Imagine giving your kids a ride to school on your sled, popping up to the variety store for a loaf of bread on your sled or ripping up to the local coffee shop... yep, you guessed it, on your sled. This is real Northern Ontario small-town snowmobile culture. Where you ride your sled each day the ground is white, and two-stroke smoke is the winter fragrance for both men and women. So when you roll into the small towns with your rig and sleds, you don’t get blank stares – you get instant rock star status.
We’ve compiled a list of small towns in Ontario, Canada’s Algoma Country that embody the heart and soul of snowmobile culture.
Situated inland from Lake Superior, Wawa has been in the sled game since the first Bombardier was a sketch on a shop towel. The winds blow off the lake and Wawa gets dumped on. Recently, a little secret has slipped out that Wawa is a Boondocker's paradise. Yes – the locals are so kind that they even share their very own backcountry.
An eight-hour drive from Green Bay, Detroit, or Duluth, Wawa is home to 3,000 residents (including a healthy dose of local outdoor enthusiasts) who will direct you to the freshest pow. Simply roll into town and ask for Russ or Gord. Trust us. Park your trailer and your gear at one of the many accommodators who pride their businesses on their ability to accommodate snowmobilers.
Be sure to get a picture with the town’s most famous resident: the Wawa Goose. Located right on the main entrance to town, no trip is complete without a photo with this iconic statue.
Make Sure to Get: A photo with the Wawa Goose
Make Sure to Eat: A pickle from the salt brined Pickle Barrel at Young’s General Store
Only 500 miles from Duluth, or 680 miles from Detroit, Hearst, Ontario boasts iconic Canadian wilderness and over 621 miles of networked snowmobile trails. This railway town has a heavy French influence, as indicated by the town's name, pronounced "Erst."
Sledders in Hearst can ride along the downtown streets and park their machines right outside their motel door. We all know it’s not cool to drink and ride, so there are complimentary shuttles between dining establishments such as Villa Inn & Suites and Pizza Place Bar & Grill. Like we said, this town has it figured out.
Just less than an hour north of Wawa, Dubreuilville made its small-town roots in the lumber industry, and these logging roads make for dream-like winter trails. Both the groomed trails and riding season are long (often lasting into April) and the snow base is deep. Dubreuilville is home to "The Groomer Guy" Luc Lévesque (aka the YouTube sensation) who is the grooming godfather. He’ll let you know about the conditions, routes, sites to see, and tell you what are the best meat snacks to pack for a long ride (he runs the variety store too).
In addition to insider information you can only get from a small town, how about staying at one of the coolest Motorsport friendly motels on the planet? Magpie Relay has places to dry your gear, newly renovated rooms, a man cave and even a sled cave. The sled cave is a heated indoor storage for your sled... yes, there is a god.
Only a 3.5-hour drive from Sault Ste. Marie or Michighan, so Dubreuilville sees many U.S. riders enjoy the 30-feet wide groomed trails which span over 500 miles. There is even 24-hour gas availability at Sawmill Gas Station.
Make Sure to Get: A Selfie with the Groomer Guy
Make Sure to Eat: Poutine Tequila Surprise at LOL Resto Bar
Elliot Lake has long been famous as one of the early adopters of ATV trails, and before the ATVs came the sleds. Locals are cool with anyone who rolls into town with a motor between their legs. Located near the north shore of Lake Huron between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury, Elliot Lake is a destination town for riders. Some incredible lodges and hotels make it worth the ride and the overnight.
Elliot Lake is part of Algoma’s North Shore Snowmobile Loop and surrounded by a gazillion acres of crown land. It's conveniently located near five other major trail arteries, all super accessible, and there are two major staging areas at the Club House and TV Tower Hill... like we said, they get sled heads.
The Snowbirds Snowmobile Club, in partnership with the town, work together to maintain over 185 miles of trails from Elliot Lake to Spanish, Spragge, Blind River, Iron Bridge, and Aubrey Falls. These trails connect to the entire Ontario system, and even to the U.S. via the Ice Bridge at St. Joseph Island.
Directly East of Wawa, along the tracks is "Hawk," a one-business town. Hawk holds a special place in a lot of sledders' throttle thumbs as the place where they got off the Snow Train from Sault Ste. Marie. It’s where they rode their sleds off the rail car into remote Canadian Wilderness. The Sled Train does not come anymore, but the sleds still do, and for a good reason: the Big Bear Restaurant.
Order the famous "Teddy Burger" or the even more monstrous "Big Bear Burger." After eating, you’ll want to rip straight back to your motel in Wawa to lay down for a long winter's nap. The Big Bear has been fueling the local snowmobile club, Wawa Snow Riders, for decades and has been a source of fuel – not diesel for the groomer, but nutrients for the groomer drivers. Everyone knows that if you see a groomer out front, it’s got to be a great place to eat.
Make Sure to Get: A pic with all your sleds in front of the Big Bear Restaurant
Make Sure to Eat: The Teddy Burger or Big Bear Burger
Experiencing a community who understands why certain people have snowmobiling in their DNA is just plain cool. Providing riders with easy access, trail side accommodations, ridiculously delicious food and drink, and conversation that usually starts with "What kind of sled are you ridin'?" are the places that sledding dreams are made of.
Start planning your Sled Algoma trip today. These Algoma towns may be small, but they have a huge heart for snowmobilers.