In North Bay, Ontario winter is the season when the landscape is transformed by a glorious blanket of deep, sparkling snow. Where full days are spent under clear, blue skies cross country skiing along snow laden forest trails and by day’s end, you have that feeling of aching and exhaustion – the “good hurt” we Northerners call it – the kind that invigorates and makes you feel alive.
Cross-country skiing is the oldest form of skiing evolved from a need to travel over snow-covered terrain and developed as a sport at the end of the 19th century when fun replaced function. Today the activity attracts athletes and outdoor enthusiasts of every age and ability for good reason. North Bay and the area around has every type of ski trail you would ever want, for the competitor, the recreationalist, the backcountry trail blazer and the solitary wanderer. And that is why it is one of the top five winter activities here in North Bay.
North Bay Nordic Ski Club
Experience the pure joy of gliding over the frozen, winter landscape at North Bay’s premier Nordic ski centre, North Bay Nordic Ski Club, affectionately known as Nordic to its membership of over 600 strong. With a combined distance of 50 km of groomed trails for classic and skate skiing on trails through forest, past wetlands and to ridge lines with fantastic wilderness views, it’s no wonder winter lovers flock to these trails. Nordic is a family-friendly club with an active Jackrabbit Ski League for the little ones and Bunny Rabbits Program for the wee ones, which instills a life-long love of skiing and the great outdoors. Add to Nordic’s appeal the 2.5 km of lit trails for night skiing, a full stock of rentals in all sizes, a welcoming Nordic family in the heated clubhouse, and you’ve got community.
Education Centre Ski Trails
Nipissing University atop North Bay’s escarpment grooms 3.75 km of cross-country ski trails for both traditional and skate ski – free to use and accessible by public transit! As the training grounds for the Nipissing Lakers Nordic Ski Team, the trails are homologated or, in other words, course approved for competition by the FIS International governing body. The FIS set the standards for difficulty for different age and race categories such as length, maximum and total climbs. And talking about descents, the young university athletes racing on these trails can get up to 60km/hr on the downhill. Now that will get the adrenaline rushing!
The best access to the ski trails are the far end of Parking Lot 8 at the main campus of Nipissing University/ Canadore College. There is a small shelter with a trail map, bench to gear up and fire pit to warm the toes. The latest trail conditions are on Twitter @NipissingTrails.
Wasi Cross Country Ski Club
The Northern Ontario wilderness is alive at Wasi Cross Country Ski Club just 15 minutes south of North Bay. Boasting 43 km of classically groomed and track set trails and 7.5 km of double track, this volunteer-run club tucked in the corner of rural Astorville is just one more reason to head North. The ski trails loop around an active beaver pond shared with a playful family of otters that can sometimes be seen sliding along the banks. A resident moose has also been seen wondering through the trails. There is often a fire blazing in the outdoor fire pit where friends, old and new, meet-up. For chillier days the heated clubhouse is appreciated. Day passes can be purchased ahead of time online or for onsite passes – bring cash or cheque.
Almaguin Community Trails
A 40 minute drive south of North Bay to South River will bring avid skiers to a quiet and growing network of community-based trails. Many of our local trails develop through the energy and passion of a few, and this network currently at 7 km keeps expanding with added and improved trails every season with just a small handful of volunteers. Like most cross-country ski trails in Northern Ontario, the trails are lovingly maintained by these dedicated folks that are running grooming equipment in the wee hours of night and are the first out after a wind storm through all the seasons. Check their Facebook Page @AlmaguinCommunitySkiTrails for current conditions.
Backcountry Cross-Country Skiing
To feel real freedom, backcountry cross-country skiing is an option that takes skiers across frozen waterways and forest trails through wilderness spaces unequaled in their peaceful beauty and quiet solitude. Backcountry skiing needs proper equipment that allows you to glide over deep, fresh snow. Try Loxton Beaver Trail or Callander’s Trans Canada Trail for a real wilderness experience. Not entirely backcountry, Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park has been grooming the park roads the past few winters to invite winter explorers to the park during its non-operating season.
By late January, the lakes have snowmobile traffic that also make great trails for skiing if you don’t have backcountry skis. On still days when the winds have eased and the skies are clear, Lake Nipissing offers countless opportunities for skiing with the chance of a beautiful sunset to close the day. Trout Lake is also a great alternative.
So without further ado – get outside this winter and glide your way to good health and happiness.