Whether you ski for fun, race, or love a good workout, cross-country skiing is an opportunity to see Ontario Parks at their winter best. Ontario Parks’ have some of the best cross-country skiing in Canada. Local nordic ski clubs help us to maintain many park trail networks. In Arrowhead, Sleeping Giant, and Quetico Provincial Parks, there are also annual ski loppets you can join. These have become increasingly popular with cross-country skiers. These ‘loppet’ parks also have heated roofed accommodation in the form of cabins, cottages and yurts. While the roofed accommodations often book up quickly during loppets or on weekends, mid-week bookings are still pretty easy to get, even at the last minute. If you can’t find availability, try Resorts of Ontario, which has a range of member resorts located near Ontario Parks across the province. Family Day is also a big deal at select Ontario Parks every winter. For a look at Family Day 2015, check the Park Blog events post. A complete listing of winter events is on the Ontario Parks web site at http://www.ontarioparks.com/events.
The Muskoka Loppet
Just a few of hour’s drive north of Toronto, “Muskoka” is Ontario’s four-season playground, home to Arrrowhead Provincial Park and the Muskoka Loppet. The 2015 loppet is set for January 25. Organized by the park and the Arrowhead Nordic Ski Club, the park’s courses include a 5 kilometre classic race and 15 and 30 kilometre races. The latter are rated for medium skiers. The 5 km course attracts Special Olympians, social skiers, and kids. Prizes are awarded to the top three finishers in each category. Parents skiing with kids need to register too. Lunch is included in the registration fee. Early bird registration closes Sunday, January 18, 2015. Food stations will be set up at the 15 kilometre points on the loppet courses. Note that credit cards and debit will not be accepted on race day. Arrowhead has lots of other winter activities including tubing (tubes can be borrowed free-of-charge), snowshoeing and skating. The latter is on an ice trail that winds its way through the woods and is kept lit at night during select weekends. Four comfortable cabins were added to Arrowhead in recent years and are available for rent year round. The cabins have helped make Arrowhead one of the best cross-country ski getaways in Southern Ontario. Get more on the 2015 Muskoka Loppet at Arrowhead Nordic Ski Club.
Ski the Giant
If you’ve never skied the Giant before, you’re in for a treat. Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, one hour drive east of Thunder Bay International Airport, is a true winter wonderland with 50 kilometres of groomed ski trails open every winter. Sleeping Giant’s annual ski loppet is planned for March 7 in 2015. While the ski fest is designed for the whole family, competitive athletes love this loppet. Multiple event courses feature distances for all levels and abilities. The mini 8 kilometre loppet is perfect for families, children and rookies. If you think you can do a bit more, try the rolling 20 kilometre Marie Louise Lake Loop. The 35 kilometre tour takes in some spectacular back country vistas as well as the storied Burma Trail which is known for its challenging parts. For elite skiers, the flagship Loppet event is the 50 kilometre Classic or Skate distance. Loppet registration is now open.
Cross Quetico Ski Tour
Dubbed by Explore Magazine as one of the coolest adventures in Canada, the Cross Quetico Tour is a wilderness trek across the frozen canoe routes of Quetico Provincial Park, 169 kilometres east of Thunder Bay. The 2015 tour takes place March 21 (weather permitting). Mushers, skijorers and skiers can choose from three possible routes that are 35, 50 and 60 kilometres long. Because much of the Cross Quetico Tour heads into the park’s backcountry, participants ski in groups across the frozen lakes of Quetico in this all day event. The tour is made possible through the volunteer efforts of the local Beaten Path Nordic Club which also maintains 25 kilometres of trails around Dawson Trails Campground. Two heated yurts in the campground can be rented in winter or try the nearby town of Atikokan which has accommodation as well. For more Loppet information, visit the Beaten Path Nordic Club web site at http://skibeatenpath.ca/