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Great White North Destinations - Thunder Bay, Ontario
By:  Karl Saidla   (2005/01/22)


Right now I am back in one of my favourite places to ski in Canada: Thunder Bay! While many of you know a bit about Thunder Bay because it was host of the 1995 World Nordic Championships, I thought it might be worth explaining why it is such a great place for a skier to visit or live for those of you who have never been.

This morning I woke up to sunshine, lots of beautiful white snow and crisp temperatures. The first thing I needed to do was make a trip to my all time favourite restaurant, the Hoito. The Hoito is a Finnish restaurant originally established for all the Finnish bush workers who lived in the Thunder Bay area. The food is solid, interesting, and inexpensive. I decided to run over there as kind of a morning workout. On my way down the hill I enjoyed the spectacular view of Lake Superior and Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. It is called Sleeping Giant because viewed from Thunder Bay, the outline of the peninsula which forms the park resembles a sleeping giant. After having arrived at the Hoito, I ordered a western omelette, and then some Finnish pancakes. I told the nice waitress that because I only come once a year or so I have to eat a lot. She said Sen you betta hav se salt fis sandvich ven you are ton too. I could not manage to the salt fish sandwich. I figure the only way you could get more calories per dollar than what I had would be to try that Homer Simpson thing and wrap a waffle around a stick of butter before dousing it in maple sirop. What real cross-country skier would not enjoy a morning like that!

This afternoon I am off to one of the famous Wednesday night Lappe night races. Every Wednesday a race takes place at Lappe Ski Centre. These are fun, usually short informal races that get great attendance and are normally very competitive. From time to time the fields have so many great skiers in them that you might think it was a Canada Cup or something. The best part of going to the night race is going to Lappe. Here you find immaculately groomed trails, night skiing, and a fantastic day lodge where you can take long hot saunas and eat more Finnish pancakes afterwards. I will certainly be having two helpings of Finnish pancakes today, along with perhaps some strong coffee that tastes so good after racing and a sauna.

But those experiences are mainly from just today. Thunder Bay has much more to offer to a skier. Another terrific area is Kamview, which offers fantastic views of the whole Thunder Bay area, as well as a recently installed snowmaking system. Other spectacular trails can be found at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, (mentioned earlier) home to the well known Sibley Ski Tour in March. Other areas worth visiting include Tapiola and Centennial park.

What really makes Thunder Bay a great place for a skier is the community. There are an infinite number of supportive people of all types: parents, jackrabbit leaders, officials, coaches, athletes, other volounteers, you name it. In order to really get a feel for this I would suggest visiting either Kamview or Lappe on a weekend morning and watch one of these places operate at the height of their powers. Jackrabbit kids everywhere, racers training, tourers touring, and other people just enjoying the view from the comforts of one of the buildings. Races and events seem to be happening more often than not as well.

I lived in Thunder Bay for four years when I was part of the National Team Development Centre and attending Lakehead University. I raced for both of these great teams and that is mainly how I grew to appreciate Thunder Bay. I find a way to go back once a year or so to enjoy all it has to offer, and love it every time. So if you are interested in taking a bit of a ski holiday or something, put Thunder Bay on your list. You will not regret it!

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