Flying down a hill in Algonquin’s snowy back country , on the edge of control , without fully knowing what lies around the bend or under the fresh snow gets my adrenaline flowing. At this moment, I am in 100% full concentration – focused on my edges and staying upright. Heading back up the next hill, my heart works a different way as I work my way up to the next ridge. It is 15 below yet I am down to my first layer . I stop for a break and the clouds of steam pour off my body. looking around , the snow laden forest is stunning in the afternoon light.
Algonquin Park’s back-country provides endless terrain for ski touring. First class snow, stunning terrain and the wilderness to yourself. Most cross country skiers are familiar with the choices along the highway 60 corridor which has several back country access options and groomed cross country ski trails off off highway 60. The cream of the crop, while not a back country trail, is the legendary Leaf Lake trail near the East Gate. The leaf lake, pine tree loop is in my opinion the best groomed run in Ontario. Amazing vistas, wild curving downhills and heated cabins make for an amazing day. True back country fans might like to ski the Source Lake rd to Source and up to Bruce before heading west down the old logging cut to the Mizzy trail and then back to Source.
Algonquin’s northwest corner is my home base for incredible back country skiing. Once an old mountain range, the huge hills of Algonquin’s west side make for exciting downhills and a great workout for the heart and muscles on the uphills. The big hills of Algonquin’s west side catch the moisture coming off Georgian Bay and dump more snow than anywhere else in Algonquin Park and Central Ontario. Best of all, the Algonquin Log Cabin and Algonquin Cottage Outpost offer excellent base for back-country including terrain you can ski from your doorstep.
Located on Surprise Lake , Algonquin Log Cabin has some great warm up trails including the Kitchie Island trail and kettle – Lake – Cardiac Hill loop. Skiing the lake is also great as Surprise Lake has a beautiful shoreline with several creeks and islands. Best of all, book a log cabin weekend and your weekend becomes a true back country vacation with amazing meals, sauna and appetizers/ wine in front of the big stone fireplace.
The Forgotten trails offer more options for back-country ski exploration. The best of the lot is the Loxton beaver loop which has a great mix of terrain including one long uphill followed by a steep and depending on the snow conditions, terrifying downhill! Like all of the trails and routes at Algonquin’s north west, the Beaver Loxton is not groomed so be prepared for heavy and often deep snowpack.
Deeper into the Algonquin back country are some excellent routes including skiing the Craig lake rd up to Jeepi Lake and returning via Nahma. For massive hills and thrilling downhills, try the Ridge trail accessed from the Million Dollar rd . Both of these trails and the Forgotten trails are ski able from the Algonquin Cottage Outpost where you rent cozy 2 bedroom chalet suites with kitchen, fireplace and BBQ.
My perfect day? A long day out on the trail with my pup, blue sky, lot’s of hills and fresh snow. Rest the tired bones in a wood fired sauna, followed by a cold beer and bowl of home made stew. I am happy to talk through these options, show maps and connect with any of you who also love the snow and Algonquin’s back country. Please email our office or look for me and moose ( my lab) out on the trail this winter.
John Langford, crazy for ski nut and Director of VQ