The Cross Quetico Tour: a true winter adventure

Every March, cross-country skiers of all abilities descend on Quetico Provincial Park and the nearby town of Atikokan for the Cross Quetico Tour.

Normally known for its world-class wilderness canoeing opportunities, Quetico’s interconnected waterways become a winter venue for a ski adventure like no other.

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Skiing Quetico’s frozen wilderness

Today’s post comes from Quetico Provincial Park‘s Superintendent Trevor Gibb.

The smell of crisp clean pine and spruce trees. The sight of fresh moose, wolf, otter and hare tracks zigging and zagging across the path in front of you. The chirp of a chickadee. The crunch of the bright white snow and the gentle bite of the winter air on your cheeks.

This is cross-country skiing in a wilderness park. This is what winter is all about.

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Tips from a trail manager: prepping for the perfect cross-country ski day

Ready for a day of cross country skiing? Preparing your skis properly can make a big difference in whether you have a fun outing – or a frustrating one.

Peter Crooks, the trail manager for Kamview Nordic Ski Centre in Thunder Bay, has been cross-country skiing for nearly half a century.

Here are his top 7 tips on how to “read” the snow and use the right waxes for your classic skis:

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How to get your kids to love cross-country skiing

Did you know 19 of our parks have cross-country trails, about half of them groomed?

Cross-country skiing is a great way for families to get outdoors and enjoy the winter together! It’s less expensive and safer than alpine skiing, it helps keep kids fit, and it’s a skill they’ll have their entire life.

Here are our top seven tips for getting kids hooked on cross-country skiing:

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Winter events at Ontario Parks

Ontario Parks host the BEST winter events!

We’re starting the season with a December Victorian Christmas celebration at Oakville’s Bronte Creek Provincial Park, and wrapping up winter with a late March Candlelight Ski and Tea at northwestern Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park.

And there’s lots going on in between.

We’ve highlighted a sample of what’s planned. For a complete listing, visit our Calendar of Events.

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Winter camping or ice fishing anyone? North, south parks have it all

Imagine a couple newly in love ditching their trip down south to sleep in a yurt in northern Ontario and snowshoe the week away while communing with nature.

That is exactly what one young couple did a few years ago after deciding to winter camp at Windy Lake, north of Sudbury. With the wood stove to keep them warm at the chalet and a whole lot of wanderlust to help them snowshoe through the park, the couple had a blast. And why not?

Silent Lake Provincial Park

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Plan an exotic winter adventure at Ontario Parks

Summer campers love Ontario Parks but many have never experienced their favourite park in winter.  Ontario Parks aims to change that. Nineteen provincial parks are open this winter season with cross-country trails to ski.  Thirteen have groomed or track-set trails. And eight of the nineteen have comfortable roofed accommodation for rent. Designated snowshoe trails are in many parks. Some have skating and tubing too. Three parks will host ski loppets. Another will host an annual snowshoe race and at least five plan to celebrate February’s Family Day weekend with special events. Below are tips to help visitors plan their own exotic park adventure this winter:

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Ski an Ontario Parks loppet

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

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Cool Winter Trails at Windy Lake Provincial Park

It’s another fantastic day on the trails at Windy Lake Provincial Park, a cool Ontario winter recreation destination – only 45 minutes from Sudbury.  The sound of crisp, fresh snow squeaks under our snowshoes, while cross country skiers glide by on nearby trails.

The park partners with the Onaping Falls Nordics Ski Club, which maintains and grooms 15 km of high quality, well-designed cross-country ski  trails. Volunteers can often be found after a fresh snowfall, grooming the trails on the Club’s Piston Bully or track-setting snowmachine. The trails begin at the ski chalet inWindy Lake Provincial Park, where some of the easy trails are located, and continue onto the Club’s property adjacent to the park.  The trails wind through the snow-covered forest of jackpine, spruce and birch, and on the more challenging trails, up and over hills and valleys.  The trails at Windy Lake are often the first in the area to get snow, and hold it well through the periodic thaws, and lasts late into the season.

The Club rents skis, boots and poles on weekends from the Chalet, a newly renovated hub of the trail system.  The wood stove allows skiers and snowshoers to warm up, and seating and tables provide plenty of space for refreshments from the snack bar or your own lunch.  Washrooms are available when the Chalet is open.

Windy Lake’s winter season begins right after New Year’s and continues through March.  The park and area holds its snow well into late winter, so when the trails are melting down south, Windy still has great skiing and snowshoeing.

The Onaping Falls Nordics Ski Club and its trails are where Devon Kershaw, champion cross country skier and Canadian Winter Olympian, first learned to ski and spent much of his youth skiing.   Devon grew up in Sudbury, and began cross country skiing at age 4.  In 2010, the Club named their 5km trail the “Devon Kershaw Trail” and presented Devon with a plaque in recognition of his achievements.  A January 2014 article in the Toronto Star called Devon “Canada’s most successful male cross country skier”.

The park also has 8 km of snowshoeing trails that lead ‘shoers out along an ancient beach high above Windy Lake, with some great views across the frozen lake.  More “off-trail” snowshoeing is available along the shores of Windy Lake.  The ski club plans to add snowshoeing trails to their trail system in the future.

Located “trailside” are four yurts the park operates year round.  The yurts are winterized, and have electricity, heating and lights.  Two large bunkbeds can sleep six comfortably, and for meals, there’s a large BBQ on the deck and table and chairs inside for dining.  Each site has a fire pit and firewood is available from park staff.  The park provides a toboggan to haul gear from the parking lot to the yurt – park staff are available seven days a week to assist visitors to get settled in, and can make arrangements for campers arriving late.  There is a new,  heated privy near the yurts  and washrooms are available at the Chalet weekends during the day.

Camping out in the winter is a unique experience.  Camping in a yurt makes the experience a warm and comfortable one.  With ski and snowshoe trails right at your door, it’s also a healthy and fun one.

The Ski Club celebrates its 40th anniversary this season, and will be hosting a loppet to mark the event ( for details on events, memberships, and day and weekend packages for trail passes).   For information on Windy Lake Provincial Park, including trail conditions and yurt reservations visit:

This video shows you some of the trails and winter activities in the park along with some of the other cool things Windy Lake Provincial Park has to offer.  Have a look and let us know the things you think are cool in Ontario Parks!