I have a love affair with Nordic skiing. Cross-country skiing is so much more than just a sport; it’s a nature experience, a family event, and an adventure. The fact that it’s easy to learn is an added bonus for this low-risk sport for all ages.
We are fortunate to live in a province that’s perfect for cross-country skiing with its small hills and rolling landscapes. You can find lots of nearby trails for the beginner to the most advanced.
Cross-country skiing is a sport with many skill levels and is something you can spend a lifetime improving. The real fun starts once you become confident and are able to glide on your skis and go down smaller hills. If you ask any Nordic skiing kid what’s most fun about this sport, they will tell you a trail with a lot of hills through the woods. Add some hot chocolate and snacks in your backpack for a perfect outing out on the trails.
Once you get your own equipment, you’ll discover another wonder of cross-country skiing; you can do it anywhere if you just have snow on the ground. Here’s where to do it in the GTA.
If you want to stay super close to home, there are many places in Toronto where cross-country skiing enthusiasts make their own tracks in the city after a big snowfall. Parks worth checking out after it snows include Taylor Creek Park, Ashbridges Bay, Beltline to Cedarvale Park and High Park.
If you are new to the sport and don’t want to invest in your own gear just yet, it’s best to head to a cross-country centre where experts are there to introduce you to the sport. They have the best conditions, equipment rentals and offer lessons for kids and families.
If you want to head to a great Nordic skiing facility, these are an easy drive from Toronto and are perfect for a family day trip.
Dagmar Ski Resort (45 mins – 1hr from GTA)
Dagmar Ski Resort is only a 45 minute drive from East Toronto and great for families that are new to the sport who don’t want to drive far. However with only 4km of groomed trails, it might not be worth the drive if you are a more seasoned cross-country skier. They offer both rentals and lessons if you call ahead.
Recommended for beginners.
Albion Hills Conservation Area (30 mins – 55 mins)
This is one of the most popular cross-country skiing destinations close to Toronto. It’s no wonder with trails going through rolling hills and along lakes in the forest. It has a relaxing atmosphere and caters to all skill level of skiers. It has some great places to have picnics along the trail and birds are known to come very close if you bring some birdseed. The only drawback to Albion is that it seems to follow Toronto’s snow patterns, so if the GTA has no snow they usually don’t have it either. It is an affordable option for families, with a special family price of $40 and rentals are available.
Pro Tip: Bring some sleds with you for some after ski fun. They have a big hill which is perfect for sledding.
Recommended for: beginners, intermediate and experts.
Hardwood Ski and Bike (1 – 1.5 hrs)
Hardwood Ski and Bike is in the snow belt just north of Barrie and often has snow even if we don’t have it in Toronto. This resort is the hub for cross-country skiing in Southern Ontario. The trail conditions are always nicely groomed and have spots for open fires on the weekends. They have some thrilling trails with lots of hills for both beginners and advanced skiers.
They offer lessons, but be sure to call ahead to book. They usually offer rentals but due to a fire, this isn’t available at the moment. You may want to get in touch with the resort in case the situation has changed.
Pro Tip: Make sure you bring a picnic and hot chocolate to have by the open fire.
Recommended for: beginners, intermediate, experts.
Horseshoe Resort (1 – 1.5 hrs)
Horseshoe Resort is also in the snow belt and often has snow when we don’t have snow in Toronto. This resort offers a lot of activities for families like tubing and downhill skiing. They also have a cross-country skiing area and offer rentals and lessons. The cross-country trails vary from easy to very hard-they can be challenging because of the steep hills, but seasoned cross-country skiers will enjoy it.
Pro Top: For the most ultimate outing, add tubing after your cross-country skiing adventure.
Recommended for beginners, intermediate, experts.
Mansfield Outdoor Centre (50mins – 1.5 hrs)
Mansfield Outdoor Centre boasts a 40 km cross-country trail network for beginners and seasoned cross-country skiers alike. Their machine groomed and trackset trails have big and small hills through the woods. They’re open every weekend for the public if they have snow, and on weekdays by appointment only. If you are interested in lessons and rentals, make sure you arrange ahead and check the website first.
Pro Tip: After skiing, a visit to the log cabin is a must. The food is supposed to be good and the cabin is cozy with an open fire place.
Recommended for: beginners, intermediate, experts.
And for even more family-friendly places to ski in the GTA, check out Help! We’ve Got Kids.