after a long day at the ski hill is just what everyone needs in the winter.
Who says you have to stay in the same community? Tour Northwest Ontario by sled and you'll see some of the best scenery around. Cross many frozen lakes and cut through trails in the boreal forest. These aren't crowded trails either, enjoy the remote trails in peace. NWOSTA (Northwestern Ontario Snowmobile Trail Association) maintains over 770km of A (top) trail and over 1600km of club trails. That's a lot of wilderness to explore! NWOSTA covers a large geographical area: From Kashabowie in the east then west to Atikokan; Mine Center; Fort Frances; Emo and Rainy River; Atikokan south to the USA and north to Ignace, Sioux Lookout, Dryden, and Vermilion Bay. You can go further north to Ear Falls and Red Lake or west to Kenora to connect to Manitoba. The trail circles south through Sioux Narrows, and Nester Falls to Rainy River or Emo and another link to the USA. There are many winter tour operators willing to accommodate you on your tour around Sunset Country.
Ice fishing and Special Occasion Celebration:
Catch plenty of fish in the day and party during the evening. Whether it is New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day or Mardi Gras, who doesn't like a evening out after a day of ice fishing. Make it a weekend. Ice fishing is very popular with the locals, so join them out on the lake and find out why they like ice fishing so much. Fish for walleye, lake trout, northern pike, and crappie.
Rent a secluded cabin and enjoy a second (or first!) honeymoon. Spend the day doing outdoor activities like cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing or ice fishing or just hole up inside the cozy cabin. Light a fire and cuddle up by the fireplace. A nice quiet weekend at the lake is just what every couple needs once in a while.
These are just a few ideas of what you can do on a two or three day hiatus (winter vacation) in Sunset Country. In addition to hotel and motels accommodations, some resorts are open during the winter and you can rent a cabin in the woods! Local travel information centres have detailed information on activities and attractions in their community.