Rating Winter Trails

How I Review Nordic Ski & Snowshoe Trails

– Why consitant, full reviews are hard to do across Ontario –

 

Having recently written my 50th trail review here on OST,  I thought it overdue to explain my method of rating and reviewing trails.

I started cross-country skiing in my 20’s, that’s a long way back. These outings took me to woodlots and parks near my home in Toronto. 

Over the years on my own and on ski club bus trips, I have skied most of the posted locations on this site many times. Gradually I found a way to share my experiences by building this site.

I consider my skiing and snowshoeing skills as Advanced, but I am no racer. I do it for the love of nature, some adventure and the exercise is a bonus. I tend to ski more Classic style but do strap on my Skate skis when conditions are good and for variety. My wife often does the snowshoe loops while I ski with my son or friends. 

four trail signs

My goal is to provide a consistent, unbiased perspective of what’s out there. I establish a standard, as a fair way to review and rate Ontario Nordic and Snowshoe destinations.

One of the criteria in posting a review on this site is that I actually have been there to experience those ski and snowshoe trails. Over the years it has become apparent that many locations up north are beyond a day trip for this Toronto boy. 

Though I visit Sudbury every winter, Timmins is just too far. (Any patrons want to fund my trip?) Beyond my limited budget, my time is limited too. The snow season is getting so short and does not always have the best snow conditions.

So I have had to bend my rules and now include destinations I have yet to try. Those locations are presented strictly on an informational basis and not as a review, so you are at least aware they exist.

This site lists the TOP trails in Ontario. I do not want to clutter the maps with every woodlot and parkette one could possibly ski at. I also set a minimum in trail length and fun factor, so you would know it was worth the effort getting there for a few hours of fun.

In reviewing the trails, I consider what enjoyment or struggles a beginner or seasoned skier/snowshoer might have if they came to visit that destination. Would they enjoy it, or would it be too challenging or not enough?

When I ski or snowshoe I factor in the current snow conditions. To be fair, I need to adjust my review if the snow is wet and slow, or icy and fast. It matters to beginners and avid Sportif and changes the level of difficulty too. 

Trail map on tree
distance trail signs

Trying to rate skill levels for a location is very basic – Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced. Because snow conditions for these winter sports change constantly, what may seem like an easy trek one day can be a hardship or even dangerous a week later. 

Skill levels are not based on distance, that is your choice as to how far you wish to go there and back. 

While traversing the trails, I’ll take into account the width of the trail, angle of slopes, the radius of turns and line the groomers take. I would note if a beginner would have enough room to turn or stop. Would they get exhausted climbing endless hills or panic going down them? On the other hand, an experienced skier may get bored if everything is straight and flat.

Grooming is important to some, like Skate skiers, and when you are a Beginner, while others do not mind, find it fun cutting their own track in a rustic woodlot or local park. 

Another important part is the cold of winter. Working up a sweat on the trail on a freezing day has its dangers. With fewer daylight hours, skiers need good signage to not waste time getting lost.

Having the option of a warming cabin on the route and the comforts of a chalet with food at the trailhead or lodging nearby matters. All good things I will mention, if they exist.

In trying to be accurate and consistent on my site I have seen two ways clubs/resorts total their posted kilometre trail length.

1 – Add up all the loops even if the loops reuse the same tracks.
2 – Add up the total length of all the separate trails.

I use the 2nd method on the OST site, but here is where it gets tricky. 

Some locations do not measure accurately, others exaggerate a tad (say it ain’t so) and some list different totals when you look around. A quick guesstimation from published trail maps may give me yet another number. What to do? Well, I take all this into consideration and post my best guess. (And round it up.)

Listing the actual length of the trails would require me to redo every loop with my GPS tracker on. Not happening in the near future. (But if you do them, send me the data, svp.)

Regardless does it really matter? Nope!

As long as there is enough track for you to glide or stomp on, any extra kilometres beyond this is, well, a reason for another visit.

Snowshoe sign arrow

I recommend each of these locations on my site for a certain audience with a certain ski level. Reading the review will tell you if it suits you, your family and friends for an outing.

It is my hope that these reviews will save you time researching where to go and bring you joy discovering new and favourite destinations. And that it also helps others enter the sport and to make it more popular. 

 

 

I am always open to comments and concerns; you can send me a message anytime.

Dan Roitner – Senior Nordic Statesman