Words :: Colin Field // Sponsored by Tourism Sault Ste Marie
Dropping into the newest mountain bike trail in Sault Ste Marie, Swamp Donkey, it’s hard to find reasons not to move here. These flowing berms, jumps and drops are what mountain biking is all about. The riding here is good and only getting better.
That’s why Chris Sanger moved up here from Mississauga back in 2022.
“It was becoming too hard to get to the trails,” he recalls. “Every time I had to jump in the car and drive for 45 minutes to go ride. Here, the Hiawatha trail head is seven minutes from my house. Bellevue Valley is 20 minutes from my house.”
Not to mention, the whole town is obsessed with riding. They are literally building trails as we go to print. Flow trails, jump trails, singletrack, epic climbs, descents, pumptracks, the Soo is building something for everyone. By 2025 they’ll have about $2.5 million invested in local trails. And the scene couldn’t be friendlier.
“The cycling community here is really inclusive and supportive,” says Sanger. “I never joined a club down south. They were either too far away or they were too competitive. The cycling club here does it all and wants to support all cyclists. They host clinics, races, fundraisers and non-competitive kids programs that I never witnessed down south. The community is very strong. To give you a comparison, my wife was a part of the Wild Betty’s womens’ MTB club in the Milton chapter down south. On a good night, she would be riding with 25 other women. Here in the Soo, she can expect to see upwards of 60 riders on a good night. The population of Mississauga is 700,000 and SSM is 70,000.”
It’s this passion that makes the Soo a special place to live.
And don’t forget Lake Superior. The mightiest of all the Great Lakes provides endless opportunities for adventure. If you’re new to paddling sports there are amazing outfitters like Thrive Tours, Forest The Canoe and Naturally Superior Adventures to get you started. The fishing is world class and the swimming off some of the country’s most beautiful beaches can’t be beat.
During the winter, the mass and chill of Lake Superior provides; lake effect snow is a serious thing here. Searchmont Resort gets 335 centimeters per year on average. Recently under new ownership and management, Searchmont is completely revamped. There are new accommodations, new lifts, new runs, new snow-making equipment and a whole new attitude. Last winter they were open from US Thanksgiving right through to April. They hope to be open even longer in 2023/24. And their 214 vertical meters are only 30 minutes from downtown SSM.
“When I ski at Searchmont, I come back and have dinner at my own table,” says Sanger. “That never happened when I’d go to Blue. I always ate my meals on my lap while driving. Here, I can go to Searchmont, ski the whole day, come home and eat dinner at my table. It doesn’t seem like much but it does a huge amount for your state of mind and your well-being.”
If you’re ready to earn your turns, Bellevue Valley Lodge is another incredible place to experience the thrill of backcountry skiing. If you’re the cross country type, Hiawatha Highlands and Stokely Lodge are both world class destinations.
Sault Ste Marie may have everything you’re looking for; it can easily claim the title as the outdoor adventure capital of Ontario.
Whether you’re looking to hike, bike, climb, paddle or ski, it’s got it all. And with a relatively uncongested layout, getting from work to play is easy. Not to mention the deals on real estate around these parts.
“I got a house for $450,000 which would have cost me $1.5 million dollars in Mississauga,” says Sanger.
With numerous career potentials in healthcare, engineering, trades and aerospace, cheap living, great deals on real estate and a quality of life that doesn’t include sitting in traffic all day, moving to the Soo is definitely worth considering. So when are you moving?