Snowshoeing

Get Ready to Nordic Ski & Snowshoe

As the winds blow colder and the snow arrives, thoughts of strapping on your cross-country skis, skate skis or snowshoes come to mind. Eventually, the snow base will be enough to wander out and indulge in a favourite pastime.

The gap between each winter season is about eight to nine months here in Ontario. Most sports do not have so long to wait ’til conditions again become favourable. For these snow sports, the season is a mere three to four months in the south (if we are lucky!) and Northern Ontario might get a month more of good conditions. So be ready!

Here is a quick read on what you should be thinking as we all get psyched for our first venture out onto the trails of a frozen winter wonderland. Are you primed and good to go without any foreseeable mishap?

red snowshoes

Gear Checklist:

 

Boots – Did your boots perform the way you wanted last year? Perhaps they were too tight or too loose? Did the laces forever need tightening? Maybe it’s time to replace them with more a modern bindings system and better ankle support.

Do your boots have seams that are starting to come apart? Before they do, use some contact cement to keep them together. Would thermal foot pad inserts in your boots help keep your feet warmer?

Bindings –  These simple yet crucial devices keep your boot securely in place and pivoting freely, so check yours for cracks and loose screws. Skiing back on one ski is no fun (it’s happened to me).

Nordic Skis – Check for cracks, chips and scarring on the bases. These imperfections can usually be ignored if they’re just cosmetic, but rock scratches on your ski bases do add friction, so if you’re a speed demon, then tend to them or take them to a pro shop to be fixed. Give your skis some love.

You might be using hand-me-downs or used cross-country skis. That’s OK, but if you want to go faster, you may wish for a more custom fit. Perhaps you are considering skate skiing.

Getting Nordic skis that actually match your height, weight and skiing style will improve your push and glide strokes. This gets you farther with less effort and more enjoyment. Isn’t that what we all want.

And keep your old ski as designated “rock skis” for those outings when there is barely enough white stuff to ski on but you just have to go.

waxing nordic skis
Wax on, wax off, wax on…

WAX –  The really important part is applying NEW WAX. Last year’s base wax has surely worn off and a new base of glide wax would be wise on ALL skis. If you ski on “waxless skis,” that includes you. (You don’t need grip wax but you still need glide wax.)

For the rest of us Nordic skiing purists, time again for that annual ritual, messy as it is. But well worth it to go faster and farther than the waxless crowd (subtle jab there).

Scrape off the old gummed-up grip wax. Then start putting it all back on before your first outing.  Do you need to get more wax for your favourite temperature ranges? 

[I am not going to tell you how to wax your skis – look it up. For some that is a science and a degree in physics…surface tension, capillarity behaviour…much could be said, lol]  

Snowshoes – Have your shoes been performing well last year? Do the straps need adjusting and are they still holding together? Are the boots you use in your snowshoes a good fit? Do they pivot properly, stay centred as you stomp through the snow?

Poles – You need poles to ski Nordic trails. It just cannot be done without them. Not so much for snowshoeing on even ground but good to have on steep or icy inclines.

A simple stick device with a grip on one end and a pointy part on the other. Are those ends in fine shape? Or do you need to adjust the grip strap (which loosens in time), or replace a missing metal tip or broken basket?

These long aluminum/fibreglass appendages have to endure a lot of stress, you occasionally falling on them. See any fractures, bending or breaks? It could be time to retire them before they fail.

Buying Gear – The used equipment market has served me well over the years with the odd find at a yard sale or on Kijiji, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. There is not always a lot of gear out there, so finding exactly what you need can be tricky.

Last year things got scarce and I expect the same this season. New equipment inventories are likely to be thin again, so get what you need now. Don’t wait. 

Suggested locations to shop online:

Quality Clothing with Fast Shipping

Patagonia – up to 40% OFF Sale on Winter Apparel

Salomon  – Outdoor Ski Clothes Layers

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) – Nordic Ski Jackets, Gloves, Hats, Socks

Sports Clothing –  Did your winter activewear perform well last year? Time to pull it out of storage and size it up. Are any of your garments wearing thin, unravelling, looking tired, or just not keeping you warm and dry?

Feeling comfortable – warm but not too warm – on the trail is your goal. Having ample movement without the bulk of thick layers gives you the freedom necessary to engage in this sport. I get into that whole topic of the science of ski clothing in this post from last year.

 

Transportation:

Your vehicle – Whatever gets you to the resort, ski club or woodlot to enjoy the trails needs to be reliable. Winter is not a time to wonder if your car, van or truck is going to give up on you. 

Be sure your vehicle is fit for the road and full of gas.  Check under the hood that fluid levels are topped up, especially the windshield wiper fluid. Nothing makes winter driving riskier than poor vision at night through a salt-encrusted windshield. 

In the last decade, I could finally afford snow tires on rims. If you can too, they definitely give you more traction in the winter.

Coach Bus – When I belonged to a ski club, riding the bus to the trails was a joy. Not having to drive home tired, in the dark and/or during a blizzard was so worth it. 

Check club bus schedules for changes before they surprise you. These days Covid may have caused cancellations. 

And may I add, consider staying overnight at a motel to make the outing less of a gauntlet. You can also trek an extra day before heading home during the daylight hours.

 

Food:

The last thing to mention is buying a box(es) of your favourite snack foods for the trail loops. Look over what arrangements you have with water bottles, day packs and waist pouches for your outings.

If all this still works for you, carry on. If you are running out of water, munchies or whatever, don’t go through another year of grief.

Get organized and update your setup so you can enjoy your time away.

So that’s a good start to getting in gear (pun) for the winter months. May it be an enjoyable, peaceful and invigorating outdoor experience.

 

Stay warm and safe – Dan Roitner

nordic ski for sale

Suggested locations to shop online:

Quality Clothing with Fast Shipping

Patagonia – up to 40% OFF Sale on Winter Apparel

Salomon  – Outdoor Ski Clothes Layers

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) – Nordic Ski Jackets, Gloves, Hats, Socks



December 27, 2021No comments, , , ,
Covid Winter Sports Status

January 15th, 2021 – As of this week, the Ontario Government has issued new stricter measures to reduce the chances of catching the coronavirus that lurks among us.

The government also recognizes that its citizens need to exercise for its physical and mental benefits as we hibernate this winter. This is good news but requires that we all still be prudent and cautious more than ever while still having some fun too.

It has been strongly advised to stay close to home and reduce your travel. Keep to yourself with no groups larger than five people. Wear a mask when close to others on the trail. Pack all that you need for the trip, head straight there and back home with limited stops for gas or errands. 

Can We Nordic Ski and Snowshoe in Ontario? How and Where?

Winter has come around again, and if the increase in outdoor activity last summer was any indication, everyone will be looking for a means to get out and play. God knows we need to escape our cabins and stretch our limbs, take in some fresh air.

Regrettably, the Covid pandemic is still with us as we start into 2021. We have learned, adapted and conformed to the ever-changing reality. Many of you are wondering what the status is in Ontario for winter recreational activities.

Let me give you an overview of what I have read today…with that, considering it will change again…perhaps soon for the better.   :^)

The first thing is to be aware of is that this pandemic is getting worse here (and everywhere in the world). Invisible and though not so apparent, be vigilant and keep yourself safe and isolated. By now you know the drill, so I need not repeat what has been reinforced many times.

And please if you are feeling unwell stay home!

What I wish to add, is to avoid breathing in what other skiers in front of you or passing you on the trail exhale. Keeping a bit of distance between skiers on the loops and a breeze should help that.

Nordic skiers at map board

Wondering which way to go this season.

As of this past Christmas weekend, the Ontario government had to close down a lot of services. One of them was downhill skiing. Unfortunate and odd as Ontario is the only place in North America with closed ski hills!?

As for Nordic skiing and Snowshoeing, the news is good. Most locations are open with limited services and access quotas. There will be some challenges and minor discomforts.

Typically all indoor areas we would have gone into for warmth, to change and eat/buy lunch are closed. Access to washrooms or an outhouse look to be available. You will have to use your vehicle as a home base. Not always the easiest way to change clothes and definitely lacking a wood-burning stove to dry out and relax at.

Trail fees if setup, are dealt with online on the official club/resort websites. Many may have reduced daily quotas for trail access, so book ahead. (I know with an outdoor sport like ours, it’s hard to know when this fickle weather will behave.)

If you plan to buy tickets online when you get there, this could be an issue, as some locations have poor phone data coverage. And you would think with fewer services, Ontario Parks and other resorts would reduce their fees, nope.



Another issue is gear. Few places are willing to rent skis, boots and poles or snowshoes this year. Some may rent a kit for the whole season to one person. If you are trying to buy new or used equipment, good luck, there is a shortage out there.

If you happen to have an old pair of cross country skis in the garage, now is the time to sell them on Kijiji. Let someone else enjoy this sport, mov’m out.

Everyone should check the websites of their favourite Nordic locations as to the current status before going. Don’t get frustrated (like I do) when they are not updated daily. Volunteers run the show and at times the info gets pretty stale, even at large establishments. With the cuts in staffing and the ever-changing status of this Covid bug and the promise of a vaccine, it’s so uncertain.

As you may be aware, stopping for dinner on the way home or staying over at a motel is going to be challenging and possibly risky. Plan to be self-reliant even more so. Pack extra clothes and food, fill the tank up and avoid outings on stormy/blizzard days.

Thankfully the fact that Nordic skiers do not need hills, enables us to strap on the planks and glide across any local parkland, woodlot, golf course, field or forest with ease. And you can tramp on Snowshoeing almost anywhere.

So consider venturing closer to home for your outdoor thrills (and spills). Joking aside, actually getting hurt, doing something crazy may send you to the hospital. You don’t want that.

With a bit of good fortune let’s hope the snow stays with us for the next few months. Usually, the white stuff piles up from late December right into April, more so the more north you head. Not so for the last five seasons, but having lived in Ontario for years I see this pattern changing every five years. So maybe it will revert back to a longer steady ski season this year. (Ah! but that global warming effect is a curse.)

Below are a few important links to help make plans and good decisions. There are also links at the bottom of the Snow Conditions page and on every review page too.

I certainly do not want to discourage you from going out. The benefits of even doing a short loop in your own neighbourhood will be evident once you return invigorated and refreshed.

 

Have a safe and happy winter 2021 sports season!

Think Snow – Dan Roitner

ski into the sun

Ontario Parks  – Covid updates

Ottawa NCC – Covid measures

Ontario Government – Covid Self-Assessment

 

You should be aware of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, including:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle aches
  • Tiredness
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • New loss of taste or smell

Practice Proper Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette:

  • Clean your hands often. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based (70-90%) hand sanitizer.
  • Arrive prepared with a mask or a face covering.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze into a tissue. Immediately throw the tissue in the garbage and wash your hands.
  • If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home if you are feeling unwell.
December 27, 2020No comments, , , ,
Where to Try Nordic Sports

Where to Nordic Ski & Snowshoe North of Toronto

 

If you ever thought of getting outdoors to enjoy Ontario winter sports, here are a few of the more popular locations north of Toronto that I have been to. Most of these locations offer both cross country skiing and snowshoeing. All locations on the list below have equipment rentals so you can easily try before you buy. The links take you to other pages on this site with more details, maps and photos.

Here is a quick summary to make your first experience a pleasant one and maybe take up the sport. 

Cross-country skiing will be somewhat harder than snowshoeing which almost anyone can take up.  One needs to figure out the turning and stopping techniques of skiing. If you have ever done downhill skiing, it is similar but you will have less control, so take it slow at first.

Dress in layers and avoid cottons, as wool and polyesters are better.  You don’t want to start sweating while you’re working out as this will chill you later. Don’t over dress; it’s OK to feel a little cool before your ski outing as you will warm up.

Bring water and a few granola bars for the trail. Pack a lunch for after, and dry clothes to change into before you head home.

Winter days are short, so one needs to leave by 10:00am to get there, change, ski/snowshoe and have time for a late lunch. Check the weather for temps between +5C & -15C, it is better if there was fresh snowfall during the week.

Remember there’s always more snow north of the city than what you see looking out your window in the neighborhood.

When you arrive, make sure you have enough time to do the easy loops.  Take a map and your phone with you on the trail. All resorts have good directions and markings, so getting lost is hard to do.

Let the fast skiers pass and only ski the hills within your means, there’s no shame in walking the steeper ones.

Though I always feel a bit lazy about driving out of town and it seems farther every year, it rewards me in many ways and I end up glad I did. The quiet experience of gliding through the forest in the crisp country air is a change from the city chaos.

The challenge of hills and turns keeps my interest. It’s a full body exercise that stretches muscles and gets some cardio in after a week of sitting at a desk.

I find it also a reflective time on the weekend to think about what I did
last week and what plans I have next week, or just nothing at all — inner peace aahh…

With that I hope you give snowshoeing or nordic skiing a try. A hot chocolate can await you back at the chalet when stories circulate of your adventures out in the woods.

 

 

These Resorts are Close to Toronto & Rent Equipment:

Albion Hills
Horseshoe
Hardwood
Mono Nordic

Highlands Nordic
Wasaga Beach
Scenic Caves

Mansfield
Dagmar Closed

Always check the weather and snow conditions. Some resorts may be closed due to lack of snow. Naturally the further north the better the odds that there is a good snow base.

Suggested locations to shop online:

Quality Clothing with Fast Shipping

Patagonia – up to 40% OFF Sale on Winter Apparel

Salomon  – Outdoor Ski Clothes Layers

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) – Nordic Ski Jackets, Gloves, Hats, Socks

I have included some links on this page to sites that I believe offer good quality apparel. I may get a small referral fee if you shop at these suppliers using my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

December 12, 20171 Comment,
What is Snowshoeing ?

Snowshoeing ? Is it for ME, Would I Like It ?

 

Snowshoeing has recently caught on as a new winter sport for a few good reasons. Many people have taken to it because almost everyone can do it.

It’s very easy to get the knack of walking on snow with duck feet and you can use poles as well.

The other main reason snowshoeing has had a resurgence is the complete redesign in equipment. The days of oversized wooden snowshoes held together by leather straps are gone.

Now shoes are built smaller, lighter with aluminum and plastics parts. They strap easily to any winter boot and underneath they now have metal teeth for traction on hills. (Good for walking on ice too!)

With this renewed interest, most Nordic resorts have a few trails you can stomp through and most resorts rent gear too.

Frankly, one can snowshoe almost anywhere you find a few inches of snow.

The size of the snowshoe length and width is based on your weight. How well you walk on the snow really depends on how packed the snow is. You will sink in new powder snow, which can be fun or frustrating depending on how fast and far you wish to go.

One can use poles for balance but on a well-packed trail you might opt not to, and even take your snowshoes off occasionally.

Snowshoeing costs less than other Nordic sports and can be an easier aerobic exercise. So dress in more layers to not get a chill.

The slower pace makes it a good social activity to get out with the family and even for those who are not too fit.

 

 

As a solo outing one can carry more in a backpack than skiing and stop for pictures. And the best advantage of snowshoes is they can take you to places too deep for skis to get that perfect photo.

There you have it! I need not go on and on as this sport is rather easy and basic in its form. In future articles I’ll get into the few techniques, gear, clothing choices and favourite trails.

Got “cabin fever”? Get out there and give it a try, and enjoy the serenity and beauty of Ontario forests.

Suggested locations to shop online:

Quality Clothing with Fast Shipping

Patagonia – up to 40% OFF Sale on Winter Apparel

Salomon  – Outdoor Ski Clothes Layers

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) – Nordic Ski Jackets, Gloves, Hats, Socks

I have included some links on this page to sites that I believe offer good quality apparel. I may get a small referral fee if you shop at these suppliers using my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

 

January 6, 2016No comments,