by Joe Evancho
SAULT STE. MARIE, Ontario — The first thing you need to know is that it is not a race.
The Wabos Wilderness Loppet, North America’s unique wilderness tour, is a non-competitive event in the original Nordic tradition. Every year since its beginnings in March of 1980, between 15 and 400 skiers of all ages have climbed on board the Algoma Central Railway (ACR) in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and have enjoyed a 35-mile train ride out to the little town of Wabos.
Meaning a rabbit's long journey, the Wabos Loppet is a cross-country ski tour that that is the ultimate in ski touring. The event has no finishing times recorded or prizes awarded.
The ski tour begins with a train ride going north out of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario on the famous railway. You will travel for an hour through snow-covered Algoma forests to the to the lumber village of Wabos. Snacks will be served on the train.
At Wabos, you will disembark with your skis to an uninterrupted 27 kilometer course that leads through the woods, over two lakes and several beaver ponds to Sheppard Lake, where tea and oranges will be served. After this, the rest of the course is on groomed trails leading to “Norm’s Cabin” at the edge of Bone Lake.
At Norm’s you will enjoy refreshments and stories of past loppets. The last part of the trip takes you to Stokely Creek Lodge for a festive barbecue with local musical entertainment.
You make take two hours to finish the trip, or moving more leisurely, you make take five to six hours to finish. No matter how quickly you move along, take time to enjoy the serene beauty of the Algoma Highlands in winter.
At the Skier's Day Cabin food and beverage awaits.
Details of the trip
Your skis and poles will go with you, so please strap them together. You will have time to wax your skis at the start area. Portions of the trail you will be skiing may not be groomed, however event sponsors do make every effort to groom as much of the trail as possible.
It’s a good idea to bring an extra ski tip. You should be prepared for a wide variety of waxing conditions, ranging from powder (blue wax) to corn snow (klister). Temperatures may range from 15 degrees Fahrenheit – 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Extra warm and dry clothes and a hardy snack or lunch should also be considered. (Remember you need to carry your extra supplies).
A buffet and barbecue will be served in the Day Skiers Cabin on your return.
If you started out from the “Soo” buses will be available between 4-5 p.m. to take you back with announcements being made in the Day Skiers Cabin before each departure.
The ultimate party on skiis
A $100 (Canadian) entry see sets you up with a train ride, muffin and juice, oranges on the trail, ski patrol on site, barbecue, live entertainment, a Loppet draw, bus back to the “Soo,” or if staying at the Lodge, a bus to the train in the morning. If you book accommodations at the lodge for the weekend you will receive a 10 percent discount on lodging rates.
Call Stokely at 705-649-3421 (local) or 1-866-786-5359 to make your reservations.
The Algoma Central Railways Snow Train will take you through the snow-covered Algoma forest to the tiny
lumber town of Wabos is the Native American word for rabbit.