Step outside and you’ll find the city blanketed in crisp white snow – a familiar sight for those of us in the GTA. While it’s time to admit that winter is now here for the next few months, it doesn’t mean we need to go into hibernation. There are lots of adventures waiting to be discovered right outside the Greater Toronto Area, so pull on a warm coat and some sturdy boots, and start exploring.
Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing
Imagine yourself walking across an open field of freshly packed snow on a Saturday morning. That sounds pretty good, right? Well, you can make that a reality by visiting Christie Lake Conservation Area, located about a half hour west of Burlington. Strap on some snowshoes and explore trails that weave in and out of meadows and pine forests. Another option is to drive up north to Snow Valley or Horseshoe Resort in Barrie and tackle any one of their diverse routes. If you don’t have your own snowshoes, you can rent a pair from nearby MEC stores in Barrie, Burlington or Toronto (the North York store will start to have rental gear starting in spring 2017).
Horseshoe Resort also offers cross-country skiing for those who like a little more speed. If you’ve ever wanted to enjoy the majesty of a winter landscape in the evening, you can go skiing by moonlight along glowing trails lit by lanterns. A cozy fire and a steaming cup of apple cider await you at the chalet to help you warm up.
Skiing at Blue Mountain
You can’t beat the brisk feeling of cold air rushing past you as you glide smoothly down a mountain. Blue Mountain – Ontario’s largest ski resort – is one of your best options to make that experience happen. At two and a half hours from North York, it’s a bit of a trek, but for powder lovers this place is well-worth the added effort.
The resort offers over 40 trails across 364 acres of terrain, along with several delicious food options to enjoy during breaks. Don’t forget to stop at the BeaverTails stand for a tasty fried treat.
Ice climbing is becoming more and more popular in Ontario. The waterfalls freeze in the winter, and leave behind astounding ice formations that are just waiting to be scaled. To get started, check out an ice climbing course. Adventure Seeker Tours and One Axe Pursuits offer courses in the Ancaster and Elora regions, depending on conditions. Be sure to bring warm clothes, a bottle of water, some snacks, and your sense of adventure to your first training session.
Ever wanted to combine two classic winter activities together – like cross-country skiing and dog sledding? Turns out, there’s a sport for that! It’s called skijoring and it’s a fun, refreshing way to explore the wintry outdoors with your pooch. What you’ll need is an energetic dog that’s big enough to pull you (chihuahuas not recommended), a dog harness, a skijoring belt and line, as well as cross-country skiing equipment.
A great place to try out skijoring for the first time is on a frozen lake (check that the lake is appropriately frozen before heading out), where there are no obstacles in sight. The SportLab also offers skijoring lessons at Arrowhead Provincial Park on select Saturdays throughout winter – just remember to bring an Ontario Parks pass to enter.
You don’t need to travel too far from the city to enjoy the best that winter has to offer. Plenty of memorable outdoor fun is available near the GTA, and there’s nothing like trying something new to make the most of the winter season.
Photo credits: plprod / Shutterstock.com, Maridav / Shutterstock.com, My Good Images / Shutterstock.com, PhotoBobil