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Conquering the Canyon: Our Journey to Cochrane, Ontario

Virgil Knapp
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Conquering the Canyon: Our Journey to Cochrane, Ontario

CONTEST WINNERS!!! This winter, we offered you a chance to win a legendary snowmobile trip for two. We received a truckload of entries, and now, we proudly present... our lucky winners! Read on below...

Hearing the answer to a question that you already know the answer to can be just as deflating as being surprised by it. Last year, we called the Toronto Police Service and asked if we could take our snowmobiles out on the city streets. At the time, they were at a standstill—the city had stopped almost completely due to a snowstorm. Also, we had just seen someone do it—ride their sled right up a main street! As it turns out, you can’t do that. For a few minutes there though, the hope was high.

Virgil Knapp


So, we kept our machines in the backyard and waited for the weekend to ride the OFSC trails. My fiancé Adam and I love making a weekend of it, getting away from the city and exploring new communities. We try to hit up local bars and restaurants to support the little guys. In the last three years, I’ve travelled throughout Ontario more than I have throughout the last two decades living in the province. Our trip to Cochrane last March was by far the most adventurous. In search of snow, we headed about eight hours north of Toronto. The Polar Bear Riders Snowmobile Club posted on Facebook that there was more than a metre of snow… so we went and the snow was outstanding! We stayed at the Best Western, which was really close to the trails and we rode for four days.

Next we decided to go on our longest trip yet—the Abitibi Canyon loop. It’s about 300 km, and you have to get gas at the top to get back around. We started off in great spirits, but then one of our sleds started to overheat. We had to abort the trip and return to the hotel. The next day we fixed the sled but didn’t want to chance it again—so we started towards Smooth Rock Falls. Something magical happened on that trip—I made the journey from girlfriend to fiancé. Adam proposed on the banks of the Frederick House River. Talk about knowing the answer to a question—we’d been “dating” for eight years!image001

(Surprisingly for a couple who likes speed, we sure took that slow. I suspect the wedding will be the same, since we haven’t booked a date yet.)

If you haven’t ridden in Northeastern Ontario, I recommend that you put it on your bucket list. As a city girl, it’s the best way to clear your head. When you’re riding the wide trails, you zone out. You don’t think about work, or anything else—just when the next corner is coming, or the next hill. It’s beyond freeing.

This March, we had the chance to conquer the Canyon. We won a contest from Northeastern Ontario Tourism, and got to go check out the dam! This time, we had some of the best guides around—pros who have been riding for years. They took great care of us as we battled -20 C degrees and made the trip to the top. The dam is a marvel. I was expecting it to be big, but was still surprised by the sheer vastness of it.

The trip up the A103 trail from Smooth Rock Falls—through the hydro corridor—was easy breezy! There's tons of space and the land is pretty flat. On the east side of the trail, there are more trees and the landscape is more picturesque. It took all day to make it around, and I recommend if you go (which you should) that you start from the west side too—that way you’re more protected in the trees on the east side of the A103, as you’re finishing your run for the day and the temperature starts to drop.

Now as for the canyon, and the hills, you’ll want to explore. I stayed out of this part. I’m still new to the sport and I didn’t want to try my luck. Adam and one of our guides, Jeff McGirr, went to the first few hills, and Adam came back to the rest area with the biggest smile on his face. He has bested the beast!

Virgil Knapp

When we returned home to Toronto, I asked Adam if he wanted to go back to Cochrane again—I bet you can guess the answer to that one!

See ya on the trails next year!

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