Winter Sports

Stay Warm Doing Winter Sports

How to Dress for Outdoor Winter Activities

I explain ways to be Comfortable outside Nordic Skiing or Snowshoeing

  • Retain Heat, Lose Moisture
  • Dress for the Occasion
  • Wear the Right Material
  • Three Layers
  • Shopping Tips
  • Final Tips

 

The old adage “dress for the weather” is so true. No matter what Mother Nature throws at us, blizzards, sleet, snow, chilly winds or a deep freeze , you can be active (within reason) and enjoy the outdoors in the winter, in comfort; just Dress for It!

Many parts of Ontario are covered in snow for a third of the year. Either you hide inside your cabin bored, restless or make something of it, and come out to play.

Remember all the times you suffered freezing outside; your poor fingers, toes, ears. How the day ended sooner than you had wished because you had to seek warmth inside.

Let’s improve on that scenario so you can stay out longer in comfort

Retain Heat, Lose the Moisture

Keeping our bodies comfortable in the winter requires retaining the heat we generate. The basic science is to keep the heat in and to transfer the moisture out. How little or how much depends on the barrier between you and nature’s elements.

It is the warm air trapped in the weaves and fluffy fleece material that forms a barrier between your skin and the outside temps. How effective these layers of material are will keep you comfortable longer. 

This encompasses the material, construction and insulating properties of your boots, socks, pants, underwear, fleece, jacket, hat and gloves. Seems like a lot to wear just to have some fun in the winter. 

By buying and using the right apparel you can be active outside without all the bulk. 

The next issue is the barrier to cold nasty winds trying to penetrate your garments, mixing with the warm insulated air and cooling you down sooner.  You want an outer shell that can block most of the wind pressure yet breathe when you sweat. 

Here is where it gets tricky and expensive to make garments that can do everything and do them well. 

I once skied in a jacket shell that was wind and water-resistant. It did a fine job when it rained but failed to let out enough moisture doing a high aerobic exercise as Nordic skiing can be. This jacket was better suited for leisurely hikes.

snowshoe couple

Dress for the Occasion

A mistake beginners make is to wear their street clothes on the trail and overdress. These garments may have kept you warm standing at a bus stop or sitting by a firepit but will soon overheat you when active. 

You should actually start your trek on the trail a little underdressed with the intent to get moving and warm-up. Aim to be in your comfort zone within 15 – 20 minutes. A few hill climbs will do it.

What should not happen is that you have to start peeling off layers. If so, this is telling you, you have overdressed… and now what are you going to do with that extra stuff?

This is why you see many seasoned Nordic skiers wearing thin tight spandex clothing. You might think they are chilled (crazy) but they are moving quickly and working hard, generating plenty of heat. And one of the most complete workouts when you get going, especially Skate skiing.

Personally, I feel more comfortable wearing a looser fleece and shell and baggy pants that are not so skin tight. I stop more often for photos or to wait for others to catch up (like my son). Here is where you can catch a chill if you stand around too long when it’s – 15C.

Wear the Right Material

The second mistake newbies do is wear jeans, sweat pants, cotton T-shirts, cotton socks, puffy parkas and big hats. This may be fashionable but will perform poorly. Best to change into this after your exercise.

One of the problems with these garments as mentioned is they wick moisture inefficiently away from your skin to the outdoors.  This gets your clothing damp and wet. Cotton garments will feel cold, stiff and heavy, a problem in the winter. 

Another problem is they are not sewn to fit as activewear and can rip and split.

Also if you fall into the snow these materials allow snow to cling. If you are not quick to brush it off they will melt and ice into your fabrics.

Better to choose to wear wool and polyester blends. These materials are light, perform well, retain heat and wick moisture. Wool actually still feels warm after it gets wet! A merino wool base layer is fine for low activity but choose polyesters for more vigorous outings.

Three Layers

Dressing in layers is key in regulating your body’s heat and moisture. 

  1. Base layer against your skin

  2. Mid-insulating layer of fleece, thicker the colder it is

  3. Outer windbreaker shell layer

Here is where good activewear can help regulate and keep you in a steady comfort zone for the whole day. This will require a few outings to test and use your combination of outerwear to find the sweet spot to regulate your activity level and heat output.

Most of my advice for skiers applies to Snowshoeing. A few other points to note. Snowshoeing may be for you a slower-paced trek which means you need to dress a little warmer than skiing. But if you are doing a lot of hills and your backpack is full it could be a major workout.

Once you get off the set path and do a little bushwacking in the deeper snow you are at risk of getting a boot load of snow. Either consider boot gaiters that cover the area where the boot end and the pants begin or snow pants that come down around below the boots.

Other entry points for snow; pockets, wrist and neckline areas should be tight to block snow from entering. If you trip and fall over into a metre of the fluffy white stuff you will understand the situation quickly. lol 

 

Shopping Tips:

Pockets – You can never have enough pockets. Look for deep pockets that zip closed. Velcro is OK but it only takes one time to have a spill and loose stuff in the snow to know that securing valuables in a zipped area will save you much grief. And at some point, you should use a backpack to carry things.

Vents – Look for jackets that have zippered vents under the armpits. Undershirts and fleece tops should have a zipper that comes down halfway from the neckline or opens completely.

Noisy clothes – Picture yourself out in the quiet solitude of a forest winter wonderland. As you move along the only sound is the swooshing sounds of your clothes rubbing. This could get annoying. Look for a softshell material for a jacket and pants.

Low-Stick Materials – If you are still prone to falling over or you fancy heading into deep snow wear materials that snow does not cling to. If caught in a snowstorm you will appreciate this.

Where to Shop – If you try to shop for garments specific to Nordic skiing or tailored to Snowshoeing, there is little out there on the racks. For the Nordic racing crowd, they need the edge but for the rest of us, we can look elsewhere to suit our needs.

Both Cycling and Running are very similar activities with a much large audience. Shop in those departments online or in the aisles of sports stores to find suitable ski and snowshoe activewear. Look in the fall through the winter into the spring, you will find cold weather apparel for cyclists and joggers.

 

red skier on track

Shopping List:

Hat – small thin hat, not too bulky

Gloves – you need a good grip on the palms to hold onto the poles. Finger gloves work on milder days, while mitts can keep the digits warmer when it gets colder. I also use thin inner gloves as I am always removing a mitt to shoot pictures.

Neck warmer – optional, great on a frosty day, pull it over your mouth and nose to warn your breath, and as a covid mask too.

Undershirt – a tight fight polyester long-sleeved shirt with a soft non-itch inside feel

Underpants –  polyester full-size briefs/panties with tight-fitting long underwear on top. Buy two types, thin leggings and a thicker fleece blend for those frosty days.

Pants – non-stick snow material, either tight or loose fit, some favour in front wind-breaking material which I think is a good idea and the back breathes more.

Fleece Top – buy two kinds, a thin and thick version depending on how cold it is.

Shell Jacket – full length or waist height, windproof with zippered arm vents (if you can find them). Plus a hood that rolls up under the collar is a blessing in a snowstorm.

Socks – use a wool blend 40% or greater,  wear one good pair, not two pairs in a boot which gives too much motion resulting in less ski control and perhaps blisters.

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

two snowshoeing

Final Tips:

  • Change Socks – I change into dry wool socks before putting on my ski boots. If you are out for a backcountry full day trek you might appreciate a change of socks midday.
  • Pack Extra – An undershirt and fleece top to change into for the way home or have a full set of clothes if able.
  • Warm Boots – Keep your ski boots warm in your car’s cabin not the trunk on the way up to the trailhead
  • Eat Well – Have a proper high carb meal in the morning before you go out and bring some type of energy bar foods for the trails to top up your gas tank.
  • External Heat – Glove warming packets and electric socks are an option if you are having problems with generating your own heat on the hands and feet extremities.

 

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.

There is an eco-friendly movement recently to recycle old fibres to make into new garments.  Patagonia is a leader in this cause and sensitive about its carbon footprint. I am delighted to be able to represent them.

Some items get expensive I know. Think of it as an investment in comfort and safeguarding against frostbite and the nasty Canadian winters we can get stuck in. Also, consider it as a little insurance to better your odds when the going gets tough or there is a problem. They usually last longer too.

Check used clothing stores for older similar garments good for the trail.  And try ski swaps at Nordic ski club events they may have gently worn garments.

So there you have it, a basic getup to take on Ontario winters and enjoy them. As mentioned, modify your wardrobe according to the activity and weather outside.

Then get out there and Go for It!

For more info on this topic :

MEC – Clothing Layers: How to Stay Warm

Salomon – How to Properly Dress in 3 Layers 

Outside Magazine – Dress for Cross Country Skiing

 

 

Play safe, stay warm – Dan R.

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

February 7, 2021No comments,
Ice Skating Trails in Ontario

Though I review winter trails on this site for skiing and snowshoeing, there is another type of winter trail sport on the rise, one on ice skates. Ice Skating trails are springing up everywhere in the province.

In the spirit of promoting winter outdoor activities, I think it is worth mentioning to any of you also interested in strapping on some blades and doing a circuit.

I must say I always found going around and around in circles doing pleasure skating on a hockey rink rather boring. In fifteen minutes I am done!

Now take recreational skating and make an ice path, well I’ll follow that.

And I think most of you agree, cause this concept is taking off.

I first saw this on the east side of Toronto at Greenwood Park at my son’s birthday party a few years ago. Though not long, the new L-shaped skate loop kept it interesting. All the kids had fun zipping in and out between the rocks.

Then last year I was skiing up at Arrowhead P.P. (photos below) and there among all of us enjoying the winter outdoors were skaters. Not on the local lake, but skating in the woods between the trees on a long flooded path they had made in the campgrounds. I had to take notice because it was busy with skaters enjoying the novelty.

Arrowhead skate trail
Arrowhead skate trail

Then yesterday my curiosity led me with family down to the Toronto harbour to check out the new Bentway skate trail. Here by the new Fort York entrance we found a weaving, refrigerated track among the pillars holding up the Gardiner Expressway. A wonderful idea to use dead space and even give it a roof if it rains.

You can find at the Bentway, skate rental, warming shelters (with blankets), and the required hot chocolate.Yum :^) All well lit and with music, there is also an outdoor lounge with warm cider and spiked drinks. There may be food trucks, though note there are a few restaurants close by.

A quick search in the province for similar ice skating trails came up with the following list for you to consider. Most are refrigerated paths here in the south. With our fluctuating weather this make conditions more predictable and the season last longer.

As always, check open hours as I have seen rinks closed due to staffing and budgets way before the weather melted it all away.

Bentway skate trail
Bentway skate trail

Where to Find Ice Skating Trails

in Toronto

The Bentway – Bathurst and Lake Shore Blvd.

Greenwood Park – 150 Greenwood Ave.

Col. Sam Smith  – 3145 Lake Shore W.

Dieppe Park  – 455 Cosburn Ave. (small)

McCowan District Park – 150 McCowan Rd, Scarborough

 

Other skating in Toronto on oval hockey rinks, indoors, outdoors, ponds  location, hours

Skating Trails in other parts of Ontario

These locations may be open depending on conditions. Due to Covid, they could be closed this season. Check if a reservation has to be made.

Richmond Green –  Richmond Hill

Spray Lake – Newmarket

Chinguacousy and Gage Park – Brampton

Valens Lake – north of Hamilton

Storybook Gardens – London

Island Lake  – Orangeville

MacGregor Point – Port Elgin

Woodview – Collingwood

Discovery Harbour – Penetanguishene

Fern Resort  – Orillia

Simcoe Museum – Barrie

Peterborough Locks

Speed Skating Oval – Lakefield

Arrowhead – Huntsville (gets busy)

Hanna Park –  Port Carling

Johnston Cranberry Marsh – near Bala

Memorial Park  – Bracebridge

Trent Canal – Peterborough

Rideau Canal – Ottawa the famous big one

Riveroak – Ottawa

Laurentian Valley – Petawawa area

River Oak – Ottawa area

Moose Creek – north of Cornwall

Kivi Park – Sudbury

Ramsey Lake – Sudbury

Clergue Park – Sault Ste. Marie

 

I am sure there are others, please let me know…

 

And finally, why do we always skate counterclockwise; why that direction?

Rideau canal skating
Rideau canal

couple skating
Arrowhead skate trail

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.

Lake skate
January 4, 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, , , ,
Free Nordic Trail Chart

Get Your Free Nordic Trail Reference Chart

 

I got thinking that it would be very handy for Nordic skiers and Snowshoe folks to have something they could refer to when looking to go out somewhere new and play in the snow.

Sure you can come to this site and surf for ideas, but what if you also had a condensed list of all the trails as a starting reference.

After much thought and many hours labouring, I think I’ve put together a decent list of all 60+ trails on this site, in a quick to read format. This PDF file can be saved on your phone, desktop or printed out as a reference.


Subscribe to our Newsletter

click here to get your Free Ski Trail Reference Chart

Here is What is Listed on the Chart :

Trail Number – number matches the approximate location on the map on page 1.

Trail Name – common name for this resort, club, forest or woodlot. Links to ontarioskitrails.com webpage with a full review

Location – general location in Ontario of trails. Some trail spots do not have exact addresses; refer to OST website maps

X-Country km – total kilometres of cross -country, track set ski trails

Skate Ski km – total kilometres of groomed skate skiing trails

Snowshoe km – total kilometres of designated, signed snowshoe trails (often you can do more)

Skill Level – which levels – Easy, Intermediate, Advanced, at this location are best suited, safe and fun for a skier. All Levels – there is enough trail for every skill level to enjoy.  Note this rating is not based on distance.

Adult Pass – fee (if any) to ski for the day for one adult on the weekends; snowshoeing may be less

Chalet – warming hut, cabin or chalet, to rest, eat lunch, perhaps change and warm up, (some are not open weekdays)

Food – food and water available – snack bar, cafeteria

Rentals – can rent gear to try out Nordic skiing or snowshoeing

Lessons – can take lessons to learn technique (local clubs may offer their own lessons)

Pro Shop – sells wax, skis, boots, clothes and accessories


Subscribe to our Newsletter

click here to get your Free Ski Trail Reference Chart

To get this free Nordic Trail Chart, click on one of the 3 purple buttons Cross Country, Skate ski or Snowshoe the box in the margin on the left or below is viewed on a phone.

Tell us what kind of winter sport you favour. This right away tells us what type of activity you like and we will tailor our newsletters in the future for you. Yes, you need to subscribe to our newsletters to get the freebie.

Next, check your email inbox for one of those confirmation emails so that I know you’re a real person (who likes winters). Once you’ve done that, you will be taken to a webpage with the PDF link.

Now I encourage you to stay subscribed to the newsletter because with each new issue I will have a link to an updated version of this chart.

Currently, I have yet to publish my first newsletter as other things have been more of a priority as the email list builds. Site development, trail scouting and posting reviews.

Busy as I am, there will be one soon and after that, there might be one monthly. Truly I do not what to spam or publish junk emails so it will depend on what valuable content I have to pass on to you.

In the future, I have plans on perhaps publishing an Ebook of these trail reviews with my own maps, photos. Or even a paperback book of this site. If such a book would be of interest to you, send me a note to encourage me.

And it goes without saying, if you think of improvements/changes for this list, I am listening, contact me.

 

Have pleasant outings, see you on the trail – Dan Roitner

March 2, 20182 Comments,