On the outskirts of Guelph at the Ignatius Jesuit Center, local Nordic skiers can be seen gliding along for some good outdoor winter recreation. These private lands are a religious retreat and a working farm that welcomes the public to quietly enjoy their sport for free.
My visit was a day after it had been minus 25 Celsius. Hovering around zero the conditions were a little soft but they had snow and lots of avid skiers came out to give it a go on the ~ 8 km of trails.
Upon arriving I was unsure exactly where to park, or where the ski trailhead was. There is a limited amount of ski information on the Ignatius site and the ski club’s Facebook page is private so for years I was unsure.
I end up by the Loyola House car lot because my wife was going to snowshoe. At least she attempted to, but much of the wooded hiking paths by Marden Creek were already well trampled by hikers. She did find it a tranquil and pleasant stroll.
My son and I headed north beyond this area on classic skis to find some groomed track. Others had been here before finding their way along the side of one of the many farm fields.
(The other parking lot by the barn is the better launch point for skiers.)
I asked a few local skiers passing by, as I tend to do, where the best trails were, and headed to the loop around the Old Hermitage field in the north end. A secluded open field surrounded by trees with a dwelling on top of the hill.
Skiers follow the perimeter track and at one point there is a gradual climb anyone can do. A long path in the woods took us back down and around. Most of the routes at Ignatius follow the perimeter of fields lined by trees on one side. This gives you open views of the farming activities that occur in the summer and most of the time trees on the other side can block the wind.
The club collects nominal donations to keep the snowmobile groomer operational. This is done by sending E- transfers.
We saw one groomed track that was not on their map and other tracks made by skier’s heading elsewhere. This had us doubting our location and wishing for a few posted maps with a “You Are Here” arrow on them.
My sense is that Ignatius has an agreement with the ski club to keep a low profile on their lands. So there is only a limited amount of signs and a wish for skiers to observe the tranquillity of this retreat. Check; easily done by Nordic skiers.
I would suggest the online ski map should be print friendly. The current one uses too much ink. (I am going to replace it with my own version soon.)
There are a few rustic outhouses spread around the property but no amenities. Places to eat and stay can be easily found on the main roads just outside. And downtown is just 10 minutes away on Woolwich St.
I am glad to post this location as I know most of us head northward to the larger resorts. Yet I wondered where this substantial population living in the area of Guelph, Cambridge, Kitchener-Waterloo might ski locally. Another appeal spot very close by is Guelph Lake Conservation Area with 10 km of groomed track.
Knowing that that ski season is short, and getting shorter in Southern Ontario, make your way here when the snows blow and the temps are sane (and not -20C) you’ll love it. A chance to feel the country minutes from city life.