Top Ten North American Cross-Country Skiing Centers

Lappe Nordic Center, Ontario
By Sproule Love

If Minnesota's north shore of Lake Superior is considered the Norwegian Riviera, then Ontario's south shore is the Finnish Hamptons. And for cross-country skiing, the Lappe Nordic Centre, just outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario, is its hub. While Lappe has only 15 kilometers of Nordic trails, the center has hosted Canadian Junior National Championships, a third of its trails are lighted for night skiing until 10:30pm. Then there's the irresistible character of the place.

Self-serve soup and honor-system trail fees are just the beginning of Lappe's charms. The resort is the nexus of a community spirit that includes an active Jackrabbit race program (similar to the Bill Koch League for youth cross-country ski racing in the U.S.), regular citizens'' races throughout the winter, and an annual 24-hour relay race.

For a taste of Lappe's race heritage, try the rolling Humpty Dumpty Trail. Before being modified to make it suitable for the Junior National competition in 2000, this was know as the Corkscrew Trail, and was hands-down Lappe's most challenging trail. It can still launch skiers who are not ready for the undulating risers at the bottom of this rapid descent.

The Center has a traditional Finnish sauna to speed muscle recovery after a ski; wilder skiers cool off between soaks with a roll in the snow.

If You Go: Lappe Nordic Centre

Trails: 15 kilometers for classic and skating, 5 kilometers lighted

Trail fee (in Canadian dollars): Adult $10 weekend/$8 weekday; Student $8/$5

Rentals: Yes, through the Ski Exchange (retail Store in Thunder Bay)

Lessons: Yes, upon request

Where: Lappe is located north of Thunder Bay, Ontario.


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