Last winter we were pleased to add a fleet of skin skis to the line-up of winter gear at Northern Edge! Todd started exploring on-and-off trail via these incredible tools a couple of winters ago, and we’re incredibly excited to share more skin ski adventures with our guests this winter. They are a versatile and efficient choice for explorers who want to explore off-trail, back-country areas and climb hills easily in our winter wonderland.
Skin skis are a type of cross-country ski designed for backcountry travel – particularly great for forest trails in and around Algonquin Park! Ours are shorter and wider than traditional cross-country skis, and they have a layer of synthetic material on the bottom that provides traction and allows skiers to climb uphill. Popular among backcountry skiers and folks like Todd who enjoy exploring off-the-beaten-path, skin skis allow us to travel through untracked snow and climb hills more easily than with traditional cross-country skis which can be slippery and get tangled in uphill and deep-snow environments.
The key feature of skin skis is the “skins,” a kind of carpeting attached to the bottom of the ski. Small fibers on the skins provide traction when the ski is sliding forward, but allow the ski to glide smoothly when the skier is moving downhill. This combination of traction and glide makes it easy to move forward but not slide backward.
Interested in a pair of your own? We got ours direct from Norway but we know that our friends at Algonquin Outfitters have some stock available! (We recommend testing them out at a winter retreat first!)
Winter retreats at the Edge can include guided excursions on Skin skis, cross-country skis, snowshoes, and even kick-sleds – these are each great for different conditions:
- Cross-country skis are designed for travel over flat or rolling terrain. Ours are thin and long, and have a camber, or upward curve, that helps the ski to grip the snow and provide stability when turning. There are no groomed trails for cross-country skiing around the Edge, but we love to take them on the plowed, even back roads or across the lake in the right conditions!
- Snowshoes have a large, flat surface area that allows the wearer to distribute their weight over a wider area, preventing them from sinking into the snow. We typically use them for hiking and other outdoor activities in deep snow. They are a good, easy-to-use way of traveling across snowy Algonquin Park.
- As mentioned above, our skin skis are shorter and wider, and are a great way to explore snowy trails, hills, and forests around the Edge! Honestly, they blend the benefits of cross-country skis and snowshoes for our guests.
- Kick-sleds consist of a small sled with a handlebar at the front and a pair of skis at the bottom. Riders stands on the sled and propels themselves forward by kicking the ground with their feet, similar to riding a scooter. Kick-sleds are popular in Scandinavian countries, where they are often used as a form of winter transportation and for recreational activities such as touring and racing. They are pretty rare to find in Canada, but we’re lucky enough to have a small collection. We find kick-sleds are a super-fun and unique way to explore snowy terrain including the lake or even zip from our accommodations to the dining room. They can be used in a variety of conditions, including groomed trails, deep snow, backcountry trails, over ice (if your shoes have good grips), and are a blast to steer downhill.
Whatever the way, we love getting out in the snow and exploring our winter landscape with guests. Interested in joining us for a guided winter experience? We’d love to have you!