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Snowmobiling in Wawa, Ontario

Looking for snow? It's here in Algoma Country.
Ontario train snowmobiles winter
Get way out there in Wawa! Big Midwest powder, pancake trails with groomed corduroy, and off-trail adventures really aren’t far away. We drove to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, took the train from there to Hawk Junction, and actually snowmobiled right in to our hotel in Wawa … P.S. The views were epic!
Ontario train winter snow
7 feet of snow in the Midwest? Yep, you read that right. Only a few places in relatively quick driving distance from Detroit, Toronto, Milwaukee and Minneapolis get as much snow as this area!

We are talking about a little known place of powder heaven along Lake Superior’s shores in North Ontario.

The folks from the OFSC (Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs) and sled.algomacountry.com invited us to come on up to one of these snow-rich areas and be guests of the small town of Wawa, Ontario. So the AmSnow crew headed up there for their first annual Snow Down event and found some of the much talked about Ontario white-gold.

Getting there is half the fun!
Wawa sits just off the Trans-Canada Highway, or Highway 17, that runs pretty much the length of the country. We crossed the border from the U.S. to Canada at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Once in Ontario, we stayed at the fantastic Quattro Hotel & Conference Centre , which just happens to be where my wife and I stayed at for our wedding … but that is another story altogether. (spoiler alert: my wife is Canadian!) More info: www.quattrossm.com.

This is no ordinary hotel though. It is 100% newly renovated and conveniently close to the snowmobile trail in the “Soo.” It is a full-service hotel, and it can easily host 400-plus rowdy guests for a snowmobile editor and his wife on their special day!

To travel from the “Soo” to Wawa, we hopped aboard the “sled train!” This tracks-to-trails passenger train picks up people and their sleds in downtown Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and services several northern communities, including Hawk Junction, Hearst, as well as hundreds of small camps and cabins that people own on lakes, rivers, and other areas cut off from civilization in the winter. More info: www.agawacanyontourtrain.com.
Wawa Ontario Algoma Country snow winter snowmobile
The train ride is a totally unique experience. We saw pristine lakes with fishing camps, huge bridge trestles, trappers wearing old wooden snowshoes, and incredible views of Lake Superior. The highlight was watching a group of ice climbers scaling a frozen waterfall in frigid temps while dangling hundreds of feet in the air. Snowmobilers might be a bit crazy, but these guys are CERTIFIED crazy! The ice climbers’ only means of shelter out in the wilderness was a small “prospector” tent with a tiny woodstove inside for warmth. It was a once-in-a-lifetime sight!

Back to the train… It is important to come prepared for the ride. There is no food or beverage service, so bring some munchies! My wife and I were looking at sharing a granola bar and half a bottle of water when we got on, but thankfully we met some fun-loving Canadians from Windsor who had a ton of food and just happened to be reading American Snowmobiler … plus, they had beer! What luck! I won’t name this motley crew (to protect the innocent) but you guys know who you are! Most importantly, they were thinking ahead and cemented my opinion that all Canadians are great hosts!   

The train stopped in Hawk Junction just long enough to let my wife and I get our sleds off the boxcar, and then it was gone. No worries, though; we were met by Gord Jones of Jones Power Sports of Wawa. He was our guide for the ride from Hawk to Wawa, which wound through tree-filled trails, past scenic overlooks of Lake Superior and across the occasional lake. There are several ways to get to Wawa from Hawk Junction by sled, and we took the more scenic route on this sunny, chilly afternoon. We arrived at the famous Wawa Motor Inn just before sunset on Thursday night. This place has a restaurant and huge bar, and the Inn has both standard rooms AND chalets (small and large cabins). We have stayed in both the rooms and chalets (this was not our first time staying at the Wawa Motor Inn) and we recommend either, depending on the size of group.

Where the wild things play!

On Friday morning, Russ Jones (obvious relation to Gord Jones) was our guide and opened our eyes to some great Canadian powder! We rode off-trail pretty much all day, but we were never more than a few miles from the town and services of Wawa. There are many trails in this area, so hopping down powerlines or logging roads with untouched snow often brings you back to another trail. There are technical climbs and sidehills to challenge any off-trail or mountain rider. We were riding 137-inch crossover sleds, which made the day even more challenging and fun! The area ranges from sea level to roughly 2,000 feet in elevation, which translates to LOTS of needed horsepower! Note, Jones Powersports also does rentals!
Wawa Ontario Algoma Country snow winter ice
Smoke on the water – The mostly frozen kind of water anyway! The roiling shores of Lake Superior shed steam in the morning, as do sleds after chugging through numerous feet of fresh snow! Rivers run through massive canyons and snow stuffed meadows. Read up boys, this is where you’re headed to next!
Our two steeds were Ski-Doo’s 2015 Backcountry X with a 1.75-inch lug and Ski-Doo’s Renegade X-RS with a 1.5-inch lug and studs. Our guide rode a 155 Polaris RMK, but there were Summit mountain sleds, Switchbacks, M-sleds and more in our riding group... you’ll want at least a 136-inch track with an 800cc motor though. Track speed and picking the right line is key to getting through unscathed. Also, there is little trail traffic and with the high amount of snow this part of Ontario gets, it can be hard to see where the trail is on certain mornings, unless a groomer recently went through. How awesome!

We can’t overstate the excellent snow Algoma Country enjoys from mid-January through the end of March. My wife grew up in the little town of White River, just an hour from Wawa, and we visit W.R. at least once a winter. Snowbanks are as tall as semitrucks (or “transports,” if you are from Northern Ontario), and 5-8 feet of snow is fairly normal in Wawa in late February. Unfortunately, an arctic air mass culminating in massively cold temps hit while we were there, and temps did not break zero degrees our entire stay. But beggars can’t be choosers, and all the fresh snow was fantastic! It snowed at least four inches every night!

Saturday we participated in the first annual Snow Down event put on by Rally Connex (www.rallyconnex.com). The “snowmobile rally” consisted of several different groups (determined by riding desire and experience) following a predetermined course with waypoints that had to be captured by photo or video (on your phone or other device). It was similar to a poker run, but it focused on the great experiences people had on their rides. The photos and videos were then shared, and everyone was able to see the fun, chaos and camaraderie that took place. VERY cool idea!

With 700+ kilometers (435+ miles) of groomed trails, the Algoma region of Ontario is great for a casual outing, or for longer, big-mileage tours. Trails from Wawa run in every direction, but the main trails head north to Dubreuilville, Missanabie, Hearst, Hornepayne, and more. Fuel is the major concern though. Wawa has it, Dubreuilville and a couple other places do too, but plan your fuel stops, call in advance, and bring a small extra jerry can if you plan on long touring rides. We HIGHLY suggest packing an electric helmet and handlebar gauntlets, too, for those super-cold Canadian mornings.
Distance to Wawa, Ontario from...
Detroit – 489 miles, 787 kilometers, 7 hours (approx.)
Milwaukee – 541 miles, 870 kilometers, 9 hours (approx.)
Minneapolis – 639 miles, 1028 kilometers, 10 hours (approx.)
Toronto – 573 miles, 923 kilometers, 9 hours (approx.)
Wawa Ontario Algoma Country snow winter snowmobile
Seriously Deep! The POW trenches got deeper as we got farther in the Canadian "bush" (or "woods," for us Americans). Sawing through 5+ feet was common!
How much snow?
Want a good way to compare how much snow is in places around the U.S. and Canada? Go to the National Weather Service National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center website and check out the interactive maps area. Here, you can quickly see (by color) the amount of snow that is on the ground.

The maps on the NOAA website are in “inches of water equivalent” measurements, but roughly 10 inches of snow is produced per inch of water. However, if snow is really wet, the ratio may be only 4-6 inches of snow for an inch of water. Also, super-cooled moisture might produce 15-20 inches of snow per inch of water.

It is a relatively small area where we rode in Ontario, but only portions of the extreme eastern Canadian provinces (such as Newfoundland and Labrador) or the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and British Columbia had more snow on the ground (4-7 feet) at the same time we rode in Wawa last year.
Important travel points
It has been eight years since we’ve done a story on the Algoma area of Northern Ontario, and the snow is still just as good as it was back then! You can ride for days without running into much in the way of trail traffic. No bumps, lots of snow, and all kinds of off-trail opportunities await you.

It is important that you check road closures and weather before driving to this area. There are only a few roads in and out, so checking forecasts and openings is crucial. We suggest visiting the website sled.algomacountry.com before you travel.

Also, you can find sled parts, service and more at Jones Power Sports in the Wawa area. Finally, for general info and lodging, visit www.wawa.cc/tourism, www.wawamotorinn.ca, and www.saultstemariecomfortinn.com.
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