The winter recreational activity commonly called cross-country or Nordic skiing is perhaps one of the greatest winter outdoor activities you can do, from an enjoyment and health perspective! With fresh air in your lungs and the sights and sounds of the Northern Ontario winter to absorb, there aren’t many aerobic activities that offer the ‘whole package’ from a health standpoint than cross country skiing, and what better place to get healthy than in beautiful Sudbury and the Rainbow Region.

I recall an article a few years ago in the Globe & Mail regarding the miraculous health benefits of cross-country skiing. A typical cross-country skier exhibited approximately twice the cardiovascular and muscular fitness of the average person of the same age. Growing-up in a northern community myself, cross-country skiing was a huge part of part of my family’s winter regiment. Everyone in the family skied and enjoyed it immensely. I even competed in a ski race known as a Loppet, at the age of 17 when I was a tad lighter on my feet. A Loppet is an organized ski race which encourages not only speed but participation and all skill levels.

Quick history

Where did the cross-country skiing craze begin? Well, a history of the sport in Canada would not be complete without mention of the renowned Herman ‘Jackrabbit’ Johannsen considered, by many, to be the father of cross-country skiing in this Country. After immigrating to Canada in 1907, Johannsen settled in the Quebec Laurentians and began exploring Central Canada’s winter on skis. During a trip to North Bay, he met a Cree First Nation’s man who was impressed with his speed of travel across wilderness terrain, instead of the snowshoeing method used by First Nations. It is here that Johannsen was given the nickname Jackrabbit. His passion and commitment to the sport was adopted quickly by the Amateur Skiers Association (CASA) - Canada’s governing body for winter skiing, and the Jackrabbit program was born.

Rainbow Routes

Much like Mr. Johannsen’s influence on cross-country skiing in the early days, the City of Sudbury’s Rainbow Routes is dedicated to urban transformation and a healthier, more vibrant, lifestyle focusing on winter activities like skiing. They maintain cross-country ski trails and non-motorized routes to provide enthusiasts with active and affordable recreation opportunities, and you don’t need to be a Pro Jackrabbit’er to participate. For more advanced skiers the City of Sudbury also offers National Coach Certification (NCCP) approved ski coach programs for the Bunnies, Jackrabbits & Adult cross country skiers. They are looking for volunteer coaches this winter. With the incentive of free trail passes, private lessons and free ski rentals, coaches will also be rewarded with the satisfaction of watching young skier fine-tune their skills.

Walden Cross-country Fitness Club

Sudbury’s Walden Cross Country Fitness Club (WCCFC) was established in 1978 and boasts one of Ontario’s top cross country ski trail systems. The Walden club lives and breathes cross country skiing and is a definite ‘Must Do’ for those new to the sport in need of training, or someone with a strong background but looking to hone their skills. WCCFC Spokesperson Jessica McShane explains how ‘people and fun’ are two aspects that make their Club a success; “The WCCFC has a close-knit community of members and volunteers that make it a very welcoming place to be.” says McShane. “We host fun, community-oriented annual events like the Woolly Hippo Race in January and The Beaver Lake Loppet & Pancake Breakfast in February.”

When asked what she thought that makes Sudbury such a great winter destination, Jessica declares, “Oh that’s easy, getting to the great outdoors doesn't require any commute -its right in our backyard including 330 lakes within the City Limits!” Jessica’s favourite ski spot is called the "Big Dipper" at the Naughton Trail Centre. “It takes you for a long, gentle climb through quiet, serene woods and rewards you with a fun drop at the far end. If you time it right, you can even race alongside a passing train!”

The city of Sudbury is host to over 200 KM’s of trails which, according to Jessica, are thanks largely in part to the efforts of the Rainbow Routes Association. “Walden Cross Country Ski Club operates three trail systems; Naughton Trail Centre - 15 minutes west of downtown. Beaver Lake Trails 25 minutes west of the Naughton Trail Centre Voyageur Trails in Azilda, 10 minutes northwest of downtown”

Other cross country ski trails in Sudbury include the Laurentian Nordic Ski Club on the University Campus, also home to the Varsity Nordic Ski Team. The BioSki Cross Country & Snow Shoe Club in the Laurentian Conservation Area - located in the heart of the city, Onaping Falls Nordic Ski Club located just 45 minutes northwest of downtown, the Capreol Cross Country Ski Club, 40 minutes north and Kivi Park, a brand new natural park in Sudbury’s south end.

Kivi Park Option

Cross country enthusiasts should strongly consider Kivi Park; a recently-opened slice of paradise set on 300 acres of prime Cambrian shield overlooking Sudbury’s beautiful Long Lake. The new multi-use Park, 23 times larger than Bell Park, was officially opened amid considerable pomp and circumstance in August, 2016. Thanks to a sizable donation from Sudbury resident Lily Fielding, the expansive recreational area offers outdoor enthusiasts a host of trails for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers alike. The beginner trails range from, in length from 1 – 1.7 KM’s, while intermediate trails run from 2 – 4 KM’s in length. For more experienced skiers, the advanced trail option offers outings 4 KM’s and longer, while the pro’s will appreciate the ‘double red’ advanced trails with enough bumps and curves to challenge even the top skiers! Kivi Park also boasts introductory trails called ‘future cross country skiers for those just starting out. You may stop for a rest at one of several lookouts along the way including; Kivi Ridge and Ristimaki. Kivi Park also has trails catering specifically to snowshoe’rs. For more information on Sudbury’s largest new outdoor space:

Lodging for cross-country skiers

Several of Sudbury’s Hotels are located in prime spots for vacationing winter cross-country or even downhill ski enthusiasts. Marriott’s TownePlace Suites, for example, is just three miles from the Adanac Ski Hill.

By: Jeff Morrison

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