Once a Ski Town... Always a Ski Town

Family-owned Ski Hills Raise the Bar

Thunder Bay has always been a ski town. The first ski hills in the former towns of Port Arthur and Fort William were established by rival ski clubs in the late 1920s.

In its heyday, the local ski scene supported five ski areas, but nowadays there are two—Loch Lomond, located south of the city, and Mt. Baldy to the north. Both hills are an easy 20-minute drive from town and, while they are both run by local families with a tonne of energy and enthusiasm, they are completely unique in terms of their history, features, and overall vibe. Given the the improvements the owners of both ski areas have made in recent years, it’s safe to say they are raising the bar for the Thunder Bay ski experience.

Loch Lomond

Spawning a New Generation of Crazy Canucks

Loch Lomond was founded in 1956 by Bill Irwin, the patriarch of one of Canada’s iconic skiing families. Irwin owned and operated the area for 23 years and in that time produced an Olympian—his son Dave competed in the 1976 and 1980 Winter Olympics and became known as one of the Crazy Canucks. The ski area has two hills nestled in the Nor’wester Mountains, and is not far from its namesake Loch Lomond—the largest lake in the Nor'westers, named by a Scottish fur trader because he thought it resembled the Loch Lomond in his homeland.

Partners Grant Brodeur and Jason Gerry purchased Loch Lomond in the summer of 2014. Both are lifelong skiers who grew up skiing at Loch and have since introduced their children to the sport. Over the past few years, they have expanded snowmaking and cleared and groomed additional terrain, relocated and expanded the terrain park, and added snowshoeing trails. Loch’s Alisia Cameron says that this year’s improvements include new beginner features on the Snoopy (beginner’s run), a mogul field on the Pine, and new tubes at tubing and modified tubing lanes.

Best Bets: Loch’s most popular run is definitely the Giant—an advanced run that is steep and long. If you prefer a more gentle ride, check out the Chicken which is the hill’s longest run, or the Pine on the south side.

Hidden Gem: If you’re looking for a challenge beyond the groomers, check out the Jolly Giant. The conditions are good thanks to recent snowfalls plus, it doesn’t see as much traffic as Loch’s other advanced runs.

Good Eats: Après ski specialities at Loch include Rick’s fries, pulled pork nachos, and chicken caesar wraps.

Mount Baldy

Making Magic for Newbies

In the 1930s, the Port Arthur Ski Club looked to develop a new ski area in a burned-over area that became known as Mount Baldy. Mount Baldy officially opened in the winter of 1947 and has remained true to its roots with the Port Arthur Ski Club and a welcoming and cozy family-friendly atmosphere. Sunshine pours through the windows of the chalet that features a large stone fireplace on the main floor. Since all of Mount Baldy’s runs lead to the chalet; it’s perfect for spectators or parents trying to keep track of their children.

Brothers Jason, Dan, and Kristof Kardas purchased Mt. Baldy in the fall of 2016. Skiing runs in their blood as their father, Slavomir, competed at the Olympic level in ski jumping and went on to coach ski jumping and nordic combined as well as start the Ski Exchange—a ski store that sells new and used gear that the Kardas brothers continue to operate on the south side of the city. Jason says they are focussing on improving the overall skiing experience for families and improvements include a magic carpet on the beginner hill (trust me: getting up the hill doesn’t get any easier than this!), a completely revamped chalet menu focussing on fresh, homemade food using local ingredients, improvements to the tubing run, and new and expanded snowmaking and grooming capabilities. For those who prefer skinny skis, they have also added 6 km of groomed cross country skiing trails.

Best Bets: The Hornet is a wide intermediate run with varied terrain—it’s possible to ski this run all day and never repeat the same line. The Lookout is a long beginner run that offers an exceptional view of Lake Superior and is popular with snowboarders, with easy access to the halfpipe and terrain park.

Hidden Gem: The Shot Gun is an intermediate run that lives up to its namesake, the Lookout offers an impressive view of the city, and the Gold offers a gentle slope that is great for families.

Good Eats: Après ski specialties at Mount Baldy include their famous poutine, made from hand cut locally-grown potatoes, Thunder Oak gouda cheese curds, and Mrs. Kardas’ homemade gravy, hand-dipped corn dogs, and thin-crust pizza.

About Michelle McChristie

Michelle McChristie is a freelance writer from Thunder Bay and frequent contributor to The Walleye magazine. She is passionate about the outdoors and enjoys exploring Lake Superior in all seasons with her family.

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