Say hello to ice-frosted trees and streets, snuggly scarves, puffy jackets and cozy nights in by the fire. The snowy season is nearly here, which means Ontario is about to transform into a winter wonderland.
In Sault Ste. Marie, you can truly embrace the best of the cold weather. Located seven hours north of the GTA by car (or a short plane ride), this action-packed Ontarian town is one of the province’s best destinations for a snowy getaway.
Nestled between Lake Superior and Lake Huron on the banks of St. Marys River, Sault Ste. Marie (affectionately known as “the Soo”) is packed with opportunities to ski, snowboard, skate, snowshoe and even surf (yes!) your way through the winter.
Whether you arrive by plane or by road trip, these nine activities will keep you busy on your adventures through Sault Ste. Marie’s idyllic winter landscape.
By Toronto Life Magazine
Remember how much you loved winter when you were a kid? Eagerly awaiting every snowfall, playing outside in the snow for hours, and then hurrying in for supper — exhausted in the best way — before drifting off into the kind of deep, restful sleep that comes after a carefree day spent outdoors in the fresh air?
What if you could recapture that feeling, and trade slushy, sloppy city streets for pristine picture-perfect snow, boundless nature, and outdoor fun that recharges your spirit and rejuvenates your soul? In Sault Ste. Marie, you can.
A quick flight or scenic drive from Toronto, Sault Ste. Marie is Ontario’s premier winter destination — a nature and recreation paradise on the shores of Lake Superior, where you can savour the season as it should be.
Here are five reasons “the Soo” in Algoma Country makes for a fantastic winter getaway:
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By Sault Tourism
Hiawatha Highlands IS winter. Take the 10-minute drive from downtown Sault Ste. Marie on any winter’s day and discover this for yourself. The parking lot outside the iconic Soo Finnish building will be buzzing with activity; people hurrying to get skis on, unloading fat bikes from trucks, lacing up boots and snowshoes. There will also be an unmistakably buoyant and friendly atmosphere because whatever your chosen activity is, you’re about to experience winter the right way.
The favourite activity at Hiawatha is cross-country or Nordic skiing. Over 50km of professionally groomed trails, for both classic and skate skiing, on three unique systems offers something for all abilities.
The Pinder system has 10km of green and blue trails with just a hint of elevation; perfect to learn those cross-country skills. The beautiful Red Pine system is more of a challenge for those looking for some hills and climbs, and with up to 15km of trails, this system is great for a workout! The third system is the stunning Crystal Creek trail network, which offers a variety of graded trails surrounding the creek and waterfalls. You can choose to ski up to 23km of green, blue and black trails, including the extension to Mabel Lake, making this system a favourite.
If you like night skiing then check out the 2km Kinsmen lit section of the Crystal Creek system, perfect for an evening workout. Hiawatha Highlands also runs lantern ski events at various times of the year. Keep an eye on the website or on social media for details of this beautiful event!
A fun activity and a great way to experience winter is to snowshoe! There is more than 9km of snowshoe trails at Hiawatha that run parallel to the ski trails. The Pinder trails are relatively flat and take you through the beautiful Hiawatha forests. If you are looking for a real winter-workout then head to the Crystal Creek trail for 4km of vigorous ups and downs and heart-pumping exercise!
Check out the ski trail map here or above for more info.
Fat Biking has grown in popularity in the last few years and there is now over 9km of trails at Hiawatha Highlands to enjoy. Trails are located within the Crystal Creek system (within Kinsmen Park) and are keenly maintained by the Sault Cycling Club. For a longer ride, you can choose to head out to Mabel Lake on trails shared with skiers.
Hiawatha Highlands has a cozy clubhouse where you can buy passes, refreshments, or warm up before or after your activity. The clubhouse is also where you can rent skis, poles, boots or snowshoes. Visit the ‘Passes’ page to get all the information on daily and seasonal passes and rental equipment.
By Colin Field and Mountain Life Magazine
Dropping in, we flow through the trees in knee-deep snow. The locals ride and ski through the woods like water down a stream: effortlessly. Their movements are beautiful to watch. We’re all whooping with joy; it’s impossible not to. We absolutely nailed the conditions today: blower Lake Superior-affected powder. And lots of it. We reach the bottom and without even speaking I ski through the non-existent lift line and hop right back on the chair. Glorious. Friends be damned, it’s a powder day.
With a vertical drop of 700 feet and an average snowfall of 132 inches, Searchmont Resort is the underdog of Ontario’s ski resorts. There’s no Starbucks at the base lodge. You can’t buy a Canada Goose jacket in the pro shop and there are no waterslides or amusement parks. But that’s part of its charm. It’s a ski hill. You come here to ski (or snowboard obviously). And that’s what everyone is here to do.
While Searchmont didn’t open in the winter of 2020/21, they’re stoked to fire up the chair-lifts and get those bull wheels turning again in 2021/22.
“There’s a lot going on,” says media coordinator Darren Sanderson. “We’re replacing our old double lift with a new triple and we are building a brand new triple, which will also feed into two new runs. Our goal is to make it so there’s more of a transition between our learning centre and the main runs.”
Not only that the owners that took over in 2018 have invested in a new restaurant called the Kiln and the new Caribou Café, and their villas are being completely rebuilt, both inside and out. Hopefully they’re ready for this sea-son. And perhaps most importantly, they’ve upgraded their snowmaking capability.
“In 2019 we had our earliest start ever, on December 7. It was partly because of those new snowmakers. Hopefully the weather co-operates so we can have a good start to the season this year too.”
Amen to that. Come on UlIr!
By Sault Tourism
Visit Stokely Creek Lodge and experience winter the way it should be; world-class cross-country skiing, heart-pumping snowshoeing, beautiful lodges and chalets, log fires, hot chocolate all in some of the most beautiful snow-lined countryside anywhere. Come and see why USA Today has described Stokely Lodge as one of the top 5 Nordic Ski resorts in North America. It’s the perfect place for an adventure vacation, a romantic getaway or if you are just longing to experience a true winter retreat.
Yes, winter! Stokely Creek Lodge is located in one of the largest snow belts in North America where it can get up to 17 feet of snow a year, this means there will be snow! Stokely snow is the awesome, white, cozy kind ideal for skiing or snowshoeing. There are also log-fire warming huts along the way, great for a lunch break to warm those hands or just to catch your breath.
Stokely Creek has more than 100km of groomed trails, on 8000 acres making it the largest Nordic skiing resort in the area. Check out the trail maps here! There are both skating and classic trails on a variety of terrain and elevation making it perfect for moderate to advanced skiers. Head out to Norm’s Cabin or one of the 5 other warming cabins including one at the top of King Mountain, or head to one of the faraway frozen lakes. You can ski for hours and not see another person!
Stokely Creek offers Scandinavian style accommodation for guests in the main lodge or in individual chalets. The main lodge has fireside reading rooms and a large dining room where meals are served. There is also a clubhouse with a log fire where guests can relax or warm up.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner is offered with hot and cold options available. Communal dinner is served in the main dining room, with special considerations being made for the 2021 / 2022 season. This includes options for separate tables for groups, more spaces for guests, or food being brought to the Club House. Learn more here!
Absolutely! Stokely Creek is located just 35 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie and so is great for a day trip. Visitors are welcome to enjoy all of Stokely Creek’s awesome facilities such as fireside reading rooms, the clubhouse, the waxing room, and the 6 warming huts on the trails! Ski or snowshoe passes are available as well as ski lessons. Scroll to the bottom of this page for all the information. Day visitors can purchase meals and drinks at the main lodge and packed lunches are available for a day on the trails.
Stokely Creek Lodge and the surrounding trails and countryside is the perfect place in which to experience a true winter. It is open from December 26th through March. Visit the website for more information.
For more travel inspiration read ‘Stokely Creek Lodge for Cross-country Skiing’ by Leigh McAdam and ‘Stokely Creek Lodge’ by Martin Lortz.
By Tourism Sault Ste. Marie
Sault Ste. Marie is home to some of the best skiing east of the Rockies, including Alpine, Nordic and Backcountry. We offer a true winter experience in the beautiful backdrop of Northern Ontario wilderness. Like other outdoor adventures in Sault Ste. Marie, you can expect scenic vistas, glacier-scoured hills, ancient forests and — most importantly — truly monumental snowfall. Our stunning landscape is what makes the region so special as a place to ski in Ontario. Here’s how to get the most out your skiing trip in Sault Ste. Marie.
No.1 – Searchmont Resort
Big vertical, rugged terrain, Searchmont has some of the best downhill skiing in Ontario.
On top of the 700 feet of vertical, 26 runs, 100 acres of rolling mountain, terrain park, 4 lifts, snow school, Searchmont is also a fully equipped resort with a restaurant, bar, shop, ski and snowboard rentals and accommodations. Escape the crowds and the lift queues of jam-packed southern Ontario ski hills and get away to this stunning, adventure-packed mountain.
Visit the website for more information.
Click here for a link to all trail and maps.
No.2 – Cross Country Skiing at Stokely Creek Lodge
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Stokely Creek is world class. A short 30-minute drive from the city this stunning venue draws visitors from all over the world. This amazing Ontario cross-country ski destination garners rave reviews and ranks among the best in North America.
There are over 100 km of trails for classic and skate-skiing techniques. Stokely earns its credibility with breathtaking scenery, including frozen waterfalls, endless forests and the amazing vista from the top of King Mountain.
Backcountry cabins and rest stops are spread out along the way, enhancing the resort’s wilderness feel. You’ll appreciate warm shelter while skiing Stokely. Better yet, make it a weekend (or stay for a week): The lodge boasts Scandinavian-style accommodations and outstanding home-cooked meals..
Parking and trailhead is at Stokely Creek Lodge, in Goulais River Ontario.
No.3 – Cross Country Skiing at Hiawatha Highlands
Hiawatha Highlands offers more than 50 km of varying levels of cross country skiing trail on professionally machine groomed trails for both classic and skate skiing. Parking and trailheads are located on Landslide Road, located just a few minutes drive of the city. Hiawatha easily ranks among the best places to go cross-country skiing in Ontario.
There are three main skiing trail systems to explore, each with different terrain and elevation. The Pinder System features minimal hills and gentle grades which make it suitable for all skill levels. The main 4 km route has an additional 6 km of extensions including the open Mockingbird extension with picturesque views of neighbouring farms. A lighted 2 km loop near the trailhead means you can ski until around 10 pm.
The Red Pine system, a favourite of many locals, is a little more rugged with steeper hills making it more advanced and technical trail with several side extensions, creek crossings and towering red- and white pines.
Finally, the Crystal Trail system is the most challenging. Trails weave around Crystal Creek and alongside waterfalls, with steep descents and heart-pounding climbs. It’s a great test for the advanced skier. Along with a rugged 10 km backcountry ski trail to Mabel Lake, the Crystal features more than 20 km of trails to sink your teeth into.
No.4 – Backcountry Skiing at Bellevue Valley Lodge
Sault Ste. Marie is one of Ontario’s premier destinations for backcountry skiing. Your starting point is Bellevue Valley Lodge, set in the massive Canadian Shield hills of Goulais River, a 25-minute drive from the city.
Explore the extensive beauty of the area with backcountry telemark, alpine touring or nordic skiing. Ski up the impressive King Mountain at 1800 ft above sea level, and explore 30 gladed powder runs with about 700 feet of vertical. With no chair lifts you’ll have to bring your climbing skins to earn your turns.
Runs include the formidably named Undertaker, Overtaker, Vortex of Pain and the Pyramid. Steep fall lines combine with incredible snowfall to make Sault Ste. Marie a fantastic place to powder ski. This is unquestionably the best backcountry skiing in Ontario!
Click here for a link to the trail maps.
By Conor Mihell
Fat Biking, Skiing, Skating and more: Winters are hot in Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma. Learn more about one of the best places for a winter vacation in Canada.
Sault Ste. Marie experiences winter like few other places in Ontario. Close proximity to Lake Superior produces exceptional snowfall; this, combined with a rugged Canadian Shield landscape of rolling hills, tall pines and hardwood forests, creates a winter playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Ontario’s finest nordic and alpine skiing have long been staples of Sault Ste. Marie winters; you’ll also find incredible backcountry skiing and snowshoeing, an emerging fat-bike scene, great ice fishing and unique urban ice-skating opportunities—all making “The Soo” the preeminent winter adventure town in central Canada.
With the legendary trails, gourmet meals and luxury accommodations of Stokely Creek Lodge on hiatus for the year due to COVID-19, the 50-plus-km of diverse, impeccably groomed cross-country ski trails at Hiawatha Highlands take center stage.
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By Christina Donati
Escape to the best winter adventure hub in Ontario! Here’s a plan to make it happen.
When thinking about fun winter activities with physical distancing in mind, Sault Ste. Marie is the perfect place. Nestled right along St. Mary’s River, and bordering both Lake Superior and Lake Huron, this charming Northern Ontario town is chock-full of fun things to do to get more in touch with your outdoorsy side year-round.
And in the wintertime, its natural adventures do not disappoint. Not only are there frosty views you won’t find anywhere else (Lake Superior’s breathtaking ice caves are unique to this region), but Sault Ste. Marie also boasts an abundance of activities as well.
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By Colin Field
The next generation of turn earners go backcountry skiing in Sault Ste. Marie.
I love Bellevue Valley Lodge. It’s no secret. I love earning turns too. It’s a special kind of masochism I suppose, but I love being in the woods, working hard, and then enjoying the thrill of skiing through trees, bouncing over logs, and falling into soft, deep, bottomless powder snow.
After two visits to see Enn and Robin (owners of Bellevue Valley Lodge), I finally managed to drag my 10-year-old son and my wife away for a couple days of ski touring and Algoma Country hospitality. Would my family love it as much as I do?
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By Conor Mihell
Sault Ste. Marie is a great destination for an active winter weekend vacation in Ontario.
Cradled by the ancient mountains of the Canadian Shield and surrounded by freshwater seas, locals have always known the community of Sault Ste. Marie (pop. 70,000) to be an epicenter of outdoor adventure. Exceptionally snowy winters support vast networks of groomed cross-country ski trails, an incredible array of backcountry ski and snowshoe options, and a vibrant fat-biking scene. “The Soo” has emerged as a one of the best winter sports hubs between Quebec and the Rockies. This three-day itinerary is jam-packed for adventure travellers keen to play in the snow.
Stokely Creek Lodge located just off the Trans-Canada Highway, a mere half-hour drive north of Sault Ste. Marie, is a beloved destination for American cross-country ski enthusiasts who return year after year.
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