“We have 22 kilometres of cross-country ski trails and eight kilometres of snowshoe trails,” spokesperson Linda Service said. “The snowshoeing trails include the suspension bridge.”
For those unfamiliar with the sprawling 150-hectare property, that’s a 123-metre arching suspension bridge towering 300 metres over Georgian Bay in the distance, the longest in Ontario. A spectacular site in the green season, the bridge is stunning in the snow.
It’s also situated on the rocky brow of the Niagara Escarpment, adding immeasurably to its appeal.
“The trails for the snowshoers and cross-country skiers include the lookout point which is part of the summer cave tour,” Service continued. “They also cut through a 200-year-old forest.”
Of particular interest is a vantage point a few metres away from the lookout on an “island rock” detached from the main face of the escarpment. A plaque explains the Petun First Nation had used the spot as a conference centre several hundred years ago.
Accessible only via a walkway, tribal officials met there and took their bridge with them to ensure privacy for their talks.
The Nordic Centre is the product of the visionary imagination of resort owner Rob Thorburn.
“About 10 years ago, he thought ‘why just have it in the spring, summer and fall,” Service said. “It’s good for the customers and good for business, so why not have it available for people in the winter as well.”
The centre can outfit visitors with equipment, including the so-called “high-tech” snowshoes, Service said. Snowshoeing is rocketing off the scales in popularity, she said, because “anyone can do it.”
Scenic Caves also does well in the winter due to meteorological providence. Since the centre is perched high atop the Blue Mountains (really a series of escarpment high points) on the boundary between Grey and Simcoe counties, it’s in its own micro-climate with the temperature averaging between two and five degrees Celsius colder than the surrounding lowlands. That makes all the difference between receiving precipitation as snow or rain. It’s also significant in maintaining a suitable trail base.
It’s a weather anomaly, however, that’s not as well-known as it should be. Service said the snowshoeing market really took off about five years ago.
“There’s been more of a leveling of skiing and snowshoeing over the last couple of years with now only a slight advantage to skiing. A lot of people in their late 40s, 50s and 60s are still skiing, while the change is coming in the younger demographic.”
“Consumers are a lot more knowledgeable now about snowshoes than they were,” she said. “And there’s been a bit of a pullback from the traditional downhill and snowboarding as people age. There are a lot of families coming out and trying it. I believe there’s still more growth to come in the market.”