A Snowmobile Legend Visits the World’s Best Snowmobiling

What's the best way to introduce a champion US sledder to Canadian trails? Take him to Cochrane, part of the world's best snowmobiling destination!

Snowmobilers are all alike, regardless of where we are from; we all love snowmobiling and it brings us together. We have the same passion for sledding and the outdoors, and even if you’re considered one of the most influential ambassadors in the sport of snowmobiling like Levi LaVallee, you still love snowmobiling just as much as the next person.

At the beginning of February, I had the opportunity, along with my soon-to-be-husband Ted, to be a part of Levi LaVallee’s Hometown Ride in Cochrane, Northeastern Ontario in partnership with Polaris Snowmobiles, Destination Ontario, Northeastern Ontario Tourism, On Snow Magazine (OSM), and Snowmobiler TV (STV). Tune in to STV in two weeks for the full Levi episode!

Levi flew in to Northeastern Ontario through the airport in Timmins, and stayed overnight at the snowmobile-friendly resort Cedar Meadows.

We welcomed Levi LaVallee and his wonderful wife Kristen to Cochrane to have them take part in all things authentic to the area—most notably riding the world’s #1 snowmobile trails. And if you’re not familiar with Levi LaVallee, he is a Snocross Champion, 13-time Winter X-Games Medalist, the first person to attempt a double back flip on a snowmobile, and the list goes on and on.

The best way of getting to know a snowmobile trail network is with a local guide. Kenny Johnston, the President of the Cochrane Polar Bear Riders snowmobile club, guided our ride with the LaVallees, OSM, and STV for two days. Our group rode some of the best groomed trails in the north on Polaris Indy, Switchback, and Titan snowmobiles from Gerry Bourque, owner of Bourque Auto Sales in Cochrane and Tony Aquino, owner of North Bay Cycle in North Bay. The trails in Cochrane are of some of the widest in Ontario—they are super highways that make for wide-open riding. They wind between fields and forests on straight away trails—the perfect mix for trail riding.

Having never rode Cochrane trails prior—the closest I have rode is Abitibi Canyon a few year ago (read my article on that trip here)—I was absolutely blown away when riding with Kenny on the Cochrane trail system. And would then take us on interlinking local trails so we never rode the same trail twice!  I know Levi and Ted felt the same way; they had many opportunities to play on the river and hydro lines.

There were many times when we were riding that I was following Levi on the trail. It was so cool to watch him ride and share this experience of discovering Cochrane together. It was awesome to get to know Levi and Kristen; they are both very down-to-earth people who we have become friends with. We had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs.

Levi is just like everyone else—he loves to snowmobile—but he is just really, really good at it! Be sure to check out the Levi and Kristen’s episode on their YouTube Channel Livin LaValle when it airs; as of now there are 14 other episodes to enjoy.

Not only is Cochrane known for their remarkable 500 km of snowmobile trails in the OFSC Northern Corridor, endless snow, and the longest snowmobile season in the province; they offer lots more for visitors to do beside just snowmobiling.

Levi and Kristen visited the Cochrane Classic Vintage Snowmobile Museum and saw exhibits of snowmobiles from 1950 and on, with close to 100 vintage snowmobiles. Following the snowmobile museum, they visited the Polar Bear Habitat and saw the dedication to conservation and care of polar bears. The best part of all of this, we could ride our snowmobiles right to these places from our hotel the Best Western Swan Castle Inn in Cochrane!

We were lucky enough to be able to catch a home game for the Cochrane Crunch Junior A hockey team at the Tim Horton Event Centre against the Hearst Lumberjacks. These were perfect opportunities to get to know the people of Cochrane, who are so valuable to the success of the snowmobile industry in the North. We've never met nicer people; it felt like we were at home—a home away from home.

Ontario snowmobiling has always revolved around food and where we’re going to eat our next meal. We were lucky enough to be the first guests at Flood’s Landing Restaurant for a soft launch at lunch. The owners Mike and Wendy served up chilli, chicken wings and poutine—it was the LaVallees’ first time trying poutine too!

Mike and Wendy built the main restaurant lodge, with Mike milling most of the wood. The craftsmanship is outstanding, not to mention the food was delicious, and their service and attention to detail was excellent. Ted and I will be back to stay in the cabins next winter for sure! I will mention, in the winter it is only accessible by snowmobile; adding to the off-grid experience, they currently have with only generator power. We also ate our final dinner at JR Bar-B-Q Ranch, owned by Jeff Crawford, who we rode with for two days with Kenny and helped guide as well. The atmosphere is great there and they served up awesome food—they're famous for their ribs and honey garlic sauce. This is a must try when you’re in Cochrane!

I have nothing but great things to say about Cochrane, from the riding to the people to the lifestyle. Cochrane has a special place in my heart, and I’m sure the LaVallees feel the same. We were welcomed with open arms, and Ted and I can’t wait to go back.

Regardless of the temperatures we were riding in, ranging from -15 to -20, we had a blast. And I would highly recommend handlebar muffs, it made my ride and Kristen’s ride so much more enjoyable as a result—thank you Gerry and Tammy from Bourque Auto!

Snowmobiling brought our whole group together in Cochrane, we made lasting memories in one of the best snowmobiling communities in Ontario. Cochrane, Ontario—put it on your bucket list to ride if you haven’t already experienced it, and if you have, go back! 

A huge thanks goes out to Kenny Johnston, and the Polar Bear Riders Snowmobile club for guiding our honored guest—Kenny and the Polar Bears make riding in Cochrane possible! The Corridor du Nord snowmobile district encompasses the Cochrane area and wider region that spans half the province.

About Katie Harris (Erb)

Having travelled 34 countries around the world, Katie is most at home riding snowmobiles in Northern Ontario. She's also passionate about trucking, travel, geography, and other motorsports.  

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