When Algoma Country is frosted with a thick mantle of white snow a whole new selection of outdoor activities is presented on a cold, crisp pallet. Taking advantage of all winter has to offer may be more challenging than basking in the opportunities of summer, but like any challenge, it demands that we are mentally prepared and properly equipped before we can fully appreciate the mercurial beauty of the driven snow and all its potential.
For some, winter can be a long and drawn-out season but once we open our hearts and minds to the frosted landscape, we discover that snow and ice are the foundation for a wide range of outdoor recreation. Start experiencing only some of what winter has to offer and we might begin to discover that winter just isn’t long enough. Here are just a few winter activities that can easily consume the entire season.
If we angle in summer, trying to catch fish through the ice is a given. Most popular game fish bite well in winter including brook trout, lake trout, splake, pike, walleye, perch and whitefish. Getting equipped is pretty simple. A sharp six-inch hand auger is remarkably efficient for cutting through thick ice. A spool of line and a hook and sinker to dangle a minnow just off the bottom catches almost any species swimming. There’s plenty of room to expand technique and toys from there. Ice fishing gear has come a long way with quality fish finders, winter-specific rods and reels, as well as heaters and portable shelters to keep us warm and comfortable.
Catch and release is always a good idea but there’s nothing wrong with a meal of fresh fish in the middle of winter. Whether out in the open air or in the heated comfort of a seasonal ice shack, the lure of angling the hard water is a slippery slope that can see us wishing for a few more weeks of good ice.
This is another sport that has come a long way in recent years. Advancements in snowshoe design and construction – synthetic webbing, metal frame and reliable crampon-equipped binding – have made snowshoeing more user-friendly than the wood and leather combinations of the past. The growing popularity means there is no shortage of trail systems throughout Algoma that become the realm of the snowshoer in winter.
With a foundation of snow to take us virtually anywhere through the forest in its winter disguise, we don’t even need established trails provided we have the navigational skills to get us home safely. Not only is snowshoeing great exercise, but physical exertion also helps to keep us warm. In fact, many tend to overdress.
With world-class cross-country ski trails groomed for skate or classic skiing, Algoma Country offers a warm embrace to serious trail skiers. Like snowshoeing it’s easy to stay warm on skis, we simply need to dress according to our level of exertion; whether high speed skating over an undulating landscape or a slow-paced classic ski through snow-clad forest. Skiers also have the option to travel the backcountry, where a thick base of snow leads adventurous skiers wherever they want to go.
The beauty of the outdoors is that light and weather conditions are always changing and scenes are never presented the same way twice. This offers a real opportunity for photographers to capture unique images. The mercurial nature of the outdoors is enhanced in winter when snow is sculpted by winds to adorn the landscape in shapes and textures that range from plain to extraordinary. Seepage from vertical rock edges becomes monumental ice formations.
The open waters of Lake Superior crash against shorelines where rocks and trees become encased in a glaze of ice. Long tendrils of icicles drip from the yawning mouths of ice caves to add to the long list of photo-worthy scenes presented by the shape-shifting elements of winter. Staying warm, dry and comfortable is probably the greatest challenge of winter but once we figure out how to dress for the occasion – and start experiencing where a foundation of snow and ice can take us – we might start wishing winter was just a few months longer.