By Brendan Haley
With no bus this year, some of you might be looking to make your own way up to the trails. But, one of the benefits of the bus is that you really did not have to know where we were going. Trakkers took care of it. So, maybe you are wondering how you can get to those trails by yourself? If so, here is a guide.
First, this is what you should expect regarding COVID-19 protocols and making sure everyone is safe. If you drive your own car, it is possible to do a ski trip with no indoor and extended interaction with anyone.
As I write at the end of December, the entire province is in lock-down. Downhill skill hills are closed, but cross-country trails are open. The rules can change, so you will need to check in often.
You should prepare to be outdoors the entire time. The chalets are closed. I recommend bringing warm clothes for before and after skiing. Some chalets are open for washrooms only, while other places have outside trailers for washrooms.
Second, check if the location is open and if there are restrictions on who can purchase a trail pass. Many resorts are giving preference to season pass holders, and might make access exclusive to season pass holders.
It should be possible to purchase a trail pass from an outside window with a glass barrier. Some places also have an electronic kiosk. Masks should be worn and 2 metres distance maintained in areas where people are purchasing tickets or taking on/off skis.
All places must do active screening and contact tracing the day you plan on skiing. Most will have an app or a website, where you must answer questions and sign that you have experienced no symptoms, have not travelled, and have not been in contact with anyone with COVID-19. Your contact information is tracked so you can be contacted in case a positive COVID case was at the trail when you were there. Look at the website of the trail you want to go to before you leave, but on the same day. You will need to either fill out a form at home (when you have good cell service), or expect to fill one out at the trail. Some places have a QR code you can scan that will take you to a website. So bring your phone.
Most places I have looked at are not doing ski rentals, given that fitting requires close interactions. It might be possible to rent fat bikes or snowshoes.
This gives you a rundown of what seems to be the norm and what you should expect.
Again, check the websites before you go. There are links below.
Here are some ski trails Trakkers frequently visits, roughly categorized by geography.
These places are more likely to have snow earlier and later in the season because they are a bit farther north and/or on the Niagara escarpment.
Located on the top of the escarpment and close to Georgian Bay. The 24 km trail network offers skiing for beginners to experts. The trails are groomed and track-set daily for both classic and skating techniques. There are 7.5 km of snowshoe trails.
For conditions and protocols go to https://highlandsnordic.ca/conditions/
As of Dec 26th, 2020 Scenic Caves has suspended access to the general public to assist in reducing the spread of COVID-19. It is open to season pass holders only.
There are 34 km of classic trails and 13.5 km of skating trails plus, for snowshoers, 10 km of wilderness trails following a loop through beautiful Canadian Shield terrain.
You might have gone here with Trakkers for an early departure. At this time, the trails are open to members only.
Near Parry Sound, with more than 30 km of trails winding through lush forest, Georgian Nordic offers great cross country skiing for the novice through to the expert. Georgian Nordic offers performance (combined classic and skate), back country and single track trails and snowshoe trails. https://gnoac.com/
Hardwood Ski and Bike
A popular location, Hardwood has classic and skate ski trails with 8 different loops ranging from 3.5 to 22 km, plus 12 km of snowshoeing trails, rolling trails through hardwood and pine forests.
There is a live webcam to see snow conditions here https://www.hardwoodskiandbike.ca/home-page-winter/trails/trail-conditions/
Located at the edge of the Copeland Forest and at the junction of 2 snow belts, there are 40 km of groomed and track set trails through scenic rolling woodland. The trails are suited to all abilities, including 9 km of trails for snowshoeing.
Huntsville / Kawartha
These are two places that would likely be early departures because they are a bit farther afield.
Arrowhead Provincial Park
Located just north of Huntsville, Ontario, on the beautiful Canadian Shield, there are a total of 33 km of groomed ski trails (22 classic and 11 skate).
The large visitors’ centre is closed, but washrooms facilities available.
Kawartha Nordic Trails
Located 40 km north of Peterborough. there are 34 km of classic trails and 13.5 km of skating trails plus, for snowshoers, 10 km of wilderness trails following a loop through beautiful Canadian Shield terrain. https://kawarthanordic.ca/grooming
Want to try some new places?
There are places Trakkers typically does not go because of difficult logistics with bus parking and large groups. This might be the year to explore some other places. Here are a few suggestions, and more will be coming soon.
Ganaraska Forest Centre
40 m trails for snowshoeing & classic ski. No skate ski. The trails are not yet groomed as of the end of December.
For information, see https://www.grca.on.ca/
Haliburton Highlands Nordic Trail & Ski Club Association
This is not one place (which is why Trakkers does not go on bus) but three different places. Glebe Park is 13 km of challenging and technical trails; Moosewood is 12.5 km of gentle, rolling hills; and Twin Lakes offers 7 km of skate and classic (where you can take your dog).
Wasaga Beach Provincial Park
The park has 30 km of groomed trails, including 12 km of skating trails and backcountry snowshoe trails. https://www.ontarioparks.com/skireport/detail/wasagabeach
Bracebridge Resource Management Centre
Located on Highway 11, north of High Falls Road, there are 16.5kms of groomed trails for classic cross country skiing (however reports say trails yet to be groomed as of last week of December). There is no fee.
The following website also provides skiing info in the Muskoka area https://www.discovermuskoka.ca/things-to-do/cross-country-skiing/
There are more ski trails across the province. A good resource to find them is https://ontarioskitrails.com/snow-conditions/
Next year we hope to be back on the bus and you won’t have to think about where we are going anymore. But if you are aiming to get some skiing in this year, hopefully these descriptions and links will help you out.