During the current stay-at-home order issued for the Ontario wide lockdown, there are limited winter outdoor activities that have been approved to continue throughout the Algoma District.
If you are wishing to get some fresh air and exercise through cross country skiing, fat biking or snowshoeing Hiawatha Highlands wants you to know they have a successful plan for remaining open.
Tina Bowen, Operations Manager indicates anyone with a valid trail pass and who observes the rules may access the trails.
"We have 14 ski trails (roughly 48 km within three systems). All are open excluding the Mable Lake trail and the Hiawatha Loop which are both in need of more snow. We also have 9km between two snowshoe trails and 9km of new fat bike trails which are groomed and maintained by The Sault Cycling Club," said Bowen.
The trails are ready to accept snow and be groomed, weather permitting from Nov. 15 through April 15 each year. Most folks ski by their own schedules so they are never really shut down at night.
Usage during the dark hours requires discretion, preparation and proper lighting equipment on the part of the accessing party.
"We have had to rethink the wheel on an operation that ran very smoothly. Inside operations, as well as outside operations, have been affected," Bowen said. "More staffing was needed to cover the new procedures in place as well as staffing at the trailheads to monitor the trails and parking lots from customers congregating, keeping safe distances and keeping an eye on the number of skiers on the trails."
"We didn’t offer ski rentals or the picture-taking portion of issuing a customer’s season pass initially. We put our thinking caps on and created procedures to safely rent ski equipment curbside, phone reservations and we made our picture/pass issuing station mobile. So now, customers can come to the door, we take their photo, print and then issue it curbside."
The groomers have since cut two tracks on opposing sides of each trail in order to accommodate safe distancing for the correct direction of travel in accordance with the trail you are traversing. This means both tracks are for travelling in the same direction. If you are not familiar with the correct direction of travel please view the trail map on the Hiawatha Highlands website.
She also appealed to the community to help skiers stay safe, asking people to refrain from walking or walking pets on the trails. It poses a safety issue for those who are skiing. Holes made by people and animals walking on the trails could cause skiers to fall and hurt themselves.
Hiawatha Highlands has taken further steps to protect the safety of trail users by providing additional signage outlining appropriate trail systems for walking within the city such as Bellevue Park, Strathclair Park, Clergue Park, Elliot Park and Mulligans Trail.
You can follow updates on COVID-19 precautions for Hiawatha Highlands by accessing their COVID-19 FAQ lockdown update page.
Please remember to use the trails responsibly and stay safe.