Story & Photos by: Jeff McGirr
Just recently I was speaking with my good friend Mario who resides in Munich, Germany. We were discussing the distance and time it takes to travel between places in Europe and places in Canada. I was boasting that I was venturing 400km north on my snowmobile. Living 400km north of Toronto, the total distance of my trip will be 800km north in one province. The idea of this distance amazed him as it is approximately equal to travelling from his home in Germany to Paris, France or Rome, Italy.
When I mentioned that my trip would just touch the lower portions of Northern Ontario, and that it can often span more than a hundred kilometres by trail between civilizations, Mario was shocked. Glowing with Canadian pride now, I explained how Northern Ontario is home to tens of thousands of kilometres of wide, smooth and groomed snowmobile trails, dotted with friendly communities and snowmobile to the door establishments, his only response, “sounds like the Canadian version of the Eurail”. (pass that gives the ability to travel on almost all railroads in Europe)
This vast area known as ‘Northern Ontario’ is very special and offers an experience that rivals no other. The experience that exists is truly world class and offers something for everyone. The trails, scenery and backcountry is a medley of endless hydro lined corridors, majestic boreal forests, untouched frozen lakes and rugged ancient mountains that appear as they did hundreds of years ago when the first voyageurs visited North America.
As an avid snowmobiler riding diversity is important to me and I enjoy the smooth, wide, groomed trails as much as the untouched snow that is abundant in the back country. A trip up North offers just that,riding diversity in the best form.
Getting back to my conversation with Mario he asked about traffic on the trails, “Do you think it will be busy?” “The only traffic,” I told him, “will be at the local restaurants and hotels where snowmobilers gather at the end of the day for great food and to share stories, photos and iron out the riding plan for the next morning. On the trails we may see a dozen other riders at most.” “What will you do about fuel or if you need to visit a snowmobile dealer for parts or service?” continued Mario, as if he were taking notes in an effort to plan his own Northern Ontario Adventure. “The trail always leads to a fuel station and nearly every community has a snowmobile dealer of some form, best of all these locations are highlighted on the snowmobile guides, as well as marked with signs on trails which provides confidence and security in even the most remote locations,” I said, “Besides, this is Northern Ontario the place where you reach out with one hand and you get ten back.”
Mario’s final question “How long does winter last in Northern Ontario?” At first this really stumped me because the answer can sometimes be as vast as the province itself, but as we all know Northern Ontario provides a lengthy winter season. “Localized riding generally begins in December with full connections to neighbouring communities completed in the first weeks of January. The best riding conditions are in February and March when the days grow longer, the temperature rises slightly and the snowpack is deep and abundant. The beginning of April is a possibility depending how early spring comes, late March and early April are known for warm sunny days where riders layer down to keep cool while snowmobiling.” “Amazing,” finished Mario, “This is now on my bucket list.”
A snowmobile adventure to Northern Ontario is something that needs to be on every snowmobilers bucket list. It really is an explorer’s paradise; it’s closer for us than for Mario and can easily be reached by driving just a few hours north of Toronto, Ottawa or London.
I encourage you to take advantage of the amazing landscape we call Northern Ontario this winter, get out and discover Ontario. Goride Ontario, come explore the limitless possibilities for winter fun in our own backyard.