Hiawatha Highlands in Sault St. Marie, Ontario, has opened for the season. No, they don't have enough snow for skiing yet, but the lodge is open and season passes can be purchased.
North the city and an easy drive from Michigan - if Canada opens the boarder - Hiawatha offers over 50 km of cross country ski trails, 14 km of snowshoeing, plus some fat biking trails. In years gone by, it was one of my early-season/late season go-to places to ski. All trails are skate and classic except for one 10km backcountry classic loop.
As one of the first "local" trail systems to open, its maybe useful to look at some of the COVID preparations Hiawatha has put in place for the season.
To keep things safe, Hiawatha will be providing minimal indoor amenities to keep staff, trail pass holders and the general public safe. The Kincentre/lodge will be open but access to the lodge will be limited to 7 people at a time and there will be no seating or socializing opportunities as in the past. Everyone is reminded to maintain 2 meters distance from anyone not in the same household for physical distancing.
There will be access to the lodge for ski rentals and washrooms will remain open. A limited selection of merchandise, beverages, and snacks will be available inside the facility: They will be selling coffee, tea, hot chocolate and Mary's Feeding Your Soul packaged baking, for TAKE OUT ONLY. They will also have a small selection of hats, buffs, ski wax, scrapers, etc. available for purchase in the lodge.
There will be separate entrance and exit doors to the lodge. The only entrance to the lodge will be on the west side of the building, facing Landslide Rd. The exit is on the north side of the building (near the women's washroom).
Upon entry, Hiawatha requireS you to sanitize your hands. They ask that you follow all COVID signage inside the building including directional arrows and spacing markers on the floor at the checkout.
As you might guess, face masks are to be worn at all times inside the lodge. Buffs are NOT considered an effective in preventing the spread of COVID:
"As for neck buffs they are not recommended. They become moist quite easily and it is not possible to put them on/remove them without contamination and thus public health does not advise their use as a face covering."
- Algoma Public Health, October, 2020
Non-medical face masks or face coverings should:
Washrooms are available in the lodge but access to both the men's and the women's washroom will be limited to 1 person or 1 household at a time. A portable toilet will be located outside of the lodge to help reduce the need for people to enter the building.
Personal belongings need to be stored in your vehicle, as lodge access will be limited. Changing clothes in the lodge is not allowed.
Groups of up to 10 maximum are welcome, but if anyone needs to purchase a day pass or get rental equipment, They ask that you call ahead of time to let them know the expected arrival time so they are prepared for the group. Since a maximum of 7 people are permitted in the building at one time, so if possible, it is good to have a designate in your group who can come in to get trail passes for the group.
Day tickets can be purchased online. https://hiawathahighlands.com/passes/. Purchase your tickets online rather than in the lodge. Print out your receipt at home and keep it in your pocket or carry your receipt on your phone to show Trail Ambassadors. At the lodge, Credit/Debit cards with TAP technology are the preferred method of payment.
Rentals are available. Hiawatha is cleaning and disinfecting all equipment between rentals. Be advised that rentals are on a first come first served basis and may be limited because of the time it takes for boots to fully dry between users.
The blue Soo Finnish Nordic Clubhouse used for waxing will be closed until further notice. Hiawatha will continue to provide a paid wax service in the lodge.
Grooming information & weather will be provided on the Hiawatha Highlands website so that members can prepare their skis at home.
There are no parking restrictions, however, they do ask you follow guidelines and remain in your vehicle until you can keep 2 meters apart from others. They expanded the parking area in the Pinder parking lot for the 2020-21 season.
If you're sick, STAY HOME!
Ski in the afternoon and try to avoid Saturday mornings and afternoons when there will be small groups of children in the SFN Jackrabbit program heading out onto the trails, from all trailheads at 10am and 1pm.
More or updated information will be posted on the Hiawatha Highlands web site.
It will be interesting to see what rules are put in place at trail systems in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.