Still Standing

From ice sailing to adaptive sports: how small towns across Canada stay active all winter

Here's how these spots across the country make the most out of the chilly weather

Here's how these spots across the country make the most out of the chilly weather

Adaptive skiing at Owl’s Head sur le lac in Mansonville, Que. (Courtesy Adaptive Sports Foundation)

When it comes to getting active in the winter, Canada's small towns seize every single moment – both indoors and outdoors. Check out six towns that are enjoying winter in their own ways, and trust us, there's a lot more out there than hockey!

Ringette in Metcalfe, Ont.

Youth ringette players hit the ice in Metcalfe, Ont. (Courtesy Metcalfe and District Ringette Association)

Ringette is a hit in Metcalfe, a small community that's now part of Ottawa. In 1963, a new winter sport for girls was invented only a few hours away by Sam Jacks, the parks and recreation director for North Bay.

The game is played on an ice rink with 6 players per team, with a goal of shooting a rubber ring into the opposite team's net. Since starting in North Bay, ringette has taken Canada by storm, and there are now associations across the country including this small rural community near the Ottawa River. Having recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, the Metcalfe and District Ringette Association has numerous teams including Bunnies, U8, U16, and U19, that compete often. In March 2019, the MDRA won 3 Gold medals and 1 Silver medal at the National Capital Region Ringette League Championships.

Adaptive sports in Mansonville, Que.

A participant in the Adaptive Sports Foundation’s winter program goes down a ski run at Owl’s Head sur le lac in Mansonville, Que. (Courtesy Adaptive Sports Foundation)

In 1995, the Adaptive Sports Foundation was established in Knowlton Quebec. It was the brainchild of Peter M. Treacy, who suffered an accident that left him an amputee. Treacy came up with the idea of a ski school for kids and adults with physical disabilities, as well as a summer sports program. His unique idea has evolved into an ongoing winter program that operates at Owl's Head sur le lac, a ski hill in the small Eastern Townships community of Mansonville, Quebec. Every year, disabled athletes come from near and far to receive ski and snowboard lessons. ASF also runs a winter sports camp for injured soldiers. 

More than 25 years later, the winter program at Owl's Head remains a leader for adaptive sports across Canada, with more than 100 volunteers from Mansonville and surrounding communities.

Snowboarding in Chehalis, B.C.

Members of the First Nations Snowboard Team on Sasquatch Mountain near Chehalis, B.C. (Courtesy Sts'ailes Community School)

Every January, teens from Chehalis hit the slopes of nearby Sasquatch Mountain as part of the First Nations Snowboard Team. Established in 2004 in B.C. by Aaron Marchant, FNST partners with several communities across the country to empower Indigenous youth through the sport. Among them is Chehalis, a small community in B.C.'s Lower Mainland that's home to the Sts'ailes people, a sovereign Coast Salish First Nation. Along with learning how to snowboard, youth from Sts'ailes Community School (grade 9 and up) receive a season pass, equipment, clothing and compete. Not only does it keep kids smiling, but the program also serves as an ongoing inspiration for this small B.C. community.

Lacrosse in Kugluktuk, Nunavut

Kids practice lacrosse at the community centre in Kugluktuk. (CBC | High Arctic Haulers)

Lacrosse has made an immeasurable impact in Kugluktuk an Inuit community located at the mouth of the Coppermine River in Nunavut. A team was formed here in the early 2000s in the midst of a youth suicide crisis. Since then, the team has been a catalyst for positive change in this remote Nunavut community. Recently, when lacrosse sticks were too worn out, the community made their own out of wood that was shipped into town. The lacrosse team's remarkable story of perseverance was the basis for a motion picture released in 2019.  Several people from the community including former Grizzlies player-turned lacrosse coach, Adam Kikpak, were the inspiration for characters in the film.

Speed skating in Lakefield, Ont.

Here's a neat find in a small town just north of Peterborough: a speed skating oval. A 400-metre track was built over 10 years ago in Lakefield a picture-perfect community on the Otonabee River. Residents of Lakefield — including some local speed skating enthusiasts — volunteered for years to get a recreational long track built in their community. Other speed skating tracks were simply too far away. When complete, the natural ice surface was two and a half times the size of an NHL size hockey rink! 

The Ontario Speed Skating Oval is a busy place in the winter with speed skating events, public skates, and candlelight skating nights in February.

Ice sailing in Ghost Lake, Alta.

Ice sailing on Ghost Lake in Alberta. (Courtesy Stefan Dalberg)

A tiny village one hour west of Calgary has become a hub for ice sailing. The Summer Village of Ghost Lake, pop 82, is situated on a manmade lake, and since 1955, it's been home to the Ghost Lake Ice Sailing Club . Every winter, iceboats can be seen racing across the frozen surface. Boats fitted with blades are propelled by the wind, sometimes reaching speeds of over 100 km/hr The sport evolved over hundreds of years when ice boats were a means of winter transport in certain areas around the globe, including Canada and the United States. Today, the club is going strong with more than 40 members.

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