Wawa Backcountry Snowmobiling

An Epic Snowmobile Adventure

Updated: By Stephanie Santeford

After meeting Jess Kline at Hay Days, the largest snowmobile show in the United States, I invited her to join me out west during the winter of 2015 for an Epic Snowmobile Adventure in the big mountains. It was her first time snowmobiling out west, so we made the most out of it. Spending nearly two weeks together, travelling over 2,000 miles and exploring many beautiful mountain ranges we truly had an epic adventure.

During our exploration of the Cascade Mountains, Jess said to me, “You need to come to Ontario to ride!” The opportunity to try something new sounded like a blast, and so when this offer became a reality I was ecstatic. I was curious and wanted to see what riding was like in Ontario, so as can be expected, my excitement was crushed when the weather did not cooperate last winter. Our adventure was put on hold, but old man winter returned this year and so the planning started again.

In preparation for the trip I found a lot less gear would be needed. Since I wasn’t riding in big mountainous terrain, I didn’t need an Avalanche float backpack, probe or transceiver. As a result, my bags were much lighter and easier to manage leaving Seattle, Washington.

Friendly hospitality and warm hugs greeted me at the airport when I arrived. It didn’t take me long to realize the friendly and welcoming culture I was experiencing is the standard for Ontario people. Reflecting on my initial introduction to Jess a few years before, I remembered how quickly we became friends and had an absolute blast on our adventure. I knew this trip would also be an amazing experience.


Taking selfies outside the Sault Ste. Marie Airport. (Photo credit: Virgil Knapp)

Snowflakes were already falling as we headed out on the road to drive from Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa, located a few hours away. Before we hit the road ,we stopped at the Breakfast Pig, where the all-day breakfast menu offers a unique twist. Sweet and savory temptations like pulled pork waffles, and a glazed donut filled with an over easy egg and bacon graced the menu. I was encouraged to try a Canadian favourite called ‘poutine’. I happily complied to this request and was glad I did. Once you try poutine your life will never be the same.

On the way to Wawa, we stopped to search for a Canadian beanie, or as I learned, this is called a ‘tuque’ in Canada. A local shopping center had a nice collection of artisan shops filled with awesome handmade slippers, hats, dreamcatchers and more. Outside we discovered a hand carved totem pole and a huge stuffed bear wearing a red Canadian t-shirt.  The second store I walked into is where I hit the jackpot and found the desired tuque I was in search for.  It was red, with white letters that spelled out CANADA and a traditional maple leaf.  It was perfect!  With our mission accomplished we continued on our drive.


Mission accomplished! (Photo credit: Virgil Knapp)

The breathtaking views I witnessed on the drive to Wawa made the two hours pass quickly. The gentle winding road was surrounded by beautiful evergreen trees covered in snow. As we cruised around a bend, Lake Superior came into full view in front of us, with the shore covered with massive ice chunks that looked like icebergs. They were huge! I felt like I was in another world; it was amazing. As we travelled further North it started to snow and the terrain began to change from smaller hills to larger and more rugged hills. To my surprise, it was much different than what I had imagined. My excitement grew even more to backcountry ride the terrain in Wawa.

The moment we pulled in to the Wawa Motor Inn I could tell it was a snowmobile destination with all the trucks and snowmobile trailers in the parking lot. In addition to the main lodge, there were also individual log chalets that could be rented out. The restaurant and lounge featured a huge stone fireplace, which became our home base at the end of each day where we shared dinner, stories and more poutine!


Made it to the Wawa Motor Inn! (Photo credit: Virgil Knapp)


(Photo credit: Virgil Knapp)

Night turned into a new, snow filled day, and it was time for Jess and I to go shred Wawa!

Our morning began at Jones Power Sports, where Russ Jones explained backcountry riding zones, the badlands and more. The area is massive, so if you and your group feel really ambitious you can attempt a super secret route.  If you complete the assignment the route will be named after you.


Getting the day’s mission from Russ Jones at Jones Power Sports in Wawa, Ontario. (Photo credit: Virgil Knapp)


Long track rentals are available from Jones’ Power Sports in Wawa. (Photo credit: Virgil Knapp)

wawa goose monument

The famous Wawa Goose Monument. (Photo credit: Virgil Knapp)

It sounded really fun and I couldn’t wait to get out there and tackle our first day. We rented new Polaris Pro Rmk 600 Axys’ with 155 tracks. To my surprise the terrain was nothing like I anticipated. There was huge variety consisting of an incredible trail system, backcountry riding, frozen lakes with ice fishing huts and sprawling wide open terrain. My favorite was a zone, named the ‘badlands’. This area was massive, with super cool terrain. I could see myself exploring this region for days.


(Photo credit: Virgil Knapp)


(Photo credit: Virgil Knapp)


Taking a break. (Photo credit: Virgil Knapp)


(Photo credit: Virgil Knapp)

My stomping grounds at home are riding areas near Seattle, Washington. As a sponsored Backcountry freerider, I have ridden mountain ranges all over Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia. Colorado is the furthest East I’ve explored terrain on a snowmobile.


Snow capped, ice glazed mountain tops. (Photo credit: Virgil Knapp)


(Photo credit: Virgil Knapp)

Riding in Wawa was very different than the big mountains out west. While there weren’t big mountain chutes or huge cornices, there was still a good variety of terrain that I enjoyed riding. Wawa is definitely a place I would like to return to.  Especially after learning about the top-secret missions from Russ. This planted a seed in my mind to build a team of women riders to come to Wawa to tackle our own top secret mission. If we conquer the mission, then we get to name a slice of the Wawa badlands! Stay tuned as we put this plan in to action.

About Stephanie Santeford

Stephanie is a Backcountry snowmobiler & photographer from the Pacific Northwest.

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