Despite the fact that many of us dred the idea of cold weather and everything that comes with it, we eventually warm up to the coldest time of the year and everything it has to offer. Sault Ste. Marie is blessed to have many winter activities that everyone can enjoy.
No matter who you are and what your skill level is, you don’t have to travel too far to experience the great outdoors and breathe in the clean, cold, and crisp air. Snow is a welcome sight for skiers and snowshoers alike, but if you’re someone who wants to experience the season on ice, be it with your family, as a couple, or even solo, then look no further than #TheSoo, because it has you covered! Book a trip south? Don’t bother. Stay local, because here are five incredible ways you will enjoy the city, on ice! Because after all, there is no “off-season” in #TheSoo.
Talk about a rewarding and awe-inspiring winter activity that’s loaded with adrenaline! Getting the most of your ice climbing experience, enjoying it with friends and family all while ensuring the highest level of safety, is essential. Superior Exploration, Adventure and Climbing Company ensures all three and much more. Located in Batchawana Bay, about 35 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie, Superior Exploration is hands down the most reputable ice climbing organization in the region.
Here, you’ll meet Shaun Parent, who since 1981, has been the prominent pioneer, authoring and co-authoring more than a dozen rock and ice climbing guidebooks. He not only has over 1,400 first ascents in the Lake Superior region, but he’s also a teacher, guiding more than 3,000 students over the years. His ice climbing lessons range from beginner through advanced instruction and guiding, so not only are you in good hands from start to finish, but no matter your skill level, there’s a climb for everyone. Technical gear is supplied, all you have to do is dress warmly.
Ice Skating Trail
What’s a spectacular winter season without a skate trail or two? In the Soo, it was only a matter of time that a pilot project to build one in the city turned into a reality. Clergue Park and John Rowswell Park, both located along the waterfront, not only make for scenic views of both St. Marys River and the city skyline, but because they’re located in the heart of the city itself, skating here becomes accessible for everyone of all ages!
Meanwhile, there are other outdoor rinks to take advantage of in the city, free of charge. Along with Merrifield Rink on Henrietta Street and Anna McCrea Rink on Mark Street, enthusiasts can also enjoy the Phil Esposito Rink along Queen Street West, renamed after the legendary pro hockey player and native son of Sault Ste. Marie. Want to add some speed to your skate date? Visit the Art Jennings Oval, another local favourite, named after the the man who founded the Soo speed skating club.
Prefer to watch ice skaters, instead? Sault Ste. Marie’s hockey history is storied and rich. Not only is the GFL Memorial Gardens a multi-sporting complex and entertainment venue, but it’s also home to the beloved Soo Greyhounds of the OHL and Sault Ste. Marie Hall of Fame. Stroll through the arena and you’ll certainly recognize the immortal names of a few greats whose journey took them through the Soo, including the aforementioned Phil Esposito, as well as Ron Francis and Paul Coffey.
Oh, and not to mention Wayne Gretzky, who joined the Greyhounds in 1977 as a 16-year-old, tallied 182 points that season. As the story goes, he wanted to wear the #9 jersey for his idol Gordie Howe, but that number was already taken. He played with #14 for a few games before coach Muzz McPherson suggested he try wearing #99 because, well, two nines were better than one. It stuck. Gretzky, of course, went on to become The Great One, and his #99 Greyhounds jersey was retired by the team in 1994.
If you ask anyone who’s attempted curling, they’ll tell you it’s not as easy as the pros make it look. But, that’s where the fun lies, because it’s not only a great way to sneak in mental and physical fitness, it’s also loads of fun for everyone. And what better place to enjoy the “roaring game” than in the city where Olympic curling champions are born?
During the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Brad Jacobs, Ryan Fry, E.J and Ryan Harnden defeated Great Britain in the final, winning gold and not only making a country proud, but making #TheSoo shine brightly on the national scene. They were inducted into the Sault Ste. Marie Hall of Fame and awarded a star on The Soo’s Walk of Fame. Curling not only runs deep in this town, but it’s a sport anyone can play, no matter how young or old you happen to be. Learn to curl with Brad Jabobs!
Anglers in these parts would probably call Sault Ste. Marie is an ice fishing paradise. And they would be correct! There’s no shortage of spots around the Algoma Region to venture out, drill a hole, hook a cold water trout, northern pike, or walleye, and admire your fresh surroundings. And these days, this winter activity is even more accessible for everyone, thanks to versatile ice fishing and hotel packages that make for a perfect weekend getaway. Visitors can ice fish with the pros, including Adam Vallee, owner of Angling Algoma, who’s not only a seasoned angler with roots in the Soo region, but also specializes in big bass trips.
Meanwhile, Tyler Dunn of Tyler Dunn Guiding is another accomplished guide whose knowledge of the region and ideal fishing spots is so well respected, he’s often featured in several magazines, including Ontario Out of Doors, and TV shows such as The New Fly Fisher. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, the experience you get with ice fishing and in turn, the connection to nature, the serenity of outdoors, and the camaraderie between ice fishing enthusiasts are truly unique and special. Heads up: an Ontario Fishing licence is required no matter the season, and it’s your responsibility to obtain one.
Sure, you can book that trip south. But, winter on ice in Sault Ste. Marie is a terrible thing to waste!