XC Skiing in the Highlands of Cape Breton
Cross country skiing in the highlands is definitely unlike any skiing we had done before. There’s no groomed track or perfectly flat terrain to ski, instead, it’s an adventure in its own right every time we venture into the snowy highlands.
Benjii’s trail is a favourite – we follow the trail to the lake and from there depending on the snowfall we will continue to make a path towards the barrens. There’s often a huge blanket of snow, untouched by man. If you’re lucky you’ll see animal tracks made by the woodland creatures that inhabit these woods.
In the woods, we’re sheltered from the blustery winds that nipped at us earlier at the trailhead. Skiing here is an absolute delight. We get to break our trail – which is extremely rewarding and an excellent workout; it’s a lot different from a groomed track where there’s been a mechanical groomer keeping the trail in spit-spot shape. We always head out with three or more people, for safety’s sake. We also carry appropriate equipment with us in the event something happens.
This place transforms into Narnia in winter. The array of wildlife that lives here is stunning. There seem to always be rabbit tracks and once we even saw otter tracks moving toward the stream. The best was when we saw a moose! They’re just such majestic creatures and the sightings are becoming increasingly rare.
If the conditions allow, we venture into the barrens. You need a good amount of snowfall to be able to ski there. Plus, the weather is ever-changing up there that you must have your wits about you. Skiing into the barrens when it’s windy with blowing snow is a NO. It’s not a place you want to get lost. Always know the conditions before you go and always travel in a group and have equipment with you in case something happens.
Skiing up here is just so freeing. It’s like the feeling you get when you cycle on the open road, with zero traffic. It’s exhilarating being so close to nature. Our time spent in the woods, adventuring is therapeutic; we always arrive home ten times happier than when we left.
The landscape is unique as well. Year after year, the trees change, snowfall amounts are different and the wind creates unique snowdrifts. No winter appears the same as the one the year before.
We strongly recommend checking this place out in the winter, whether you’re into skiing or snowshoeing. If you snowshoe – just be mindful of ski tracks – please don’t step into them.
You can check out the facebook page for xc skiing in the highlands or contact Michel AuCoin at [email protected] if you have any questions about skiing in or crossing the highlands. Just please beware that there are currently no official, marked trails and you should probably only go with someone who knows the area.
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Callum MacCrimmon shares his experience on his 3rd Celtic Colours Festival in Cape Breton. Calum is a multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer best known as a founding member of the award-winning Scottish folk band Breabach.