Winter Activities, Six Great Ideas for Day Trips to Stay Active

About This Series: With COVID-19 restrictions easing over the past few months, Wheels wants you to be prepared to explore, but only when it’s safe. This series of day trips and longer journeys highlights the great experiences you can have in the province and across Canada, and shows you why this country is “ours to discover”.

Looking for something to do over the holidays and the weeks ahead? Winter keeps many of us indoors. This year, instead of hiding inside the elements, rethink how you experience winter. There are trails, lakes, hills and fields covered in snow and ice that are perfect places to try a multitude of activities that will make you love coming out of hibernation. Grab your car keys and set your GPS to one of these winter adventures.

SKIJORING

Santa has his reindeer, but you can turn your dog into your own little engine while you’re cross-country skiing. The sport is known as ski joëring. Don’t have your own dog? No problem, Yours Outdoors can offer you one during an introductory lesson with skijor expert Karen Kohler.

“I love the agility of the sport, and the connection you have with your dog moving together and building that confidence is pretty awesome,” she said.

Where to try it: Book a two-hour lesson (including a harness for your dog) for $90 per person at Yours Outdoors in Haliburton. If you need cross-country skis, you can rent a set from Algonquin Outfitters in nearby Huntsville (it also ships smaller items).

How to get there: Take Highway 404 North, followed by Highway 48 and Highway 35 North. Then drive along Route 118 east to Haliburton.

FAT BIKING

The fat bike will have you rolling through snowy conditions on two wheels that are about five inches wide, perfect for rolling over rougher surfaces. Not only do you get an adrenaline rush on the fat bike, but if you wipe yourself off, it’s a little less painful thanks to the snow cushioning.

Where to try it: Rent a fat bike for one, two or four hours (or a full day) from Liv Outside in Bracebridge and hit the trails nearby.

How to get there: Take Highway 400 North and merge onto Highway 11. Take Exit 182 and follow Highway 118 West to Bracebridge. The business is located on Ecclestone Drive.

SNOWSHOEING

Now lighter than ever thanks to aluminum frames, today’s snowshoes can help you float virtually over fluffy snow.

“A lot of people just hike on hiking trails, but you don’t need snowshoes when the snow is packed down. Where you want to go is the swampy and forested areas that are inaccessible nine months of the year,” said Angelo Morgante, owner of Adventure Attic Travel and Outdoor Lifestyle in Dundas.

Morgante said it’s in these areas that you can see incredible wildlife, including muskrats, deer and foxes.

Where to try it: Rent snowshoes for $10 a day (with a $100 deposit) from Adventure Attic Travel and Outdoor Lifestyle, and head to the nearby Dundas Conservation Area.

How to get there: Head west via Queen Elizabeth Way to Highway 403 and drive west. Take Exit 74 and follow York Road to Highway 6 North and turn right onto Highway 8.

ICE FISHING

Find out what lies beneath the sheet of ice covering Picton Bay on an ice fishing adventure in Prince Edward County. New this year at Merland Park Cottages, cameras have been installed in the water so you can see pike, trout and bass swimming beneath you. You’ll stay warm and cozy in your ice fishing hut, while the kids have fun watching the cameras to see if any fish are approaching. The idea, said Kevin Lavers, owner of Merland Park, is that even if you’re unlucky enough not to catch any fish, you’ll still know they’re there.

Fish

Where to try it: Reserve an ice fishing cabin (this includes heat, transport, bait and fishing rods) for $75 per person at Merland Park Cottages in Picton.

How to get there: Drive east along Highway 401 and take Exit 522 to County Road 40. Then take County Road 33 and Prince Edward County Road 1.

SNOW TUBE

The joy of rolling down a hill on an inflatable tube will make you fall in love with winter all over again. Even better, the whole family can participate.

“If you can sit down, you can snow tube,” said Ryan Leblanc, tube park manager at Snow Valley Ski Resort.

It has earned a reputation as one of the best tubing locations in Ontario thanks to its 14, 10-story falls. Tubers have been known to reach speeds of up to 80 kilometers per hour in Snow Valley, so you might want to bring ski goggles to protect your eyes. There are also three elevators to take you to the top, so you won’t get tired going back to the start of the falls.

Where to try it: Book two hours of sledding from $20 per adult at Snow Valley Ski Resort, just outside Barrie in Minesing.

How to get there: Take Highway 400 North to Exit 96B to Dunlop Street West in Barrie. From there, drive north along Ferndale Drive, followed by Wilson Drive and Snow Valley Road to Vespra Valley Road in Minesing.

ICE CLIMBING

Equip yourself with ice axes, crampons, boots, harnesses and a helmet. Then climb the side of a gorge via a 60-foot wall of ice. Although ice climbing may sound similar to rock climbing, it’s even more exciting because you can choose your route on the ice, said Christa Niravong of One Ax Pursuits.

“It’s very empowering to work your way to the top,” she said.

She said nothing beats facing your fears and seeing yourself succeed one step at a time.

Where to try it: Book a six-hour lesson (safety gear included) for $350 per person with One Ax Pursuits in Elora.

How to get there: Drive along Highway 401 West and take Exit 312 to Guelph Line in Milton. Continue on Wellington County Routes 29 & 7 to Henderson Street in Elora.

COVID-19 need to know

Note that the government-mandated proof of vaccination rule is in effect. Check state and local guidelines before traveling (ontario.ca).

For the reader

Get into the sporting spirit by listening to a few episodes of ESPN’s award-winning “30 for 30” podcasts during your ride. The episodes highlight the impact of sport and adventure on all aspects of our lives and include everything from polar exploration to stories of Olympians. You can download episodes from 30for30podcasts.com.

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