Everything is New Again

How a snow bike and a trip to Wawa Ontario's backcountry will revitalize your passion for winter.

Snow bike riders are somewhat of a special breed. Not content with the road well-travelled, we get our thrills by seeking out and accessing those remote backcountry locations that neither snowmobiles nor dirt bikes could ever reach.

The stories, adventures, and camaraderie built within a snow bike crew are often incomprehensible to “outsiders” who stare back with a dazed look asking, “You did what? You went where?” The hashtags used by our ever-expanding group—#IntoTheUnknown, #AnyWhereYouWantToGo and #WeGoWhereSledsCant—are an accurate reflection of our adventures.

Experiencing Wawa, Ontario’s backcountry by snow bike, I’ve got to tell you the backcountry is legit! It’s so good that I made several trips this past winter, each time exploring further into what is a seemingly endless wilderness that includes the highest peaks, lowest valleys and everything in-between. I can’t wait for the 2019 season to come!

What is a snow bike?

Exploring the backcountry with snow bike pals

For those who are unfamiliar with snow bikes, here’s the low down. The snow bike is somewhat of a unique beast—part motorcycle and part snowmobile—a track system replaces the rear wheel while a ski replaces the front wheel. If you’ve got a dirt bike and you don’t want it to just sit gathering dust in the garage this winter, there’s no need to be deterred by the conversion process, with basic tools they can easily be switched back and forth from dirt to snow in a matter of hours.

The capabilities of a snow bike are vastly different from snowmobiles. While a snow bike has less horsepower than its older brother, its strengths lie in its ability to float over the snow, and easy navigation of tight terrains. The snow bike will perform similar to an off-road motorcycle in how it rides but the track system and loose snow does rob some of the immediate traction that off-road riders would be accustomed to on dirt.

Although snow bikes are unique as compared to any other motorized sport, the physical dexterity and riding skills required to operate them meshes snowmobile backcountry, motocross, and off-road enduro riding into one epic ride. With these special machine characteristics comes a whole new world of riding possibilities and opportunities.

Snow bikes are suprisingly easy to ride

Is Snow Biking For Me?

Not sure if this is your cup of tea? Ask yourself the following three questions:

1. Do you enjoy dirt bikes, motocross, or endurocross? 

2. Are you interested in backcountry technical snowmobile riding? 

3. Do you enjoy exploring, adventure, and trying new things with your friends? 

If you answered yes to all or even one of the above, I guarantee you will love riding a snow bike. A properly outfitted bike will take you to those places you spot from the trail and wonder about but just can’t get to by snowmobile or on two wheels. Even if you’re not into piercing through the intractable wilderness, the bike can offer a very amusing experience like nothing else you’ve ever experienced.

Sliding down into the unknown

I’ve been riding snowmobiles in the backcountry for 15+ years now. And while I still enjoy this type of snowmobile riding very much, snow bikes have opened up a whole new world of winter riding for me. Everything is new and exhilarating again. I find myself reminded of those first seasons when I started sledding.

Ontario's wilderness is beautiful

Where to Try Snow Biking

This is where Ontario’s Algoma region fits in—in particular, the Wawa area which has an abundance of riding opportunities. With other destinations, you generally have one or maybe two spots you can ride. Wawa’s backcountry is endless and will take you as far as you could ever want to go.

Looking over Wawa and on to Lake Superior in Ontario's Algoma Country

From the badlands, appropriately named "the kill," to "extreme powerlines" to "the hills from hell"—this, my friends, is just the start. We’ve affectionately named one place #ZipperMouthLake because it’s so great anyone who’s shown where it is better zip their mouth!

Ice formations found in a ravine

Wawa’s endless terrain offers unlimited exploration opportunities and some of the best technical riding on the east coast of North America combined with an abundance of fresh snow that consistently falls throughout the winter. Lake Superior which is the largest, deepest, and last of the Great Lakes to freeze (if it freezes at all), is a natural snowmaking machine. Which means when the winds blows its snows!

I’ve heard that the annual Wawa Snow Down will be exclusive to snow bikes in 2019. Further to this, there are rumours that we may even see snow bike tours, rentals, and guiding come to the area—but that’s a whole new article—stay tuned!  

Get Connected. Stay Connected.

If you’re looking to learn more about building and riding a snow bike, come join the Snow Bike Ontario group on Facebook. There’s a crew of over 300 of us now waiting to lend a hand, have a laugh, and participate in mission impossible adventures. You will quickly learn that more snow bikes = more fun!

On that note, it’s important to consider you’re venturing into the wilds of Northern Ontario. You’ll navigate challenging terrain in areas with no cell service and in some cases no access roads. There may only be one way in and out. So you need to be prepared for anything and everything that can happen. Make use of BCA Communication Radios and GPS as you will often find yourselves only a few hundred feet away from your riding buddies but unable to see each other due to the gnarly terrain. You must know and accept that it's at your own risk. Have respect for where you are and what you are doing—use your head out there.

Check out this video for an idea of what it's all about...

See you on the snow!

Currently, it is illegal to ride a snow bike on snowmobile trails and on private land. Be aware of where you're going before you plan your trip. Don't ruin this for the rest of us!

About Jeff McGirr

Jeff McGirr is a powersports & marine enthusiast who loves sharing Northern Ontario experiences with you through his articles and videos.

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