The long Canadian winters are a sore spot for most…but for me, it's my favourite natural playground and the inspiration behind a unique winter activity I have introduced to the Kenora region—ice bike rentals!
As a new transplant to the region mid-COVID, I was slowly adapting to the City of Kenora and looking for family-friendly and affordable experiences. Being a newbie to Northwest Ontario and the Canadian Shield environment, I didn't have the resources or knowledge of a local.
I began looking into outdoor survival and safety tips, ideas for entertaining my family year-round, and how to get around and explore the lake on both water and snow.
Options felt scarce during our first winter but a family trip on the Lake of the Woods ice roads would change everything.
Ice Roads for Newbies
It is a mind-bender your first time and probably every time you experience a trek on the ice roads.
(I have my days growing up watching Ice Road Truckers to thank for my fear of falling through the ice.) So I approach each visit like air travel. I acknowledge the risks and do my best to prepare and ensure I take the best safety precautions.
In return, I'm rewarded with a spectacular experience.
Lots of Action on the Lake Ice
In the middle of the deep freeze months, there is a buzz on Lake of the Woods I have never experienced. Every mode of transportation goes. You will see all sorts of vehicles, dog walkers, hikers, snow machiners (Ski-Dooers), cross-country skiers, fat bikers, ATVers, snowshoers, and on a special day you may even catch a dog sledder!
Nothing beats those snow-covered pines, endless views of frosty cabins and islands, and tiny fishing huts sprinkled everywhere. My favourite discovery was Kenora’s seasonal pop-up Hard Water Cafe. Owners Claudette, Keith and their daughter Chayla whip up delicious homemade baked goods, serve hot beverages, savory options like hot dogs and meatball sub cups, and even treats for your pup friends too! You can nestle by their outdoor fire pit while chatting with friends and watching your kiddos scale the mountains of plowed snow.
It was my first visit to the cafe where I started dreaming and scheming up ways to produce a welcoming outdoor environment like theirs.
The Journey to Ice Bike Rentals
It wasn’t until a trip to Banff, Alberta when my husband and I rented a couple of e-bikes in the mountains that I fell in love with the ease of biking while discovering new places.
When I was deep in research mode, I wanted to address the immediate needs of the community. This included limiting typical barriers to recreational options such as time, cost, and experience for visitors and locals. I kept going back to my experience on the ice roads and wondered how I could entice more folks to be a part of that experience, too.
That’s where the ice bike rental model was born!
Ice biking offers a unique and user-friendly leisure option that won't break the bank, that promotes healthy activity for all ages and most abilities, and has minimal impact on the environment.
I connected with a Canadian supplier, wrote a business plan, and applied for startup grants to help cover a portion of my initial equipment costs. In January 2023, I officially launched my woman-owned eco-tourism business Mosswood Adventures and Rentals!
I purchased a fleet of eight ice bikes, including three different model types, and an enclosed trailer so that I could travel to various ice rinks and lakes across the region. My main weekend pop-up location brings me right back to my ice road roots next to the Hard Water Cafe.
Great opening weekend:
Our Growing Ice Road Hub
There was no denying that the Kenora region had the infrastructure, tourism, and small business support for the development of phase one of my eco-tourism business. There was certainly enough lake and rink ice for my ice bikes to skate around and pretty soon I would find a big appetite for the new rentals I was offering.
What I truly appreciated throughout the launch process was the support I received in starting the “Ice Road Hub” on Lake of the Woods. We have the seasonal cafe paired with a pop-up ice bike rental service and to complete our trifecta the installation of an upcycled retro fridge turned into a Kenora Little Library aptly named “Ice Road Reads”.
We hope to continue to grow our offerings in future years, including adding a washroom facility and more ice-related options.
Ice Road Safety and Etiquette
If you are up for a venture to the ice roads, please remember to leave everything as it was before you arrived there. Just like you would on a camping or hiking trip, it is important to leave no trace behind. Soon those waters will melt and whatever garbage or items you leave will eventually end up in the lake.
It is also recommended that you don’t park on the main ice road, especially if there is snow build up so that the plowers can effectively clear the road for others. Wherever you park be mindful of how close you park beside other vehicles. Unlike a traditional parking lot, you want to stay well-spaced from others as the weight of multiple vehicles could result in the ice breaking.
Throughout the season we are frequently checking the ice road and weather conditions while assessing the safety of our locations. All riders are required to sign a waiver and wear a helmet while riding an ice bike as well. Customers are welcome to bring their own bike or snow helmets or use one of ours which is included in the rental cost!
How to Book Your Ice Bike Adventure
We offer rentals for half-hour and full-hour time slots ranging from $20-$50 depending on the ice bike model. We can also accommodate community, corporate, and private bookings! Peddlers for ice bike models start as early as age 6 and passengers can join as early as 18 months old.
The online booking calendar, details of each ice bike model, a robust FAQ listing, and general information about our business can be found on our website www.mosswood.ca.
I hope that you will be able to join me on the ice during the winter season, make new memories with family and friends, and be reminded how wild and beautiful Sunset Country truly is!