As Canadian winter sports traditions go, theres nothing quite like the Wabos Wilderness Loppet. During the last weekend of March, the Algoma Central Railways Snow Train chugs 35 miles north from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, into the wintry hills east of Lake Superior, and stops at the tiny settlement of Wabos. As many as 500 cross country skiers pile out and, like a herd of crayon-colored caribou, ski 17 miles west (loppet means long trip in Norwegian) through forests of spruce, fir, birch, and pine to Stokely Creek Lodge.
The lodge sits 600 yards away from a secondary road off the Trans-Canada Highway-far enough to prevent the late 20th century from intruding on the surrounding 12,000 acres of protected land; guests must ski in.
The shingled two-story main lodge contains seven rooms. Four chalets (one streamside, three hillside) have two to five units. Three additional units are in the Stokely Creek Ski Touring Centre clubhouse near the main lodge. Four duplex units suitable for families sleep up to six.
Stokely is blessed with reliable snow and varied terrain, unusual at mid-continent, and there are more than 75 miles of well-marked trails. For great views, ski to Hang-gliders Lookout on the flank of King Mountain, at 1,880 feet the highest elevation hereabouts. Then there s the six-mile ski northeast to the bush camp of 80-year-old Norm Bourgeois, raconteur extraordinaire. (Ask him to tell you the one about the exploding porcupine.)
The lodge is located six hours north of Detroit and seven and a half hours northwest of Toronto.
Overall, Wabos Wilderness is the 30th most popular cross country ski area of all 48 Nordic ski destinations in Ontario.