When motorcyclist and host of All Girls Garage, Cristy Lee, got the opportunity to go snowmobiling in Sault Ste. Marie, she didn’t hesitate. “I live in Michigan which is only a couple hours away,” she says. “I’m also a motorsports enthusiast.” She figured the switch from bike to sled would be a fun one. And while she didn’t have any experience with snowmobiling, she was excited to give it a shot. Luckily, for this all-around athlete, it was a pretty easy transition.
Just like riding a dirt bike (with a bit more snow)
A few minutes after crossing the border into Canada, Lee and her crew rolled up to The Fairfield Inn and Suites just off Great Northern Road. “I was blown away by how many trails were in close proximity to where we stayed,” she said.
Riders can park and ride directly from the hotel, which makes it a great home base for both sledding and enjoying the town. “Convenience is definitely the biggest thing for me,” says Lee. “Anywhere you wanted to go to was a few minutes away.”
The area averages 126.3 inches of snow per year, and the weather didn’t disappoint. “The sky just opened up, there’s nothing more you could ask for, just twenty inches of fresh powder,” says Lee of the night before the big ride. When the next day dawned clear, warm, and sunny, it seemed too good to be true. “You couldn’t have asked for a better day—it was perfect,” she says.”
After a quick review of the machine and a light ride to get acclimated (“to see if I could hang,” says Lee) she’d passed the test and was ready to ride for real. “Snowmobiling was reminiscent of dirt biking,” Lee says. “Except with snow and a sled instead of a bike.” The Sault Trailblazer's Searchmont Loop makes for an exhilarating day trip from the city and Lee and her crew made the most of it. One of the things Lee loved was the variety of trails and scenery—the loop offers switchbacks, elevation changes, clifftop views, and straightaways where riders can kick it up a notch. “It was absolutely beautiful,” she says. “I had an absolute blast on the machine and everyone in the group was so nice.”
What makes the “Soo,” as it’s known locally, such a great snowmobile destination isn’t just its easy access to Canada’s great outdoors, however. As Lee discovered, it’s a great base for exploring this vibrant northern city, known for its arts and culture, it’s famous lock system, and its strange origin story.
Gateway to Northern Ontario: vibrant Sault Ste. Marie
Northern Ontario’s third-largest city, Sault Ste. Marie was split into two after the war of 1812. Visitors must now pass through the U.S. Soo on the northern tip of Michigan before crossing the International Bridge into the Canadian Soo. “It’s the passthrough to go anywhere north from there,” says Lee of the city. “It’s a great destination, but it's a great stopover as well.”
After her ride, one of the first things Lee checked out was the local food scene. “Someone told me was the Italian fare was pretty popular which was great news for me as I’m part Italian,” she says. A must-see for any visitor is city hotspot Machine Shop, a waterfront arts and events venue inside a repurposed historic paper mill. In addition to event space, the mill is home to a number of diverse restaurants including a steakhouse, coffee shop, and pizza joint Boiler Room, where visitors will find live music and local beer on tap. “It’s a one-stop-shop kind of place after a day on the trail,” she says.
They also checked out Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre and its insect exhibit Entomica. “It’s one of the only places in North America where you can go in and handle the insects,” she says. “That was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me, to go and learn about these unique rare and insects and also handle them.” If creepy crawlers aren’t your thing, there’s lots more to see and do in the Soo.
Snowmobiling the Soo: outdoor adventure and urban entertainment
Access to trails, nightlife, and located just a few minutes from the U.S. border, Sault Ste. Marie is the perfect destination for any Michigander looking for an international outdoor adventure with all the convenience of domestic travel. “Being that I’m from Michigan, I’m within close proximity to the Soo, the border to Canada,” Lee says. “It’s convenient,” she says. “And the trails are awesome.”