By the shores of Lake Ontario, Tommy Thompson Park (Leslie Street Spit) is a well-known nature getaway in Toronto. Here you can enjoy about 12 km of cross-country skiing—or even more snowshoe trekking—in your own backyard.
This large peninsula gives you plenty of open natural terrain and quiet spaces to roam, along with grand views of the city skyline and frozen marina bays and ponds in one direction, and open water in the other.
The main road, which runs down the middle, takes hikers out to a small lighthouse on a hill. Skiers cut tracks off to the side of this road.
A parallel pedestrian path that starts on the east side gets too much foot traffic to sustain ski tracks. Regardless, you can still use it if you like, or wander anywhere you wish by bushwhacking your own routes.
For years I hesitated to go there in the winter, for a few reasons, until last weekend (and I live a mere 15 minutes away). But when my son and I finally did, it was a great experience. That was due to a major snow dump lately and a few other key factors.
You see, when the trekking is good at this park, it is a joy to be there. But there are limited opportunities and you have to act quickly.
The main issue is favourable snow conditions. Toronto has a short snow season and mild winters, so the snowbase can quickly change from ideal to slush.
This park has no grooming. For a city our size, it would benefit many if the city/TRCA could run a snowmobile to set a track.
For some, like beginner cross-country skiers, the flat landscape is easy going and perfect to learn a few basics. But with no hills worth mentioning, more seasoned skiers may miss the thrill of fast descents. Ah, but there are plenty of kilometres you can clock if you need to train.
Snowshoeing is another activity available here. Winding paths lead you to explore down by the water’s edge and into the bush, with no need to worry that you might get lost.
Currently, as the park is still being developed, the hours are very limited. It’s closed until 4 p.m. weekdays (for construction activity, I believe), and open weekends during daylight hours. One last thing: if it’s windy, stay home.
So there you have it: some enjoyable reasons to go to Thompson Park, and other reasons not to. When the snow hits the ground, you decide: is it time?
(And just east of here is the Beaches Boardwalk area, where some go skiing or snowshoeing along the beach after a major snowfall.)