By PEARL DUFF
Since the early 1970s, the BioSki Cross-Country Ski & Snowshoe Club has welcomed residents and visitors to enjoy the great outdoors while participating in two of winter’s most popular activities: cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Operated by volunteers, who groom and maintain the trails as well as manage the day-to- day functions, the club is conveniently located at the very end of South Bay Rd., just a short drive from downtown.
In 1974, permission was received from the Nickel District Conservation Authority (NDCA) to develop ski trails on the Lake Laurentian property, just as interest in recreational cross-country skiing was increasing.
Two Laurentian University biology department faculty members began to develop a five-kilometre trail. As ecologists, they insisted on minimizing the impact on the landscape.
In their own words, the trails were “woven into the landscape, not imposed upon it.”
Cutting trail is long and hard work. Students helped, both working as naturalists for NDCA and as volunteers from the biology department.
Thanks to the student involvement, the trail system very quickly assumed the name BioSki. The name remains and reflects the strong affinity that the system has with the natural environment.
The BioSki Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe Club is ideal for families and individuals. As a conservation area, it means that encounters with wildlife are possible.
The Lake Laurentian Conservation Area, through which the ski trail runs, represents a mosaic of plant communities and is host to white birch forest, poplar lowlands, stands of red pine and white spruce and even beaver ponds.
This habitat diversity provides the opportunity to see tracks of several animals including snowshoe hare, red fox, red squirrel, porcupine, and the occasional lynx. Chickadees are constant companions and one may occasionally see ruffled grouse and woodpeckers.
The cross-country ski trail system is laid out solely for classic skiing and in the form of “nested” loops.
This configuration has the advantage of optimizing the use of the available terrain while maximizing the total trail distance. The system was designed primarily with the recreational skier in mind while, at the same time, being sufficiently demanding to satisfy the serious or competitive skier. The emphasis, however, is on aesthetics and safety. All trails are relatively narrow and long straight sections of trail have been minimized to maintain a sense of intimacy with the natural environment. With few exceptions, the downhill run-outs are straight for the sake of safety.
The system offers a total of 17 kilometres of ski trails with a range of trail lengths of from 1.8 to 10 kilometres.
The Founders Five (five-kilometre) trail may be regarded as the heart of the system with other trails either cutting across it or connecting with it.
The popular Flat Five trail was created for the 2008-09 season to offer a safer option if there was inclement weather. This trail is not totally flat as its name suggests but simply avoids the steepest hills while still providing the skier with a satisfactory distance to ski.
In addition, five kilometres of well marked and mapped snowshoe trails provide users with scenic views from the two high points in the landscape, Mount Ramsey and the Lake Ramsey Lookout.
Conveniently, membership at the BioSki Club provides free access to the trails at the Laurentian Nordic Ski Club at the university.
However, it’s not all wintertime activities on the trails. The ski and snowshoe trails become excellent hiking and mountain biking opportunities during the rest of the year.
All trails start and end at the quaint and toasty warm ski cottage. Stop in for a rest, lively conversation or refreshments. Helpful volunteers can offer information on which trail to take and help with membership information or day passes.
During the ski season, the Ski Cottage is open weekends from 10 am to 4 pm and Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm. For more information, visit bioski.ca.
Pearl Duff is a member of the BioSki Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe Club.