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 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 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 Ian Austen
Ontario Ice Caves: One of the world’s finest travel experiences, according to the NYT.
The ice caves that emerge from the winds and waves that pound the north shore of Lake Superior have always been somewhat ephemeral. But climate change has now brought an element of doubt into their future. For now, the caves are a regularly occurring feature, notably along the shoreline near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, a steel town just across the international border from a Michigan town of the same name.
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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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