A Pandemic Guide to Snowmobile Services
One of my favorite aspects of snowmobiling is our ability to ride to so many great snowmobiler-friendly trailside businesses that offer hearty, warm-you-up delicious meals as well as diverse accommodation options. After riding a few hundred kilometres on a sub-zero day, I always enjoy arriving at my favorite lunch spot. It’s a special feeling seeing a parking lot full of sleds, then opening the door to see the lobby and tables filled with riders—their colourful array of gear hanging from the back of their chairs or on fireside racks. Trailside stops and sled-filled hotels, motels, and lodges are always popular meeting stops—an opportunity to share ride plans, stories, and of course talk a little shop with fellow riders.
The winter of 2021 will be a bit different in terms of the atmosphere and our ability to hang out. Let's be real and accept the reality that based on current health guidelines things are a bit different than in the previous seasons. Now more than ever we must be cognisant of our interactions with other people and ensure that we are always taking the necessary precautions. This is a courtesy we extend not only to fellow riders but also the businesses and communities we frequent as snowmobilers.
With all this in mind here are a few tips from businesses themselves on what to expect, how they are catering to guests this winter, and how you can help!
As of last winter, Temagami Shores is under new ownership by a family that’s extremely motorsports friendly and who all are avid riders. Temagami Shores will quickly become a go-to destination for snowmobilers as well as many other outdoor enthusiasts! They have easy access off of Highway 11, and are very close to fuel. Temagami Shores offers recently-renovated lakeside and hillside rooms with exterior doors, as well as four suites and a winterized lakeside cabin. For meal options they have a licensed restaurant—overnight guests have the option to dine in or takeout to their rooms. For ride in and out sledders, Temagami Shores has created a special menu with a focus on efficient service without sacrificing freshness and quality. Temagami Shores will be offering weekly specials which will be posted to their Facebook page.
One of the special aspects of Mattawa Adventure Camp is the beautiful riverside cabins, complete with log-fueled wood stoves and full kitchens. These cabins have everything needed for an “isolated stay” if you’d like. I personally have had many fantastic meals at MAC over the years—Wim & Claire, the owners, offer catered meals to the guests who are staying with them. This winter, breakfast and dinner will be served in their main lodge dining room. In order to facilitate dining in the main lodge, guest groups are each given times for meals that they pre-book. For everyone to be as safe as possible, COVID-19 questionnaires and full electronic payment must be completed 48 hours prior to arrival—this way when you arrive you can easily check in to your own cabin.
Quality Inn & Econo Lodge in New Liskeard
Located on Highway 11 in New Liskeard Ontario with an ample five acres of parking for trucks and trailers, direct groomed trail access and staff who “speak snowmobile” these two accommodation options are fantastic starting or bases for your riding adventures. The staff are in-tune with the local club and are aware of any localized changes, so much so that they post trail reports in the main lobbies that are regularly updated. One of the great features for this winter is that all the rooms are drive-up, either by truck or, more importantly, sled, thus you can park directly at your door—no elevators, stairwells, or hallways.
Both these hotels have strict policy in place in terms of sanitization, noting that guest and staff safety is their number-one priority. The traditional hot breakfast buffets are no longer available, but they make sure you can start your day with a handy to-go breakfast bag which would also make a great mid-day break snack trailside. The pool and hot tub will remain open however is limited to a maximum occupancy of 10 guests. Both facilities are within easy reach of three local restaurants: grab a fantastic to-go steak dinner across the street at Ali’s Grill and Bar, some classic truck stop fare at Gilli’s, or opt for a hearty family-style meal at Husky House. This is a great place to base from with 3+ days of riding different trails. It’s also the perfect starting point to head north to Cochrane, east to Quebec or south to North Bay or Sudbury.
Located between Gogama and Sudbury on the Top C trail this family-friendly lodge is a must visit for either a quick lunch stop or overnight stay. For the winter of 2021, lunch hours will be limited from 11am to 3pm with reduced numbers—it is recommended you call ahead and let them know you are coming if possible. The lodge is operating as usual in terms of accommodations, be sure to ask about their overnight package that includes a scrumptious Northern Ontario dinner and breakfast. The owners are motorsports and outdoor enthusiasts so this has become a popular spot. Reservations well in advance are recommended to secure your accommodations.
Bonus tip: stay a few days and spend some time ice fishing for pickerel—Annie knows all the good spots!
JRs Bar-B-Q Ranch in Cochrane
JRs Bar-B-Q Ranch in Cochrane will be offering their full meaty menu this winter. JR’s is famous for their ribs however there is so much more to enjoy, one of my favorites is the wings. JR’s will be operating at 50% capacity to ensure social distancing among patrons and staff. The restaurant will also have a staff member at the door and strict measures in place to sanitize tables between patrons. JR’s offers delivery locally including to hotels in the area providing you with the option to eat in your room if you’re staying overnight. The best advice for lunch or dinner is to call ahead and make a reservation for your group.
Set just across from the famous, scenic and oh-so-much-fun to ride A112A top trail just outside of the town of Mattawa, the Mattawa River Resort is one of the up-and-coming snowmobile destinations. The resort is set on 147 acres and has 13 individual separate cottages with the largest sleeping up to 12—however for this season it will be limited to 10. Each cottage is complete with a full kitchen, BBQ, wood-burning fireplace and plenty of living space to spread out. Each guest is screened with a list of questions as required by the Ministry of Health, and guests are asked to keep to their own groups. The resort also suggests, whenever possible, for guests to bring their own groceries—the Cardinal Lodge & Restaurant which would usually serve gourmet, delicious food at all times, will be closed for the season unless you pre-book. Yes, things are not quite normal as far as operations go, however Mattawa River Resort has everyone’s safety in mind so riders can rest easy and enjoy their stay. Cabins undergo a strict sanitization process before arrival and after check out, and guests are encouraged, if possible to bring their own bedding. This is a great spot to spend a few days and ride from or make an overnight stop while completing the RAP.
The Magpie-Relay is located in Dubreuilville, home of the Groomer Guy who operates the Quickee-Mart and famously grooms the club’s trails. It’s one of the most snowmobile-friendly businesses located in one of the most snowmobile-friendly towns on earth. The Magpie is all set up for this winter and will be requesting guests wear a mask when checking in, as well as limiting the number of people at the front desk. They’ve implemented touchless check in—guests will be alerted to their room number prior to arrival, enabling them to go straight to their rooms where the key will be waiting in the door. The resort will continue their shuttle service to restaurants but will respect group bubbles and will make more trips to the restaurant in order to have a less crowded shuttle. Unfortunately, the hot tub is closed for this season but they plan on keeping the sauna running. The famous Man Cave is currently by group reservation only and will be reserved on a first come first served basis. Fuel will continue to be self-serve via card lock 24/7/365. The Magpie-Relay will continue to maintain the highest standard of cleanliness that they’re known for (they have a 5 stars rating on trip advisor and Google reviews for their cleanliness). The heated garage storage will also be available and will require coordination with resort staff to limit interactions. Overall, the goal is to offer as many services as possible but to do so in the safest and most mitigating manner as possible. Make sure you get your photo with Chica the Snow Goddess and of course the Groomer Guy!
Auld Reekie is itching for the sound of sleds coming across the lake and the engines echoing off the trees! For winter 2021 they have expanded the dining room by over 16 feet! This expansion will allow them to operate at full capacity while ensuring proper distancing between tables. They will, of course, be requiring people to wear their masks while in the lodge, and will have enhanced cleaning of all facilities. The bar and lobby area will have capacity limits to enable safe social distancing. Depending on the size of the group meals can be served to your cabin upon request. The hot tub will not be running for the 2021 season, per health guidelines. Sledders should call or email to book ahead of time—Auld Reekie recommends riders should always have a reservation to ride towards. With things changing all the time they’re still assessing everything and may need to make adjustments throughout the season. Auld Reekie acknowledges that snowmobiling is a very social sport—half the fun is interacting with other riders at your stops along the way! They want to provide a safe backdrop for riders to have fun this season—the lodge is committed to keeping everyone safe and staying responsible so everyone can have a great season.
You will find the largest pickerel in Northern Ontario here—a fantastic spot to take a photo, grab premium fuel, and great eats. For the 2021 snowmobile season, you will be able to order your food online ahead of time so that it’s ready when you arrive at the restaurant. The Rock Pine is working with the local clubs to place signage at key locations that have cell service, enabling riders to place their order trailside while on route. They will also be regularly communicating via their facebook page. The restaurant will be limited to 26 seats, thus the importance of pre-ordering and getting on your way—lingering too long and congregating just aren’t on the menu this 2021 season. Riders will need to wear a mask to enter the restaurant until you are seated at your table per health guidelines. As space is limited if possible, it's recommended that you leave your non-essential dining items outside with your sled. The Rock Pine is currently undergoing a major accommodation upgrade—but visitors will have to wait until the spring of 2021 to check them out. They’re building a brand new 14-unit building that will offer a variety of rooms as well as two-story chalet-style accommodations.
Bonus tip: I highly recommend the Rock House Sandwich.
The home of snowmobiling in North Bay, you’ll often find me here enjoying delicious wings and other gourmet treats with fellow snowmobilers, club members, and my family. “The Tage,” as it's affectionately known by the locals, is really a true snowmobilers’ meeting place. It’s a great place to stop in for a bite, plus there’s premium fuel on site with a dedicated staff person. Pay right from your sled with Interac or Visa tap from the mobile pumpside unit! Winter is a big part of their business as the main top trails D, A, and A/D run right through. This winter, reservations are encouraged for both lunch and or dinner. The Portage, like all sit down restaurants per provincial guidelines, will be keeping a log of all guests to aid in potential contact tracing efforts. Staff have been and continue to work extra hard with strict sanitizing policies in place and are encouraging distancing within the restaurant—so please stick to your own table. A reminder that both Tuesday and Friday night are wing nights—3lbs for $29.99—and expect lots of new specials on pub fare.
For decades now the Sportsman's Lodge has been one of the most popular motorsports accommodation destinations in Northern Ontario. The lodge, which is located on the shores of beautiful Kukagami Lake at the intersection of the TOP C105 & C206D trails northeast of Sudbury, offers a combination of cottages and guest rooms. At Sportsman’s, George Robbins says, “we want to keep everyone riding, we all need to do our part this winter.” The lodge has implemented strict sanitization measures, and will be offering two breakfast and dinner services which will be separated by type and location of guest accommodations. They will also be extending their popular off-road ATV/SSV/MC packed lunch option for snowmobilers—at dinner place your order for a packed lunch and pick it up at breakfast. The Sportsman’s is a popular fuel stop for area sledders and riders are encouraged to “gas & go.” The Sportsman’s Lodge is an incredibly popular destination, with many snowmobilers returning year after year, so it came as no surprise to learn that this February was almost 80% booked already. It’s recommended that you call now to secure your accommodations for this winter.
support your favourite snowmobile businesses this winter
It's up to each of us to do our part this winter. We all want to support our favorite snowmobile businesses, and honestly they all want our support, but we must do so in a way that keeps the staff and communities safe, and the trails we love to ride wide open!