When a group of skiers from the Manitoba chapter of the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) booked a trip out to the Mantario cabin this February, they thought their ski trip out would be similar to every other year. But when warm weather melted the top few inches on the lakes and the temperature quickly dropped, some of the skiers decided to swap their skis for bicycles.
We assumed the lakes would be sheets of pure ice,” said Claire Dionne, who was on the trip. “So the decision was to get to the lake, and give it a try.”
When the group of six got to Big Whiteshell Lake they found it was very flat with virtually no snow, making it possible to attempt the winter cycle to the cabin. Two people had studded tires on their bikes and decided to try to ride.
“The cycling was amazing,” said Brad Loewen, who had never winter cycled prior to this trip. “With just enough friction on the tires to make it relaxed, and next to no friction on the sled, it was pure pleasure. The portages were frozen solid snowmobile trail which required a little mountain biking skill, but were no real obstacle at all.”
“After Big Whiteshell the other lakes were like mirrors,” Dionne said. “I wish I had brought a pair of skates.”
The trip took 3.5 hours on the way in and barely over 3 hours out, with some time to explore the cliffs that surround some of the lakes. The ACC Manitoba Section has been running trips for its members out to the Mantario Cabin since about 2003, but this was the first time any of them had cycled out. The group of cyclers/skiers included Christine Mazur, Bradley Kulbaba, Tibor Bodi, Brad Loewen, Len Chackowsky and Claire Dionne.
“I think the bikes worked because of the ideal cycling conditions; good ice, and excellent travels on frozen snow for the portages,” said Dionne. “It would have been a totally different story if the portages had been softer; they might have had to carry their bikes.”
The group says they can’t wait to hear stories of any other groups who decide to try skiing to the cabin. But they also suggest waiting for ideal weather conditions, using studded tires, and being prepared for changing conditions.
Photos by Len Chackowsky