In a rare win for Facebook advertising, I came across this event that was being run by Hardwood Hills Ski and Bike. It sounded like a great date night; my wife and I had a similar experience on our trip to Smuggler’s Notch in 2015. The combination of fresh air and exercise with a bit of decadent comfort food is hard to resist.
We pulled into the Hardwood Hills parking lot a few minutes after 6PM, and picked up the snowshoes my wife was renting, along with some tickets to sample beers from the Barnstormers Brewery (there was also wine). I got to try their Polar Pumpkin Ale (the best pumpkin beer I’ve ever had, some sweet notes) and the Smoked Billy Bishop which was a Brown Ale, but the smokiness was something interesting I hadn’t had in a beer before – I’m not sure I’d love to drink a lot of it, but it was still pleasantly complex. Just before we headed out, we got to try some butternut squash soup.
The guide for our ‘team’ ended up being our friend Sam who we knew from when we used to volunteer with the Track 3 Ski Program. I do regret not packing a head-lamp; I guess I thought the (near-)full moon might provide enough light or that there might be some lanterns on the trail. The moon didn’t rise till we were well past the halfway mark of the 5.5 km walk, and then it hung low in the sky. It was a spectacular orange, and I wish I had gotten a photo, but the trees prevented getting a very clear shot.
Even without a headlamp we got by fine. Sometimes I used my cell phone as a flash light, sometimes there was light from the headlamps of others, sometimes following the footsteps of the person in front of you was good enough. When you did stray from the trail into deeper snow, well, you were wearing snowshoes anyway.
It wasn’t my first time snowshoeing, but I was still surprised by how much of a workout it was – the first kilometer took us over 25 minutes to complete. We learned the tricks of leaning back a little on the downhill and forward (with digging in your toes) on the uphill. After a few breaks to shepherd the stragglers (i.e. us). We found ourselves at a gorgeous lookout above the city of Barrie, with a refreshment of cider and delicious cookies. They had even transported a fire via snowmobile.
On the way back to the chalet, I found things both easier and harder. I stumbled more often, yet I felt like I was keeping a better pace and navigating better without my cell-phone flashlight – I had run out the battery and thus wasn’t able to track the route to show you the final time and mileage. Luckily, my wife’s cell phone was there to provide more pictures.
Now that the snowshoe part was done, it was time for the fondue! They had created a nice intimate atmosphere in what they call the ‘West Wing’ of the chalet, complete with live music. The singer was pretty good, and I admired the different spin she put on songs that would have been described as hard rock in their original incarnations.
In addition to bar beverages, there was also punch and water available, and you could munch on french fries before the fondue course. I have a theory that french fries taste better after skiing, and I’m pleased to report that this holds up for snowshoeing too. The fondue platter was 2 different breads, along with an assortment of fruits and vegetables. The cheese sauce was delicious!
For dessert, there were cookies, rice krispy squares and some really decadent brownies. I think the event was a real success, and there are 2 more of these events in February and March. In fact, the February one (which we can’t make it to) will be a Valentine’s themed ‘Ultimate’ Snowshoe Fondue. Check the events out here.
Have you been snowshoeing in the moonlight? Do you think outdoor winter activities and decadent food go hand-in-hand?