8 Ways to Kick the Winter Blues
February is often known as the longest short month. The days are usually cold, with dreary skies and raging winds, and they seem to drag on endlessly while we all wait inside for a reprieve. Instead of being stuck indoors dreaming of sunny days though, why not bundle up and head outdoors to experience some of the best activities and destinations that Northeastern Ontario has to offer in the winter?
The plus side of having so much snow and cold weather in Northeastern Ontario is the ski hills boast a long season full of fresh powder. Antoine Mountain is one of Ontario’s highest mountains with 15 groomed runs, including the longest run in Ontario, and it's just an hour from North Bay. With more natural snow than anywhere else in the province, you can spend days skiing here. Don't want to leave North Bay? Pick up a lift ticket to Laurentian Ski Hill inside the city.
Winter is one of the best times to go bird watching, as birds are easier to spot against the white snow without the leaf coverage and the silence of the winter makes it easier to hear them. Keep your eyes peeled for the elusive snowy owl, the bold gray jays, northern cardinals, and even bald eagles. Head out on any trail for a chance at finding these birds, or visit the Canadian Ecology Centre near Mattawa, which offers many snowshoes and hiking trails for free.
For the brave and experienced camper, there is something special about camping in the winter. Think roasting marshmallows over a winter bonfire while wrapped in a blanket with the snow softly falling above you, and quickly winter camping seems much more doable. Head to Killarney where Killarney Provincial Park offers six heated yurts as well as many campsites that are open all year around. Don't want to go it alone? Join Friends of Killarney Park every Family Day Weekend for their Annual Winter Weekend, which involves bird watching, guided hikes, and a BBQ.
Another option is Windy Lake Provincial Park, offering 93 drive-in sites. Both parks offer enough cross-country and snowshoeing trails to keep you busy all day long.
Lake Nipissing is a premier ice fishing destination, and no one makes it easier than Fish Bay Marina. Offering day huts as well as four, six and eight-person bungalows, this experience is like no other. They provide guests with transport, drilled holes, hooks, line and sinkers, propane heat, TVs, cooking equipment, and private washroom facilities. Plan on catching pike, pickerel (walleye), perch, whitefish, and ling here while you fish from the comfort of a heated bungalow.
If there is one thing that Northeastern Ontario knows well, it’s the art of snowmobiling. With the longest season in the province, trails are expansive and long, begging riders to stay out for days. Many of the hotels and lodges in this area cater to snowmobilers; just remember, you must have a trail permit to ride in this province. Some of the more popular areas include North Bay, Bonefield, Mattawa and Sudbury.
Whether you have kids or are a kid at heart, there is something about tobogganing that just makes people smile. The best spots to toboggan often depend on how much of an adrenaline rush you want to have, but most hills can be found in many of the urban centres. Talk a walk to local schools, or through the pathways, and find your favourite sledding hill.
Try Fat Biking
Fat biking is one of the latest crazes to hit Northeastern Ontario, and all across the region this sport is debuting. Try your skills at the gear demo at Antoine Mountain, enter into a 10-km fat bike race in North Bay or hit the Naughton fat bike trails. Check your local bike shop for rentals.
It is one of the fastest-growing winter sports – partly because it is incredibly easy to do, partly because it’s inexpensive, and of course, it’s plenty of fun. Did we mention it's great exercise as well? Read more about some of the best snowshoeing destinations in the region here.