In December, my partner and I booked a getaway to spend a few days in Tiny Township. We were really looking forward to getting back on our skate skis. After the lockdown was announced, our plans were blown to smithereens, but what can one day do?? We thought of Plan B, which involved a day trip to Kawartha Nordic. Perfect! we said to ourselves. We booked a car and counted the days to our trip. As the day approached, we thought… hmmmm… a two-hour drive each way… that’s maybe not so bad on the way there, but driving back that long when we are tired…? Nah…
We thought: we miss the Trakkers bus and taking a nap on the way home after a full day of skiing!
So we decided to go… skating! Local, free, and fun!
My only problem was that my skates had not touched ice for over 13 years. I regarded them with suspicion. Then I thought that this was a perfect opportunity to practice skating and, maybe, just maybe, learn a proper technique that could even help me with my balance on skate skis. I was nervous but also curious and excited. Learning to properly balance on ice skates is important, just like proper balance is key to skate skiing. The skate skiing stride is very similar to ice skating. In ice skating, however, you will gain more momentum faster with less effort. While most ice skating techniques might not be transferable to skate skiing, I remain convinced that learning how to balance well on your skates can be very beneficial to keeping balance on your skate skis.
Here is a short video that might help if you are making your first steps on ice skates:
Get out and skate!
On the City of Toronto’s website we learned that we first had to get our family number for our household and separate client numbers for me and my partner. You can find out how to do this by accessing this link:
Once you have your family and client numbers, you can register for skating for any of the 54 locations across the city by either calling or going online. It is actually quite simple, BUT the capacity is 25, and many rinks fill up quickly. Registration opens one week in advance at 8 a.m. and allows for 20 spots, leaving five spots for walk-ins. If you want to secure a spot, it is best to get online or call shortly after 8 a.m. (You can also keep on checking the website if the spots became available in the meantime, because it does happen). If your plans change, you can always cancel. If you are unable to snatch a spot in advance, you can always try a walk-in, as often many people do not show up. I have not been turned away yet! (especially on a weekday).
The interactive map is very easy to use. You can just click on the location that interests you, and a dialog box pops up where you can click further to access the registration platform. It takes less than 5 minutes.
My first couple of times on the skates were like a “Bambi on ice” experience, but I am getting better. Skate time is about 45 minutes, which is more than enough for me. I particularly like the first skate window at 10 a.m. after the Zamboni goes over the ice and leaves the surface (generally) as smooth as glass. It is a new found winter activity for me, and I really like it. We are still hoping for a ski trip soon, but in the meantime, we keep on skating! So if you are unable to ski, try skating instead!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.