Easy to Learn & BIG Fun: Cross Country Skiing 101

By Bill Steer November 28, 2016

When it snows, why not make for the cross country ski trails? Like canoeing, cross country skiing is a limited-time option. But that’s the BIG reason to choose Northeastern Ontario—it’s known for both.

Nordic, or cross country, skiing is popular with all ages in Ontario, and it’s no wonder. We have hundreds of kilometres of groomed trails for an activity that epitomizes wellness of mind and body. There are also back-country trails for the more adventurous explorers.

For city dwellers in particular, it can be difficult to find good trails. At best there are temporary tracks in urban parks after a good snowfall. Lucky for you, Northeastern Ontario has a network of community clubs that complements the tourism service sector.

Why Cross Country?

crosscountryskierAre video games a good way to exercise? No matter what the studies say—and the consensus states virtual reality is not meeting all the needs—we still need to go outside. The options for aerobic exercise during the winter are a slippery run along icy street or biking nowhere under the fluorescent lights of the gym, staring at an electronic monitor and trying to keep those darn earbuds in.

Cross country is a much better option. Science agrees—recent research suggests it offers unique advantages compared to the alternatives. One of the big differences between cross country skiing and other forms of endurance exercise like running and cycling is that your upper body plays a big role. As an added bonus, the workout is pleasurable.

The science part of it is that as the body works harder to stay warm, the amount of endorphins produced also increases, leaving you with a stronger sense of happiness and lightness following a ski in the cold. As the body works harder to regulate its core temperature, you’ll burn a few more calories during your wintry workout compared to the one conducted indoors.

Since cross country skiing is fairly easy to learn, it’s become a very popular family sport. You start with shuffling and then the “kick and glide” eventually becomes inherent. The occasional steep uphill on a cross country course is a necessary evil so climb perpendicularly of angle up. How else do you earn the downhill that follows?

Getting Started

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Let’s keep it simple—we want to get outside! Unless you’re choosing rental skis, there are a few things to consider. To wax your skis more or less is one decision. And there is the new emerging technology “skin skis.” Outdoors specialist, Mike Palangio, gives us some tips to get started.

“Before a customer walks out the door, proper ski fitting is an important step that should be a given by any ski retailer. All skis are sized by a weight range from the factory. However, these are fairly broad ranges and can be a little bit misleading depending on the skier’s ability and intended use of the skis (i.e. on-track vs. off-track, and leisure vs. performance). Professionally fit skis will serve you better and help enhance skiing experience.

“Often times wax less or “grip” skis are wonderful options for a beginner getting into the sport that doesn’t want to invest the time to wax,” he said. “Waxing for grip will provide more performance, however for the average beginner the time commitment may be daunting. Which is why new technology has been developed and it is gaining popularity. Look for many touring level skis with “skin” or mohair grip systems in the coming seasons. This provides an all weather solution to the wax less market.”

After you figure out what kind of cross country ski package you need, it will be with you for a long time. A wise man told me you can never have enough canoes and kayaks, but the same can said for cross country skis and snowshoes—different pieces of equipment for what awaits you and stays with you. Add a few layers of clothing and a small daypack and you’re ready to go. So let’s get going!

Where to Go

Because Northeastern Ontario is such a vast and relatively untouched country, the trail options here can seem endless. If you’re looking for a BIG getaway or a just a short day trip, there are literally hundreds of kilometers of trails waiting to be tracked.

No matter the type and length of vacation you’re planning, there are networks of trails just minutes from communities and hotels, motels and lodges throughout Northeastern Ontario; you’ll find a BIG winter adventure in this summary.

Find Accommodations Here for your Cross Country Skiing Expedition

Most clubs have now included snowshoe trails as well so there is the opportunity for the “double header.” See the websites for the maps and trail descriptions. Call the contact information and look for those special events; especially those monthly moonlight outings, special “food” days. Some trails have night lights. Look to the calendar of events for each club  when the trail direction is reversed for a different experience. These community clubs are like “home stays” when you are travelling abroad. The members are winter enthusiasts who have a passion for an active activity and they volunteer their time to make for a “natural experience.” They will go out of their way to answer your queries.

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Yes, the backcountry beckons and any provincial park or conservation authority area closed for the season provides those more natural skiing adventures and other options for winter camping. After being bitten by the winter activity bug, there are two examples for skiing and winter camping with your own gear or stay in a yurt. Two parks are open – Killarney Provincial Park in conjunction with Friends of Killarney Park, as well as Windy Lake Provincial Park in conjunction with the Onaping Falls Ski Club.

Cross Country Clubs

While this list of clubs and places to go cross country skiing at is by no means exhaustive, these locations give you an idea of where you can choose from throughout the region and where to find the trails. Many offer equipment or facility rentals as well. Find more places to ski, including lodge getaways!

See a full list of our Operators offering Cross Country Skiing

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Porcupine Ski Runners

T/ (705) 360-1444

Take your skis to Timmins the city “with the heart of gold.” Porcupine Ski Runners has 30 km of scenic and groomed trails, with 4 km of  night skiing under the lights. All trails are groomed for both classic and free-style skiing. For the avid hiker it has a fully signed snowshoe 5 km trail system designed to challenge anyone from experienced to novice. Equipment and chalet rentals are both available. New to Porcupine Ski Runners this year is the Ski Playground!

Mattagami Ski Club

T/ (705) 338-2588

Located just north of Smooth Rock Falls there are 18 km of groomed trails and 3 km of snow shoe trails. The Mattagami Ski Club consists of a main lodge with a second chalet located at the mid-point of the trails. It serves as a lookout over the ever-present Mattagami River.

Temiskaming Nordic Ski Club

T/ (705) 679-5106

Located just west of Highway 11, north of Cobalt and south of Haileybury, the 26-year old Temiskaming Nordic Ski Club offers 20 km of groomed and track-set skate and classic skiing trails on beautiful rolling esker terrain. It has a large heated log chalet with a “warm welcome” greeting on their website.

Englehart Nordic Ski Club

T/ (705) 544-2051

There are 12 km of groomed trails within Kap-Kig-Iwan Provincial Park that borders the scenic Englehart River. Snowshoe trails are available.

Cochrane Cross-Country Ski Club

T/ (705) 271-5335

Started in 1976, the Cochrane Cross Country Ski Club is located behind the curling club and features many trails with unique names, including the 2km loop ‘Squirrelly Cut’ and the 6km loop ‘Foxy Lady.’ Snowshoeing is available.

Moonbeam Nature Trails (Remi Ski Club)

T/ (705) 367-1110

Located between Moonbeam and Rene Brunelle Provincial Park are a number of looped trails to choose from. Great for snow shoeing, the Edward Bonner Tree Improvement Centre is located in the heart of the Great Northern Clay Belt and this trail system. It was originally established in 1948 as a tree nursery to produce seedlings for the purpose of boreal forest.

Laurentian Nordic Ski Club – City of Greater Sudbury

T/ (705) 988-3035

Stay in the city, take your skis. The Laurentian Nordic Ski Club is situated on the Laurentian University campus, with a groomed ski link/connection to the nearby BioSki Cross-Country Ski & Snowshoe Club. A trail pass allows access to the University Ski Trails, the Idlwylde Golf Club and the Nickel District Conservation Area Trails. These encompass approximately 18 km of loops and extensions.  Rentals are available (see the Directions tab for location).

Onaping Falls Nordic Ski Club

T/ (705) 855-0145

The Onaping Falls Nordic Ski Club maintains two trail sites—one at Windy Lake Provincial Park and the other in nearby Dowling. The main trail system is located at Windy Lake Provincial Park, just off of Highway 144 North.  Explore more than 15 km of forested trail set for both the classic and skating enthusiast. Equipment and yurt rentals are available.

Walden Cross Country Fitness Club

T/ (705) 692-2321

The Walden Cross Country Fitness Club was established in 1978. The club hosts three trail systems: Naughton, Beaver Lake and Voyageur Trails. Naughton, the club’s primary location, offers more than 23 km of skate and classic trails. There is also a 3 km trail for both classical and skating for night skiing. Rentals are available.

North Bay Nordic Ski Club

T/ (705) 495-0332

The trail system for the North Bay Nordic Ski Club is a series of concentric loops of approximately 50km. One of the highlights the club offers is 2.5 km of lit trails. Most trails are groomed for both skating and classic. The trails are on Crown Land, which is part of the Mattawa River Provincial Park system. The main floor of the clubhouse is heated with a wood stove and has a dining area / common area and snack bar. There are ski equipment rentals.

West Nipissing Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club

T/ (705) 753-3431

The West Nipissing Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club shares their property with the Sturgeon Falls Rod and Gun Club.  There are 13 km of looped trails and 9 km of snowshoe trails. There is a heated chalet and it operates five days a week (Wednesday to Sunday), from 10 am – 3:30 pm.

Wasi Cross Country Ski Club

The Wasi Cross Country Ski Club is a located about 20 minutes south of North Bay, Ontario—between  Callander and Astorville on the Lake Nosbonsing Road. They have 17 km of ski trails and 7 km of snowshoe trails meandering through a mix of hardwood and conifers dotted with wetlands, with plenty of deer signs.

Capreol Cross Country Ski Club

T/ (705) 858-0555

There are 23 km of ski trails with bird feeders on some trails and over 20,000 seedlings planted to beautify the setting. There is moonlight skiing once a month, with a “follow-up” of pizza and entertainment. Classic tracks only, all trails are double-track set. There is a toboggan hill located next to the clubhouse. Rentals are available.

Iroquois Falls Cross Country Ski Club

T/ (705) 232-0002

Iroquois Falls Cross Country Ski Club was founded in 1973 and has 25 km of trails. Bring your dog out on the ‘Doggie Trail.’  Free sleighs for parents who want to bring along their younger children.

Manitoulin Nordic Ski Club

T/ (705) 368-3534

The Manitoulin Nordic Ski Club has 10 km of trails.  There is a ‘Cafe in the Woods’ event every two weeks featuring folk music. This North Channel club is located just off Highway 540, 14 km west of Little Current, featuring hilly terrain and a beautiful chalet.

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Come spring, you’ll be looking for your next canoe route in Northeastern Ontario. For now, enjoy the many cross country ski destinations and enjoy the BIG decision of where to go? It will be a pleasurable one.

See all of the clubs in one place! Use the Google Earth Base Map to look at the setting and terrain.

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