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.
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