The WWHSTA board is very stoked about the progress made this season and we have our supportive members to thank. We thought it would be helpful to give everyone a recap of the 2021/22 season and give you a few teasers to look forward to in 2022/23.
With COVID restrictions changing frequently, and finally letting up by winter’s end, we were able to host a few online sessions and outdoor events in a safe and appropriate manner. Here is the summary:
Limberlost Glading Day: Oct 17, 2021
With the blessing of the managers at the Limberlost Forest, WWHSTA has been working on opening up glade skiing at Limberlost for the last three years. Last fall, 21 people and one dog took part in the official glading day on October 17, with an additional day the week before using power tools. Both groups did a large amount of work on what we are calling Hemlock Heaven, on the north slopes of the terrain on the south shore of Buck Lake. Total volunteer days amounted to 40 this fall at LL, which is fantastic. Special thanks go out to member Bill Summers, who was unable to attend but donated $100, which was applied to the beer/refreshments menu. Thanks Bill!
Stay tuned for more details on LL Glading Days 2022, scheduled for October 22-23, 2022, in conjunction with the WWHSTA Annual General Meeting.
Fall Merch Sale:
In partnership with Huntsville-based business Portage Promo, WWHSTA ran a pop-up shop in October, offering t-shirts and hats emblazoned with the iconic logo. Sales were brisk, and after expenses we managed to raise over $500 to support WWHSTA projects. Feedback from members indicates that we need to have more hats available, so a summer pop-up shop is in the works. Watch the website and social channels for details!
Land acknowledgment working group:
Acknowledging, respecting and building the connection to Indigenous heritage and culture is an important part of what we do and how we operate. Following an online workshop with facilitator Christine McRae of Waaseyaa Consulting on November 1, 2021, WWHSTA formed a committee with WWHSTA president Jeff Mann and two members to work on the text for the statement. You’ll see the results on our website soon.
Ski Telemark clinic day at Sir Sam’s, Jan 5, 2022
Many WWHSTA members are telemarkers, and we spare no expense in promoting that sport. Though not an official WWHSTA event, we feel proud of the fact that WWHSTA board members helped make this day happen. Ski Telemark has been running telemark skiing lessons and clinics in Ontario for over 35 years but for some reason, had never visited Sir Sam’s, so conveniently located in the rhubarb capital of Ontario, Eagle Lake. WWHSTA provided the connection, and Ski Telemark was able to run a very successful clinic day, with a full schedule of lessons.
Check the Ski Telemark website for 2022/23 clinics and workshops
Twigfest, Feb 5, 2022
After a COVID hiatus in 2021 (though to be honest there was a 5 person unofficial event), Twigfest returned in 2022, the sixth annual and by far the best attended. We filled our registration at 25 with a waiting list. There was a nice mix of people from 14 to 64, and a variety of glisse methods, with telemark, AT and snowboarders all coexisting peacefully. Despite a low snow year there was quite adequate snow cover, what one might describe as heavy powder: it was ideal for the snowboarders.
To quote Gord Baker, it was “effing cold,” -28 C at the parking lot, but everyone was able to keep moving, stay reasonably warm, hit some lines, learn the routes of Nickle Peak and meet people. No injuries were sustained except for a few frozen toes.
A big thanks to all the volunteers: Gord Baker and Dave Stevens guided newcomers in from Kearney. Thanks to Gord, Stephanie, the Scherz Sisters, and all the Daves for helping show people around. We managed to keep the tent warm and serve soup and hot drinks hot for most of the day. At the end of the day, Moose Milk ski shots were sampled by a good number of hardy souls. This is a new Twigfest tradition.
LeChef was crusty start to finish, no sense fixing what ain’t broke.
Next year’s Twigfest should be a bit more streamlined in terms of hot drinks and our set up at camp. An event with twenty five people, in a remote location, in very cold conditions is always challenging. Many thanks for everyone’s co-operation. Stay tuned for 2023 dates.
Tasso Highlands Orientation Tour, Feb 26, 2022
A hardy, small group led by Jeff LeChef and Jeff Mann spent an adventurous day exploring the proposed trail system between Tasso lake and the Big East River. Conditions were tough, with breakable crust. Though skiing on a marked route, there was mostly no trail, so things were really just a small step above bushwhacking. Two tele skiers, two Hok skiers (in their 70’s!!) one AT skier, one splitboarder and an intrepid dog made up the group. We skied a challenging loop of 10 km through the best terrain, up the 525 foot high gully (or Amphitheater Bowl) then down and around through another narrow canyon with icefalls, huge cliffs and a rock cut 10 metres deep and 30 metres long. Our skins stayed on for the downhills, it was that challenging!
The Tasso Highlands remain very much a “work in progress” but there is great potential for an interesting and very scenic trail system there. Thanks are due to “Donnie the plow guy” for keeping a parking spot open all winter – that is part of your WWHSTA membership dollars at work!
Bellevue Valley Lodge Trip Report – Feb. 10-13, 2022
On February 10-13, WWHSTA organized a trip to Bellevue Valley Lodgein Goulais River, outside of Sault Ste Marie. Like the hills of the West Wind Highlands, the Algoma Region gets hit with lake-effect snow squalls. The difference is that while our squalls come off Georgian Bay while theirs come down off big Lake Superior, and the hills there are about twice the size of ours. Bellevue is the only dedicated ski touring lodge in Ontario and it was a memorable trip.
Four WWHSTA members were able to make the journey, though there was room for more. We were hosted by Robin and Enn who have been running Bellevue for decades. Our accommodation was a large, comfortable upstairs flat with two bedrooms and two cozy futons in the open living room. We had a full kitchen to prepare meals, though we did enjoy one dinner out in The Soo.
Bellevue has over 200 acres of gladed terrain that they’ve been maintaining for almost 40 years. Enn was our guide to this massive Algoma playground. There was far more snow there than down here this year, so we all had our work cut out for us to find our powder legs! The skiing was varied but unvaryingly superb. There was plenty of lower-angle stuff for newer skiers and most of the area closest to the lodge is very beginner-intermediate friendly. Fortunately, we spent much of our time in some of the “steeper and deeper” areas of the property, which left our thighs burning and knees shaking. It is truly a superior place to ski.
Robin and Enn were wonderful hosts and shared their home and hospitality freely. They are lifelong advocates for wild areas and are role models for the WWHSTA board in our discussions about developing ski touring on public land. My love of the place was sealed with our sauna on the last evening of our visit. It is certainly a place I am planning to return to! I hope you’ll join me .
Stay tuned for 2023 dates, this will be an annual event!
– Jeff Mann
WWHSTA member Buck Miller: “I never thought I could have so much fun skiing in Ontario!”
WWHSTA member Dave Ellis: “Wow, floating on powder in Ontario; what a gem of a place! I’ve skied lots of big mountain powder over the years, even an epic trip to Bralorne BC and Spruce Lake Protected Area. What I experienced at Bellevue was top-notch. The snow was incredible and the glade work Enn and friends have done is amazing. The terrain offers something for everyone, gentle to steep, easy cruising to cliff drops. At the end of the day the comfortable lodging was beauty, to scarf food, relax and reflect. I’ll be back next season for sure!”
(Photo credits Jeff Mann and Eric Batty)
World Telemark Day / Limberlost Tour, March 5
Due to COVID cancellations, we ended up combining two events, which in the end made a lot sense. Thanks to the helpful staff and management at the Limberlost Forest, WWHSTA hosted a day devoted to camaraderie and exploration, with a friendly base camp at the bottom of the old ski hill. About 25-30 folks came and went throughout the day and several informal tours were arranged. Conditions were, ummm, variable, though those that ventured over to the new terrain in the Hemlock Forest were rewarded with some really nice snow and really nice terrain.
WWHSTA really values its great relationship with the Limberlost Forest. Not only is there some fine ski terrain there, it is accessible, easy to find your way around and a great place to introduce people to the concept of backcountry skiing in Ontario. We’ll see you there many times next season!
Touring day at Sir Sam’s Ski & Ride, April 2
A sure sign of spring is that ski resorts close for the season when they still have LOTS of snow. Earning turns at closed resorts is a time-honoured tradition in the backcountry world, and WWHSTA was able to arrange a day of approved uphill/downhill travel at Sir Sam’s Ski & Ride in beautiful Eagle Lake, the Rhubarb Capital of Ontario.
Thirty or so skiers and riders (and Jasper the dog) enjoyed an amazing corn harvest at Sir Sam’s in Haliburton. This day marked the final WWHSTA event of the 2021/22 ski season for us and we want to once again send a huge thank you to the staff at Sir Sam’s, particularly WWHSTA member and Sir Sam’s GM, Randy Pielsticker, for being the consummate hosts. In addition to a gorgeous day, excellent conditions and a great turnout, WWHSTA members kindly donated $222 to support Spirit North, Canadian Olympian Beckie Scott’s charity supporting sport and leadership for Canadian Indigenous youth.https://www.spiritnorthxc.ca/who-we-ar e
This will become an annual event, so think spring 2023!
We are so thrilled with the community and stoke WWHSTA is growing, for backcountry ski touring in Ontario. Thank you so much for joining us this season and we look forward to getting out in the trees with you next winter.