By Conor Mihell

A Marathon for all levels of skiers, fatbikers and trail runners blazes new trails to celebrate Sault Ste. Marie’s rich winter sports tradition

The history of nordic skiing in Sault Ste. Marie is long, colourful and defined by a profound sense of community. More than half a century ago, winter enthusiasts from the upstart Soo Finnish Ski Club blazed their own cross-country ski trails through the snowy woods and rugged hills of what’s now known as the Hiawatha Highlands, located just north of the city centre. Early skiers didn’t know the pleasure of machine-groomed trails. Frontrunners in the club’s recreational races not only set the pace, they also had the challenge of making tracks through the soft powder while keeping ahead of pursuing skiers. Such legendary beginnings kindled one of Ontario’s most vibrant cross-country ski scenes and blazed the way for the development of some of the province’s finest networks of trails.

a fun and adventurous recreational race

Fast-forward to 2022, and local event organizer Lawrence Foster was looking to celebrate Sault Ste. Marie’s snowy winters and exceptional skiing terrain. He conceived the inaugural Beaver Freezer Marathon as a fun and adventurous recreational race to wrap up the season at the Hiawatha Highlands. Multiple race options catered to all levels of skiers, fat-bikers and trail-runners, including families, beginners and elite athletes alike, with distances of up to 42 km. Scheduled for mid-March, the event would link existing Hiawatha Highlands nordic ski and fat-bike trails with frozen lakes and wetlands, showcasing the rugged, snow-covered landscape. All proceeds from the volunteer-run event would go towards supporting future trail development to support Sault Ste. Marie’s ongoing efforts to become a hub of outdoor recreation.

“We wanted to make it fun and inclusive,” says Foster, a Sault College professor and former world-class adventure racer. “We had team options. You could race it as a relay or do it as a group. Your kid could ride or ski beside you in the relay. We wanted to have a community event with a friendly vibe, all supporting a good cause.” 

Upwards of 300 Competitors

First-year registrations far exceeded Foster’s expectations. Upwards of 300 competitors signed up for the event, the majority locals but also approximately 40 registrants from Sudbury, Toronto, Ottawa and Michigan. “It seemed like a great way to ski in places you wouldn’t get to experience otherwise,” says participant Paul Kyostia. “I was looking forward to skiing across the lakes with the benefit of packed trails in between.”

With Foster in charge of mapping a course, participants were sure to get a premium slice of Algoma backcountry. Starting and finishing at the Hiawatha Highlands headquarters at Kinsmen Park, the Beaver Freezer route wound through nearly a dozen frozen lakes and waterways, including Trout and Lower Island and Finn, just north of city limits. Groomers marked and packed the trails for easy skiing, cycling and running. Sault College was the inaugural event’s title sponsor and the college’s Natural Environment students volunteered to assist with race day details, including safety checkpoints and aid stations. 

abundant snowfall and perfect lake ice

With abundant snowfall throughout the winter and perfect lake ice, the plan seemed bulletproof until a deluge of freezing rain forced Foster to postpone the Sunday race until the following weekend. Foster was deflated, but at the same time he knew that so many dedicated enthusiasts would do far more than salvage the event. Participants and volunteers shuffled their plans and held onto their enthusiasm, and with improved weather conditions Foster says the rescheduled race day was all he ever hoped for. “Countless people lined up to volunteer to make it a great event,” he notes. “I’ve received so many messages of support from people looking forward to next year’s Beaver Freezer. It feels good to be contributing to the momentum of trail development with the Kinsmen Club, the Sault Cycling Club, and Tourism Sault Ste. Marie.”

Foster admits that the weather always remains a wild card for late-winter events, but he’s hoping that scheduling the 2023 Beaver Freezer Marathon across an entire weekend will provide an adequate buffer for any surprises. “The biggest highlight has been the support of the community,” Foster says. But given the area’s deep and passionate roots for nordic sports, local support is a given. As word gets out, Foster anticipates a larger contingent of out-of-towners—with visitors arriving to experience the great trails and welcoming vibe of yet another shining example of why Sault Ste. Marie has always been Ontario’s winter sports capital. 

2023 Event

The 2023 event will take place on Saturday, March 11th, with Sunday, March 12th being the backup day. All the information you’ll need including course details, timing and other info is available on the Beaver Freezer website

Out of town guests will receive 10% off their stay at The Water Tower Inn. Details here.  

Over one hundred events across three main locations in the city during nine fun-filled days

By Sault Tourism

Sault Ste. Marie’s much-loved winter carnival Bon Soo will return for its 60th anniversary celebration presented by OLG, beginning February 4th. 2023’s event promises to bring back the fun with a mix of well-known favorites plus some exciting new additions, including an act best known for their appearance on America’s Got Talent!

So start making your plans to visit; whether it be for the famous Polar Bear Dip or the new and improved Bum Slides, or maybe it’s for new events like the aforementioned Sentimentalists, the exciting Polar Rush or the appetite-whetting Passport to Unity. Keep reading for details of the event or for the full program of the 137 events (yes 137!) visit the Bon Soo website!

Where, when and how much?

Bon Soo 2023 runs from Friday, February 3rd through to Saturday, February 11th. There are three main locations; The Canal District, Northern Superior Brewing Co. and Clergue Park, with many other locations hosting events in and around the city. 

Buying a Bon Soo Button for $10 will get you into over 100 events for free. Some other events have an additional charge. All the information about pricing can be found on the dedicated Bon Soo website.  

You can buy a Bon Soo Button in any of 14 locations in Sault Ste. Marie, click here for more info!

What are the 'must see' events this year?

Every day is packed full of fun events, some aimed at families, some aimed at grown ups and many events perfect for all ages! This year our headline events are:

Polar Bear Rush Winter Obstacle, Saturday, February 4th. Bellevue Park hosts the first ever Polar Rush from 10am-5pm. Runners take off in a 2.5km, fun filled course filled with wall climbs, tube running, crazy carpeting 

Passport to Unity, Saturday, February 4th. This is a great multi-cultural event at The Canal District from 6pm-10pm. Immerse yourself in a gourmet tasting menu featuring Internationally inspired cuisine and performances from around the world!

4-on-4 Street Hockey Tournament, Sunday, February 5th. A fun outdoor for pre-registered teams takes place at Bay St Active Living community Centre.

The Sentimentalists, Friday, February 10th. The Canal District hosts Bon Soo headline show  This world-renowned celebrity mentalist Mysterion teams with mentalist Steffi Kay, creating a two-person mind-reading experience that is truly breathtaking. Watch this special show that has graced America’s Got Talent, sells outs shows across the US and is regularly the headline act on cruises and at theaters and theme parks.

Saturday, February 11th is when arguably the most icon Bon Soo event happens, the famous Polar Bear Dip, which this year is at the Bushplane Museum with musical guest the Hustle Brothers! Registration at noon, jumping begins at 2pm!

What Else Is Happening?

Each day is another fun-packed and exciting day of winter events. We’ve broken down some of them here, but be sure to check the Bon Soo website daily for a full run down!

The Snow Carving event actually begins a week earlier on January 28th, to give teams time to design, sculpt and get creative before February 3rd!

Friday, February 3rd

The Canal District hosts the opening ceremony – Bon Tidings – with fireworks, live music and Bum Slides!

Over at Northern Superior is Sno Madness Night #1 with a host of wacky winter games and prizes for pre-registered teams over two nights! If you would prefer to watch, come down and enjoy what is sure to be a lively atmosphere at the Tap Room.

Saturday, February 4th

Bellevue Park hosts the first ever Polar Bear Rush Winter Obstacle Course, 10am-5pm.

At Clergue Park enjoy Best in Snow – Snow Sculptures as well as CrokiCurl, Pony Rides from Hidden Hills Stables and Maple Taffy Tasting from Hogan’s Homestead, both from 1-4pm.

The Canal District has bum slides, a 3-on-3 Ringette Challenge, an Ice Maze and Helicopter, Wagon and Tractor Rides!

In the evening Passport to Unity happens at The Canal District from 6pm-10pm.

Over at Soo Blaster we have a Bon Soo Comedy Night Featuring Glen Foster.

Saturday also marks the start of a number of all week Bon Soo events. The Sault Ste. Marie Museum hosts a special 60-year exhibit, the Bushplane Museum is offering 2-for-1 entry for the entirety of the event for Bon Soo Button holders.

Sunday, February 5th

The Canal District hosts Sault Trailblazers Snowmachine Rides 

Clergue Park hosts a drop-in Snowshoe Relay Race, along with a variety of other exciting events.

The Bushplane Museum is offering a Crafts and Movie Day, with free entry after 1pm to button holders and there a special screening of the movie Frozen 2 at 2.30pm! Kids are encouraged to bring their favourite Elsa, Anna or Olaf stuffies or cushions to make the afternoon extra special!

The Bay St Active Living community Centre hosts an outdoor 4-on-4 Street Hockey Tournament for pre-registered teams.

Cheer on our Soo Greyhounds as they dawn special Bon Soo Jerseys on game day at GFL Gardens! The puck drops at 2.07pm! These Bon Soo theme jerseys will be available for online auction following the game, at the Greyhounds website.

Sunday is wrapped up at The Canal District with The Sno Ball Family Dance featuring a Children’s magician and a 60th birthday party for Bon Soo.

Monday, February 6th

The Coldest Canuck Challenge at Northern Superior will test your Northern acclimation with a series of Canuck challenges from 6pm-8pm.

At The Canal District you can take part in Dessert and Liquor Tasting.

Don’t forget all the week-long events including Bum Slides, CrokiCurl, the Ice Maze are happening today as well!

Tuesday, February 7th

Gather by the Fire with Thrive Tours is one of the headlines of Tuesday. Visit Clergue Park and gather around the fire to share land-based teachings of Baawating.

Northern Superior hosts EDM Sno Bath (Electronic Dance Music) where you can dance the night away and “chill out” to some good vibes in the snow with DJs Angelazura and Bobby Lawn.

At The Canal District enjoy a Bon Soo Paint Night, family friendly, step by step guided way to paint your own Bon Soo inspired masterpiece!

Wednesday, February 8th

On Wednesday 5pm – 7pm, enjoy a special night at Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig and enjoy Science North’s Indigenous Ingenuity Exhibit. The evening features an on-site knowledge-keeper, SKG Tours, Tobacco Ties and a feather-wrapping workshop.

Northern Superior gets all hot under the collar with a Fire and Ice Hot Sauce Chicken Wing Challenge (pre-registration required)!

Thursday, February 9th

Enjoy Night Skiing and a limited-ticket shuttle bus to Searchmont Ski Resort! The bus leaves Algoma University at 4.30pm and people can ski the snow packed slopes of their favourite hill and enjoy free hot chocolate! In addition, button holders get 50% off tickets and rentals!

The Canal District’s Machine Shop hosts Bon Soo Blues Society Concert featuring The Andre Bisson Band and opening act Lindsay Pugh!

Friday, February 10th

Hiawatha Highlands hosts a special Nighttime Lantern Ski, free for Bon Soo Button holders.

The Canal District hosts Bon Soo headline show The Sentimentalists. This world-renowned celebrity mentalist Mysterion teams with mentalist Steffi Kay, creating a two-person mind-reading experience that is truly breathtaking. Watch this special show that has graced America’s Got Talent, sells outs shows across the US and is regularly the headline act on cruises and at theaters and theme parks.

Saturday, February 11th

Saturday is the grand finale day with 19 events happening in 9 different locations! Head to Runway Park for all day Snowmobile Drag Races.

The Canal District has Frozen Canoe Rides from 11am – 1pm,

Then join us for arguably the most icon Bon Soo event The Polar Bear Dip, which this year is at the Bushplane Museum. Come for the fun which includes musical guest the Hustle Brothers! Registration is at noon, jumping begins at 2pm!

Finally, Bon Soo 2023 draws to a close with Bon Voyage, a Queen St Street Party from East St to Spring St. Wave goodbye to Mr. Bon Soo and enjoy a beer garden, food stops, illusionist Ryan MacFarling, winters games such as street hockey and road curling, live music, closing fireworks, more including the announcement of the 2023 Snow Sculpture’s Awards!

And so much more!

There are close to 140 events over the 9 days of Bon Soo so be sure check out the full program on the Bon Soo website for your favourite event! 

Bon Soo Button

The iconic Bon Soo Button will get you in to over 100 events for free! It costs $10 and all proceeds go towards making Bon Soo the most enjoyable experience for all! Click here to see where you can pick up your Button!

Bon Soo Sponsors

We’d like to give thanks to sponsors who have made Bon Soo 2023 happen. These being Title Sponsors OLG, Premier Sponsor Tenaris, Signature Sponsors The Canal District.

Ice Creams, Parks, Waterfalls and More!

By Gabriela (

As part of our family trip to Northern Ontario in partnership with Attractions Ontario, we visited and explored the city of Sault Ste Marie. We’d passed it a few times on trips we’d taken to the USA in years past, but we never stopped to explore. I remember driving over the International bridge and looking at that super blue water down there and thinking: we must visit this place. During this first official visit to SSM we spend 2 days and our impression was amazing: the city is incredible and worth a visit.

Here are some ideas to enjoy your stay in the city with your family. It is worth mentioning that we did this tour with 2 children (3 and 5 years old) and a puppy dog, so many of the tips will be family-oriented.

Visit the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site and Whitefish Island

The Sault Ste. Marie Canal, built in 1895, was the world’s longest lock, the first to operate using electricity, and the last link in a Canadian shipping chain from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Superior. It is still operating, and it also brings history and beauty to the region. It’s certainly a must-see and it’s really cool to read the signs and learn about the history of the place. A super cool activity you can do in the area is to rent a fat bike and explore the region around the St Marys River, including Whitefish Island and South St Mary’s Island (Attikamek Trail). There are several trails there and you even go under the bridge that connects the United States and Canada. If you go hiking around Whitefish Island, be sure to look for “fairy doors”, which are small, colorful doors scattered throughout the park.

Make the kids happy at Bellevue Park

You won’t believe Bellevue Park: it has about 7-8 playgrounds, one next to the other. In addition, the place also has a brand new splash pad and trails for you to walk on the edge of the St Marys River. When we parked the car, I looked at a playground and thought it was fantastic. Then I looked the other way and there were two more and then I looked towards the river and, guess what?, another one. I’m not exaggerating: there are MULTIPLE playgrounds (and all huge and super equipped). The boys were so excited, they did not know where to go. They played in all the playgrounds and also went to the splash pad, which we thought it was super good for the little ones. Ella (our puppy) and I also walked around the river and even saw some turtles. It is a delightful place to stroll around the city.

Explore the beautiful nature around the city

As soon as you arrive in Sault Ste Marie you will notice how green the city is. And if you do some research before leaving, you will find out that around the city there are many beautiful parks and trails for you to explore. Among the most popular is the Hiawatha Highlands, which is a 3000-acre park with several trails. There is also Crystal Falls, which is located inside Kinsmen Park (north of the city). I must confess that we almost gave up visiting the place because we couldn’t find the entrance (you should look for the park in your GPS and not the waterfall). When you arrive at the park’s parking lot, you will take a super short walk along a platform and you will arrive at the waterfalls: beautiful! There are several observation areas and after arriving at the waterfall you can even follow the trail for more, but we chose to play in the park (including the playground) and enjoy the incredible nature of the place.

Learn about history at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre

You must visit the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre when in The Soo. This is a super interactive museum about planes that land on the water. The Centre has 29 planes and several other attractions such as a 3D cinema, a space for children to learn and even the Entomica Insectarium, which has several insects and you are invited to touch and learn about them. Many of the exhibitions on the day we went were focused on forest fires and I found it super interesting. The boys loved it and didn’t want to leave. There’s a part of the museum where a real mechanic is fixing the planes: he was there and had a little chat with us. 

And on your way out, don’t miss the Tap Room at Northern Superior Brewing Co., one of the city’s many breweries and the patio is pet-friendly too!

Eat lots of ice cream

You cannot get to know a city without going to a local ice cream shop. And Sault Ste Marie has several amazing ice cream shops, which have great reviews and are well worth a visit. See the list below of the most famous ice cream parlors in the city. We ended up choosing to have ice cream at Holy Cow, which was close to the hotel and further from the center, so we thought it was a great option for a late afternoon dessert. The boys ordered the Spiderman flavor – which was a mixture of various fruits and very colorful. They loved it!

Other places to visit in SSM

Agawa Canyon Tour Train: An all-day train ride from Sault Ste Marie (99 Huron Street) to the Agawa Canyon region, which is only accessible this way. The journey is beautiful and people always do it at the fall to see the autumn colors. All reviews and posts I’ve read said that this is an unforgettable experience.

The Breakfast Pig: breakfast restaurant super famous for its food and for using only local ingredients. It has been showcased on TV shows and just seeing the menu made me want to try it. We didn’t go, but I already included it here so next time I will not miss it.

The Mill Market: this is a farmer’s market from producers in the Algoma region. The market is open on Saturdays and Wednesdays. Visiting city markets is always a great way to learn more about the region, as well as delight in local products.

The Boiler Room: restaurant with a super nice patio and wood-fired pizza in the Canal District region. In this area, old buildings were restored to become restaurants and shops (same vibe of Toronto’s Distillery District).

Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site: A historic site with historic houses (from the 1800’s) located in the heart of SSM. We stopped by and took some pictures (see photo of Clergue Blockhouse below) but we still want to go inside and explore more about the history of the area.

Family and Pet-Friendly Accommodation: The Water Town Inn

We stayed at The Water Town Inn. The hotel was perfect for us because the city’s Tesla chargers are in their parking lot, so we didn’t have to drive far to charge our car. We also find the room very spacious and with easy access to the street, which is perfect for those traveling with dogs and also during the pandemic. The room was super clean and we loved the pool area, because it had a children’s pool (boys played a lot). Our room was pet-friendly and had water plate and even snacks for Ella.

It was AMAZING to explore SSM for the first time and we cannot wait to come back and see more.

For for blogs and travel ideas from Gaby and her family, visit their website

Para ler este blog em português clique aqui!

Algoma’s trail running event has a challenge for everyone

By Conor Mihell

Nick Brash uses one word to describe the vibe of the 2021 Ultra Trail Stokely Creek: “Joyous.” That’s the overwhelming memory for Brash in organizing his second gathering of 175 running enthusiasts in the Algoma Highlands, just north of Sault Ste. Marie. Indeed, after a year’s hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a welcoming mood of happiness, relief and camaraderie emanates from photographs and videos from the much-anticipated UTSC, held last September amid perfect autumn weather and vibrant colours in the hardwood-clad hills.  

“It was like, ‘finally,’” recalls Brash. “We could gather and be one as a community again. Local runners are the driving force of the event. We’re all so excited to show off our backyard. That’s what makes it so inviting for people coming from elsewhere.”

Official Qualifier for UT Mont Blanc

The 2019 UTSC, held at Stokely Creek Lodge in Goulais River, about 30 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie, included 5km, 15km, 32km, 55km and 83km courses. The inaugural event attracted a sell-out crowd of 150 runners from across Ontario and the U.S. Midwest. Brash admits he was floored by the turnout—and equally surprised when the event claimed a Northern Ontario Tourism Innovator award later that year. 

Perhaps the greatest accolade, however, came when the prestigious Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, a world-renowned trail race held annually in France, accepted Brash’s upstart, grassroots event as an official points qualifier. The UTSC was red hot and expectations were sky high—escalating into even greater, pent up anticipation when Brash finally received clearance to deliver the sequel in 2021.

To meet UTMB requirements Brash added a 170-km category for 2021, attracting 15 hard-core entrants (only five managed to finish the punishing long-distance course). Regardless of the race distance, they’re all meant to be tough, the organizer insists. The UTSC routes exploit “every scrap of elevation gain” in the rugged Algoma Highlands, including swooping single-track through intimate hardwood forests, exposed granite ridges and technical rocky climbs and descents.

One of Ontario’s Highest Points of Land

With few (if any, depending on the distance) road segments, an overwhelming sense of wilderness pervades and runners must keep close track of trail markers. The popular 17km category ascends King Mountain, one of Ontario’s highest points of land, affording views to Lake Superior. Brash, an avid runner and founder of Bear in Mind Running, a local trail race organizer, mapped routes with all of his favourite heart-pounding climbs and jaw-dropping lookouts for his flagship UTSC event. 

But all the challenges come with definite rewards. “I tried to include everything that I would want to see if I was a runner coming here for the first time,” adds Brash. “I wanted to make sure to include every possible view that needed to be seen out there.”

World-class Scenery

Having travelled across Canada for running events, it was natural for Sault Ste. Marie-based runner Mir Shafiee to support a race in his own backyard. Shafiee, who has participated in both installments of the UTSC, contends the Algoma Highlands scenery is truly world-class. “Last year, I remember scenes of sunrise, quiet lakes and thick fog,” says Shafiee, 53, who ran the 56km event in 2021. “It felt like I was running in the clouds on Robertson Cliffs.

“Trail running is always a challenge because of the uneven footing,” he adds. “But I never grow tired of it. Stokely is a challenging course. But it will teach you how to be persistent, and how to keep going forward.”

A Race for Everyone

As much as Brash, who has run the epic 100-miler at UTMB in France, admires the long-distance competitors, he maintains that the UTSC is for everyone. The shorter races are popular with youth, first-time runners and high-school athletes alike. As the buzz continues to grow around Stokely’s “ultra”-length races, Brash says continued interest amongst recreational runners in the 5km and 17km categories will ultimately drive registration to his goal of 300-plus participants when UTSC returns on September 23-24, 2022. 

For Ramin Emad, the 5km event at Stokely was a perfect way to wrap up his first season of trail running. Emad, 40, who moved to Sault Ste. Marie from Toronto in 2020, recalls being nearly overwhelmed by the initial uphill climb—and then equally awestruck from the scenery as the trail levelled off. “It’s like you’re on top of the world, surrounded by all the fall colours,” he says. “I had to stop to enjoy the view and just take it all in.”

Of course, Brash is far too busy on race day to lace up his own running shoes. But he shares in the thrilling sense of accomplishment runners feel as they cross the finish line. “It’s like a tailgate party,” he says. “It’s a celebration, not a competition.”

Emad recalls feeling just that as he completed his first UTSC. “It was so friendly and there was such great camaraderie,” he says. “The cowbells were ringing and I felt great.”

Visit the UT Stokely website for more information including how to register. Stay up to date on all the events in Sault Ste. Marie by visiting our Events page here