Head to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada for endless winter adventures. Here are 10 of our favorite ways to celebrate winter just across the border, plus where to stay and play to make it a trip to remember.
When you’re a Midwesterner in love with the snow, finding your skiing sweet spot can be a little tricky. What’s the dream scenario? An easy drive. Reliable snow. Humane lift lines and manageable crowds. Ample amenities, reasonable lodging and a terrific basecamp destination for delish eats and a fun apres scene. A bit of a tall order.
We’re used to juggling fickle weather and the weekend crowds at our favorite resorts, but the pandemic years have skiers flocking to the slopes for socially distanced outdoor activity, and data from the National Ski Areas Association shows that skier visits in our region are up 20 percent—fun for the industry, but not so much the avid skier hoping to bag maximum runs.
Fortunately, tucked on the shores of Lake Superior sits a skiing destination where the slopes are steep and deep, lift lines are swift and amenities tick all boxes: the Algoma region’s Searchmont Resort, just 40 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie, Canada.
With new owners, the resort has seen an overhaul on amenities and piled on the capital improvements. The 100-acre resort is now home to 26 runs, six lifts, a ski school, tuning shop, retail shop and bustling restaurant and bar.
Thanks to lake-effect snow and a magical microclimate mixed with the sweetness of nearby Sault Ste. Marie, it draws devoted skiers from all over the Midwest and Canada. Here’s why:
1. SNOWFALL: Over the last 10 years, Searchmont has averaged 132” (336 cm) annual real snow. Lake-effect squalls result in huge dumps of freshies, especially in snowy December and January, resulting in more than 90 percent terrain coverage with snow-making.
2. JUST-SO GROOMING: A brand new Pistenbully 600 makes for an eco-friendly addition to the grooming fleet, offering better winching for steep-slope corduroy.
3. VERTICAL DROP: Searchmont claims a 1,650-foot elevation and 750-foot vertical drop, about 300 feet higher than resorts in northern lower Michigan, making for some of the longest runs in the region.
4. UPDATED CHAIRLIFTS: Searchmont Resort recently added two Skytrac triple chairs as part of a major modernization. The longer of the two lifts will replace the mountain’s original double chairlift, built in 1972. With better lift capacity comes easier access and shorter lines. The Buzzsaw lift now feeds into Buzzsaw and Lumberjack, two new trails designed to create an easier transition to the main trails for new and beginner skiers.
5. A GREAT EXCHANGE RATE: A strong U.S. dollar means it’s super affordable for U.S. residents to travel and play in Canada for less. With full-day lift tickets at $70 CA, that means you’re hitting some of the best snow in the Great Lakes for around $52.
6. COASTAL BREWS: Your après plan doesn’t have to stay slopeside—head to Outspoken Brewing (on Queen Street in Sault Ste. Marie) for a Fresh Coast Kolsch-style ale in their cozy tasting room with floor-to-ceiling windows. Northern Superior Brewing Co. brews a popular Canadian lager.
Photo by Tourism Sault Ste. Marie
Related Read: 9 Sault Ste. Marie Adventures for a Long Weekend in Canada.
7. ROOMS WITH A VIEW: Find deluxe digs at Delta Sault Ste. Marie Waterfront, which overlooks the boardwalk and St. Mary’s River and has cool views of the Soo Locks from the dining room.
8. BADASS BREAKFAST: Diehard skiers know the secret to a nonstop day on the slopes is a serious pre-ski breakfast to fuel it all. The Breakfast Pig Badass Eatery claims bragging rights to Sault Ste. Marie’s best breakfast. Pigtastic dishes like the Notorious P.I.G. feature pulled pork, grilled cheese, poached eggs and hollandaise.
9. POUTINE: At the end of a long day in the snow, thank whatever gods inspired Canadians to create the greatest winter snack ever—French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. Searchmont Resort’s onsite restaurant, The Kiln, offers a classic poutine with the addition of bacon. Back in town, you’ll find plenty of killer options, like those at Low & Slow Smoked Fusion Barbecue, served up with burnt ends. Other spots? Chummy’s Grill, Burger Don, Stackburger, Smokey’s BBQ Pit & Patio, Stockhouse Grill, Breakfast Pig, even Georgie’s Shawarma.
10. MORE SNOWY ADVENTURES NEARBY: Add in some extra play and find plenty of snowshoeing within Sault Ste. Marie city limits on the Hub Trail and Voyageur Trail and more terrain available at Hiawatha Highlands. Hiawatha is also home to 50km of expertly groomed cross-country ski trails. Fat bikers can head to Crimson Ridge just minutes from the city center, with 20km of packed and flowy trails, or grab some rental skates for forest skating on their iced-over forested trails.
Photo by Tourism Sault Ste. Marie