If you aren’t into a sport like downhill skiing or snowboarding, winter can feel pretty long and isolating.
But for those of you looking for a more serene alternative to these adrenaline-packed winter sports, there’s always cross-country skiing. Along with the opportunity to spot wildlife, there are also more recently introduced perks to the sport, such as fully-lit trails for night skiing and dog-friendly routes (just don’t forget your pet pass).
Because Canada is such a vast and relatively untouched country, the trail options here can seem endless. Whether you’re looking for a big getaway or a just a short day trip, there are literally thousands of trails waiting to be tracked. Head to one of the regions below to find some of the best.
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
The stretch of land that extends from Osoyoos, B.C., to beyond Vernon, B.C., has to be one of the most picturesque spots in the country, and wintertime is no exception. Vernon is home to the Silver Star Mountain Resort, which has ski-in/ski-out lodging, and a high altitude that makes it a top destination for anyone interested in enjoying the snow early in the season. Nearby Sovereign Lake is another popular spot, and combined with Silver Star, the area offers 100 kilometres of trails, ranging from beginner to World Cup levels.
Banff and Lake Louise, Alberta
Banff and Lake Louise are home to some of the more posh accommodations that come with ski culture. The nearby Fairmont Chateau and other high-quality hotels set against pristine mountain peaks command the skyline’s full attention. The high elevation makes the location great for early snowfall and, lucky for you, there is an extensive network of groomed and track-set cross-country trails to take advantage of all season long.
Algonquin Park, Ontario
Algonquin Park is one of Ontario’s most popular year-round camping facilities, and there are three trail networks that run through some of the most picturesque areas of the park, half of which are groomed. The Leaf Lake Trail system is highly recommended, as it features some of the most beautiful stretches of the park and has trails that run from one to 30 kilometres in length.
Long Range Mountains, Newfoundland and Labrador
Most of Newfoundland and Labrador’s cross-country ski facilities are in National Parks or run by clubs. Newfoundland’s most scenic parks, Gros Morne and Stag Lake, are both equipped with groomed cross-country ski trails. This April is the 40th Annual Great Labrador Loppet, an event that has skiers and snowboarders gliding, eating, drinking, and enjoying themselves from Fermont, Quebec, to Labrador City.
Simcoe County, Ontario
About a one-hour drive north of Toronto you’ll find Simcoe County, home to the Blue Mountains, Wasaga Beach, and countless cross-country ski trails. In fact, the Blue Mountains and the surrounding area is the third most popular ski region in Canada. Most trails within Simcoe County’s provincial parks and conservations areas can accommodate cross-country skiers, but if you’re looking for groomed trails, hit up the Hardwood Hills just north of Barrie or the Nordic Centre in Wasaga Beach.
Whistler and Callaghan Country, British Columbia
Not surprisingly, Whistler Blackcomb is the most popular ski destination in the country, but the region isn’t all about those steep slopes. The entire coastal area surrounding Whistler is known for some of the deepest snowfalls in the country, with an annual average of more than 30 feet. Combining Whistler’s Olympic Park facilities with the nearby Callaghan Country, there are more than 90 kilometres of groomed trails that cater to all skill levels. Lost Lake Park has some of the most beautiful ski-side mountain views, and a 4 kilometre trail lit for night skiing.
There are more than 500 kilometres of trails in Northern Saskatchewan alone. Most of the province’s ski facilities are maintained by the parks departments, though reduced funding sometimes means the slack is picked up by volunteers, as is the case in Prince Albert National Park. With 150 kilometres of trails, the national park has the largest concentration of ski trails in the province.
Along with a world class winter festival, Gatineau also offers a huge variety of cross-country ski trails just outside the city. Gatineau Park has 185 kilometres of trails, 100 kilometres of which are groomed. Plus, there are 10 cabin-like warming huts along the routes, as well as trail patrollers for safety and to provide rentals on site. Trails vary from rigorous uphill workouts to leisurely cruises.