In some cities like Ottawa, Quebec City and Calgary it has been estimated that up to 5% of the population puts on a pair of Nordic skis at least once a year. That may seem like a lot but it’s nothing compared to the Norwegians. Sophie Redisch, a Norwegian blogger at Sophie’s World tells me that she doesn’t know of one person in Norway who doesn’t own a pair of skis. She goes on to say that the ability to put on skis right outside the front door can be an important criterion when buying a house. It’s a rare Canadian that can throw on a pair of cross country skis and head out their front door.
But there are loads of places across Canada that offer cross-country skiing on as much as 200 kilometers of trail.
Here are the top 19 places in Canada for Cross-country Skiing:
Silver Star and Sovereign Lake are a winning duo. Between the two resorts are 105 kilometers of interconnected trails. Renowned for their early season snow, this is the place to ski if you want to be seen with Olympic athletes. Carefully groomed trails are used by the Canadian and American National Cross Country teams as well as the Biathalon teams for early season training.
Callaghan Country near Whistler was the site of the Nordic events in the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. It’s in a snow belt and claims to have some of the deepest snow anywhere in Canada. Look for over 90 kilometers of trails – with lots of easy and moderate trails making loops in the vicinity of the day lodge. Another option is to ski to Callaghan Country Lodge – and on weekends enjoy a lunch – if you can’t stay for the night. Bring your pet too. There are several kilometers of pet friendly trails but you must purchase a pet pass first.
The 100 – 108 Mile Ski Trail Network located near the town of 100 Mile House in BC’s Chilcotin region features 100 kilometers of groomed trails for both classic and skate skiing. Nearby is another 50 kilometers of trails. Pat Corbett, owner of Hills Health Ranch, one of the two resorts within the ski network, tells me that he purposefully built here because of the great landscape and reliable snow. Trails are equally divided between easy, moderate and difficult. He says you can expect a lot of variety in your ski experience – with a rolling landscape of forests, lakes and grasslands.
Mount Washington on Vancouver Island offers 55 kilometers of machine-groomed Nordic ski trails. Sitting adjacent to Strathcona Provincial Park, the trails offer mountain and parkland views. In really good snow years, snowfall amounts reach epic proportions. The resort offers night skiing on Fridays and Saturdays.
The Whiteway is a 6 metre wide path of ice around the circumference of Windemere Lake. It started off several years ago as a 15 kilometre loop but has grown to include the whole lake and is now officially 29.8 km (18.5 mi) long and a Guinness World Record holder. Snow cleared from the ice is piled up on one side to allow for cross-country skiing. So not only can you skate but you can ski for 29.8 kilometers.
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Kananaskis Country is home to 85 kilometers of trails with the majority falling in the easy and moderately difficult category. It’s a popular area for people from Calgary because it’s relatively close – especially the north set of trails. Open from November until April, you’ll find loads of snow and plenty of spectacular mountain views. It’s free but you must bring your own equipment.
The Canmore Nordic Center is another one of Canada’s Olympic legacies – developed for the 1988 Winter Olympics. Located just minutes from downtown Canmore and less than 15 minutes from Banff National Park, it’s the place to go if you want a great workout. The 60 kilometers of terrain, geared for advanced and intermediate level skiers, is groomed for both classic and skate skiing. Night skiing is also possible on a 6.5 kilometer trail. Don’t be surprised if that person smoking you on the hill is a septuagenarian.
Prince Albert Ski Club has maintained the cross-country ski trails for over 30 years in Prince Albert’s Little Red River Park and Nesbit Forest. When I was in the area this past summer, a number of locals spoke of their love of the skiing here and the variety in the trails. And according to their website, the club maintains one of the best and most extensive urban single – track ski trail networks in North America. Prince Albert is located a few hours north of Saskatoon.
Prince Albert National Park, north of the town of Prince Albert in northern Saskatchewan offers approximately 150 kilometers of trails with plenty that are graded easy to moderate. Most are found near the town of Waskesiu Lake. Six warming huts are available but because the trails are so remote it pays to carry the 10 essentials and lots of extra food and hot drinks.Buy a park pass to access the trails.
Eb’s Trails, located an hour from Saskatoon in Nesbit Provincial Forest, offers 55 kilometers of groomed, classic ski trails. Cliff Speer of Canoe Ski tells me the trails traverse rolling forested terrain ranging from deep dark spruce woods to open ridges of jack pine and aspen bluffs and says there is plenty of inspiring scenery to soothe the urban weary soul. There’s a cross-section of trails to cater to all abilities.
Whiteshell Provincial Park delivers some of the best cross country skiing in Manitoba. Seventy kilometers of groomed trails are offered throughout the park in eight different locations. The Elf Hole – Goose Sanctuary and Pine Point Rapids Trail are two of the most scenic trails. Bring your own equipment or rent from MEC in Winnipeg, 2 hours away to the west. Go fully prepared for any emergency as you may be the only ones on the trail.
Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario is lucky to have three trail networks. Four loops ranging up to 13 kilometers in length make up the Fen Lake section. The Leaf Lake Trail system offers trails ranging from in length from one to 30 kilometers through some of the prettiest parts of the park. For the full backcountry experience check out the Minnesing Wilderness Ski Trail.
The Stokely Creek Lodge, near Sault Ste. Marie provides 135 kilometers of superb cross-country skiing on a mix of groomed and back-country trails. Snow is consistently excellent because of lake effect snow, the terrain is varied and you can expect to ski more vertical here than at any downhill ski resort in Ontario. (For some that may not be such a great thing.) Enjoy stunning views of Lake Superior and keep your eyes open for wildlife. You can book a room at the lodge but you can also visit as a day skier.