Winter Fun

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Winter barn watercolour, Orillia, Ont
Orillia is often the destination of choice for those looking for winter sports and fun activities. Probably because our location in between two "snowbelt" areas (Barrie is the snowbelt south of us, and Gravenhurst the snowbelt area north of us) usually gives us a lot of snow over the winter months, and many area resorts have taken the opportunity to take advantage of all that snow. Within 30 mile (give or take) radius of Orillia you can find ski resorts that cater to both downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, ski-boarding and just about every other ski-related winter sport.  If you are looking to base your winter holiday in Orillia, it's a good central location for visiting other towns from - check the hotels section for some of the best local options - some of the local hotels do offer packaged specials for various times throughout the winter season (often during any of the winter festivals).

ATVs traveling along a snow covered road, Orillia, Ontario
Just outside of town you'll find Hardwood Hills, with snowshoe and cross-country ski trails during winter and mountain biking in other months. Hardwood Hills is located in a beautiful natural area with many amenities, so be sure to check them out. You can check the weather conditions at Hardwood Hills by visiting their webcam for conditions, here at this link.

Since Hardwood Hills is only a few minutes from the City of Orillia, the chances are that the weather conditions at Hardwood Hills will be similar to Orillia's. You can also check the weather cam located in Floral Park, Rama (also just outside of Orillia) for current weather conditions in the Orillia area.

Horseshoe Valley Ski Resort is a full-featured resort area and very popular with the downhill crowd, and those who enjoy snow-tubing/boarding etc. Their location is maybe 15 minutes from Orillia, and close to Barrie so it sees a wide-range of visitors. The resort boasts condos, rooms, suites, restaurants and lounges, and has a large variety of meeting rooms. The Adventure Park includes a zip flyer, climbing wall, tubing, mini golf, maze, downhill mountain biking, and a number of other things just waiting for the family to visit. At Horseshoe Valley, you can have a romantic couples-weekend, or a terrific family getaway since they have facilities for just about everyone.

snowmobile trails and rider, Orillia, Ontario
The BlueMountain Ski Resort in Collingwood, Ontario has about the same variety of amenities and sports available as Horsheshoe Valley, and includes the opportunity for snowmobiling (groomed trails), as well as summer vacation packages. They too offer family centered activities and special packages, as well as romantic getaways for couples, conference facilities and are located just outside of Collingwood, providing the visitor with good shopping opportunities within the town itself. Although this ski area is a little further out from Orillia (about 40 minutes), it can be an interesting part of any visit to Orillia for winter activities.

winter trails in Orillia, ATVs and snowmobiles
Orillia itself is home to a well-groomed snowmobile trail. Large portions of the walking and nature trails that run through Orillia are groomed for use by the Orillia and District Snowmobile Club, but the trails are also used by avid cross-country skiiers, and walkers throughout the winter months, as well. As the trails cross many natural areas within the city, you'll find a variety of wildlife - from birds and fowl, to little critters like squirrel and chipmunks. For information on the state of the snowmobile trails and maps of, visit the ODSN website.

Along with these activities, during February Orillia (like many other towns nearby) has their own version of the Winterfest, "The Orillia Winter Carnival" which often includes snowmobile races on the lake, polar bear dip, on-ice skating rinks for "kids" of all ages, snow sculpting contests, sleigh rides, ice fishing and the Shivers Ice Castle; this year (2012) the lineup appears to include helicopter rides, among other events like an adult dance, midway, zorb racing, skydiving and just a bunch of stuff that'll knock your socks off if you're a fan of outdoor winter events.

Couchiching Beach Park covered in winter snow, Orillia, Ont.

boardwalk at Couchiching Beach Park in winter snows showing the remains of the Orillia Winter Carnival snow castle, Orillia, Ont
To some degree the success of the Orillia Winter Carnival depends on whether each year, and on the amount of snow we get, but Orillians and neighbouring residents will flock to the carnival regardless of the whether outside. Most often, the weather is pretty co-operative with cold-enough temperatures to maintain the on-lake skating rinks and snowmobile tracks but some of the events are largely dependent on the weather, such as the Shivers Snow Castle. Without enough snow and cold weather, it's difficult to maintain the castle in a stable, safe manner so there may be some features that aren't available from one year to the next.  That, however, will not stop families and winter fans from enjoying this event. The 2012 Orillia Winter Carnival is set to run from February 10th to the 12. Visit their website for an events schedule.

winter boardwalk with snow at Orillia Couchiching Beach Park, Ont