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The Algoma Winter Guide

The insider's guide winter adventure in the region

Updated: By Heather Bot

Algoma in winter is a brand-new season of fun: crisp air, and freshly falling snow that twinkles in the sun or under evening lights at night. You can do so many things during this time of year. Ski or snowshoe, ice skate, cozy up to a crackling fire, or stay warm indoors to shop or see a show.

1. Get Outfitted For Winter Adventure

When you venture or play in Algoma’s winter wonderland, you need to dress the part. Because it’s important to stay warm, stay dry and be prepared. Great Lakes Outfitters can outfit you and your trip from jackets to fleece, from snow pants to boots, hats, mitts, and snowsuits. Gear up with snowshoes, poles, and accessories. Also, you can outfit the whole family as they sell youth sizes.

2. Go Snowmobiling

Algoma trails are in OFSC District 13. That’s 2,000 km of nicely groomed trail that takes you into sled-friendly communities and some of the most awesome remote wilderness riding in Ontario. Clubs host events throughout the season and you can go off-trail to ice fish on remote lakes. Take the North Shore Loop, go All The Way There, or do the Soo Highlands Loop. Connect to District 15 for more northern trails.

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3. Play In The Snow

Searchmont Resort is the region’s legendary ski resort in the region with a vertical of 700 feet, 6 lifts, newly renovated accommodations, and an on-site restaurant and lounge. Next up is Mount Dufour located in the heart of Elliot Lake with a 320-foot vertical, a full-service chalet, and close to the city’s accommodations, restaurants, and entertainment. Chapleau Ski Hill is a 130-foot vertical with the longest run being 1,000 feet situated in the majestic northern woods.

4. Galleries, Museums

The Art Gallery of Algoma celebrates arts and culture all year with exhibitions and events. Book a tour and take a mini painting lesson. Learn the history of aviation in the North at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. Enjoy an interpretive lunch with Fridays by the Fire at the Ermatinger-Clergue NHS. Celebrate Francophone arts and culture at Galerie 815 in Hearst.

5. Celebrate Winter At A Festival

The Bon Soo Winter Carnival celebrates community and winter each year. The week-long event is host to timeless activities including the Polar Bear Dip, Bum Slides, concerts, lantern skis, curling bonspiels, Passport to Unity, ice skating, and so many other events taking place throughout the community.

6. Go Fat Biking

The Crystal Creek Trail and the Mabel Lake extension at Hiawatha Highlands offer winter fat biking. The 9 km single-track trails lead riders through whispering pines and some breathtaking views. Perfect for the whole family and groups of friends looking to enjoy the outdoors.

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7. Ski The Trails

Cross-country ski trails are plentiful across the region, notably Stokely Creek Lodge. Situated in the Algoma Highlands this all-inclusive resort offers premier skiing and snowshoeing on abundant trails including to the top of King Mountain. You’ll find cross-country ski trails in communities in the region including Thessalon Ski Trails, Boom Camp Trails, Wawa, St. Joseph Island, Elliot Lake, and Chapleau.

8. Indigenous Interpretive Guided Winter Tours by Snowshoe

Did you know that snowshoeing is over 4,000 years old? It was first used as transportation in winter to hunt and gather. Indigenous people in North America developed the most advanced and diverse snowshoes before the 20th century. Book an Interpretive Guided Winter Tour with Thrive Tours with hands-on learning about local Indigenous culture, history, and natural environment. Tours for all ages and skill levels.

9. Trek The Landscape

Yep, we’re still talking about snowshoeing! A unique spot is Thunder House Falls Trail just north of Hearst, backed annually by local volunteers. This is an intimate experience in Ontario’s boreal forest wilderness surrounded by spruce and poplars.

10. The Camaraderie Of Ice Fishing

Ice on the lake doesn’t keep anglers from fishing. Ice fishing is a fun and social activity perfect for families and friends. Several local ice fishing derbies take place each year to compete for awesome prizes and bragging rights. Notables are the Wawa Ice Fishing Derby, Chapleau Pike Ice Fishing Derby, and Elliot Lake Ice Fishing Derby. Book an ice hut rental at Veilleux Camping, or Tunnel Lake Trading Post.

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11. See The Lake Superior Ice Formations

A rare and beautiful phenomenon on Lake Superior is the ice formations. With each winter, formations change and like a snowflake, no two are alike. This is a unique experience and one that requires the utmost safety to venture out. Book a guided day trip to see these formations with Forest the Canoe.

12. Relax In A Winter Cottage Getaway

People come from around the world to experience the romance of a Canadian winter and there is no better way to do this than a stay at a winter cottage resort. Watch the snow gently fall from your window as you’re cozy inside by a crackly fireplace or wood stove. Enjoy winter activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, learning to ice fish, or trekking to view winter wildlife birdwatch.

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13. Do Some Winter Birding

Christmas Bird Count is one of North America’s longest-running Citizen Science projects, taking place in over 2,000 localities in the Western Hemisphere. The Desbarats Christmas Bird Count helps monitor and conserve North America’s birds. This is an all-day event as either a field observer or feeder watch within the 12 km radius.

14. Winter Photography, Northern Lights

This is a unique time of year to photograph winter wildlife, snowy landscapes, and ice formations and a special time of year to witness the Northern Lights. Some favourite frozen waterfall sites to snowshoe to are Crystal Falls at Hiawatha Highlands or Robertson Creek Falls in the Algoma Highlands.

15. Go Backcountry Skiing

Telemark skiing is a technique combining elements of Alpine and Nordic skiing and you can do this in Algoma. Bellevue Valley Lodge is a ski-in, ski-out lodge and for over 30 years has welcomed telemark skiers to 2,000 acres with 20 runs.

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16. Tie One On

A taste of the north! Visit Northern Superior Brewing, part of the region’s history for over 100 years. (You might be from Sault Ste. Marie if you remember draft balls and drinking Superior at the Time Out Lounge). In winter, you can book a heated igloo to enjoy a brew on the patio.

17. Warm Up With Hot Chocolate

Some hot chocolate spots to try in communities include JCC Sugar, The Queen’s Tarts, The Well for Swiss or White Chocolate or The Copper Bean Café. Need a gift? Order handmade hot chocolate bombs from Hot Bombs SSM.

18. Tobogganing With The Family

Great winter memories begin with tobogganing! Take your family or friends to Finn Hill in Sault Ste. Marie, used by local children for literally decades with toboggans, crazy carpets, flying saucers and GT snow racers. There is generous parking and a portable rest area. The Winter Slide in Hearst is located at the end of Piper Street with designated parking and lighting if used at night.

19. Compete In Winter Sports Events

The Beaver Freezer Marathon is a fun competition through the wilderness within the Robinson-Huron Treaty Territory. The marathon uses routes traditionally used for fishing and hunting by Garden River First Nation, Batchewana First Nation, and Metis People. Choose to ski, run or fat bike up to 42 km across frozen lakes, streams, and well-marked trails.

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20. Ice Skate

Ice skating is a family-friendly activity found in every community in the region with indoor and outdoor offerings. Notable outdoor skating offerings include Century 21 The Rink in the Canal District, the outdoor rink at Brennan Harbour Park in Spanish, and the public rink in Hearst. If staying at a winter cottage resort, it’s possible to skate on the lake. Ask owners about ice thickness and safety before venturing out.

21. Indoor Fun

Explore what the Station Mall has to offer for clothing and apparel, home décor, fine jewellery and more. Go bowling at The Roxy Bowling Centre in Wawa, or Northcrest Lanes in Sault Ste. Marie. Check out free curling nights in Chapleau. Or, try your climbing skills on the rock wall at the Outfitters.

22. See A Show

The winter season brings theatre productions, film festivals, concerts, and so much more for an evening of music, arts, and culture. Go see new movies on the big screen at Galaxy Cinemas, Hearst Theatre, or Maple Cinema. Enjoy music from around the world with the Sault Symphony Orchestra, and performing arts at Conseil des Arts de Hearst, the Elliot Lake Amateur Theatre Ensemble (ELATE) or Sault Community Theatre.

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About Heather Bot

I'm a member of the Algoma Country Travel staff. I hope my blogs entice you to visit the beautiful region that I call home.

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