By Sally O’Neill | Winter photos by Dr. John Chaisson
Imagine yourself on a mountain slope. The sun beaming down on a patchwork of snowy fields and forests. Below is a charming lodge with a roaring fire and comfy chairs. You’re on a snowboard, looking at the profile of a sweet terrain park, maybe you’re snowshoeing through the trees, or helping your kids on a fast-moving sled while they giggle and shriek with excitement. These hills are made for snow, sleds and speed.
The Keppoch is a “retired” ski hill that had its heyday in the 1980s and closed as a downhill ski resort in 1997. The property is now managed by a community organization building a dynamic outdoor activity destination with mountain biking at its heart, and all-season outdoor activity as its mission. Positive Action for Keppoch Society (PAK) was established in 2010, by a group of Antigonish residents and businesses who believed that The Keppoch could become an outdoor recreation hub for Northeastern Nova Scotia. Many visitors now come from outside the region and events draw crowds throughout the year.
“We have brought the outdoor experience to the community in an affordable model.’ Says Dr. John Chaisson, president of the PAK board of directors and one of the projects passionate founders. “Trail passes and daily user fees are modest and generally affordable, and they help us afford utilities, insurance, snow removal, trail maintenance and general operational costs.”
Entrance to Keppoch is offered on a daily pass as well as a suite of longerterm
The park itself is made up of over 300 acres of woodland featuring trails, slopes, a skills park, an outdoor firepit, children’s play area, a 2000 square foot lodge and more than 50 kilometres of multi-use trails.
Keppoch’s enthusiasm for wintery fun shines brightly in their annual Family Fun Day, which is held each winter and features sledding, guided hikes, winter games, gourmet treats, a bonfire and all-day smores.
What to do at Keppoch in Winter
- Family Fun Day
- Cross-country and Nordic skiing
- Snowshoeing on the trails
- Warm up by a bonfire
- Snuggle up by the fireplace in the lodge
- Fatbike (off-road bicycle with oversized tires)
- Ski demonstrations
- Retreats and education events
A fully accessible, wide, crusher dust trail with low, curving grades winds through the forest and down to the lodge. Antigonish County Recreation provides loans of Hippocampes (a terrain equipped wheelchair), and a Snow Coach, which is a fun adaptive sled for those with upper body mobility needing lateral support.
Check out recreation.antigonishcounty.ns.ca for borrowing details.
In addition to adaptive equipment, Antigonish County Recreation offers snowshoes, walking poles, skates and helmets, and much more equipment for outdoor activity, winter and summer.
Town of Antigonish also offers loans and low-cost rentals of snowshoes, poles, and cross country ski equipment.
Looking for snowshoes? Hike Nova Scotia maintains a comprehensive list of where you can borrow snowshoes across the province. See the list here. The Pictou Antigonish Regional Library also lends snowshoes and Nordic poles available through any branch.
Many municipal recreation departments, schools and community centres have sets of snowshoes, and Nordic poles available for loan to the public at no cost.
“There is no bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”
As the old quote states so eloquently, clothes are the defining factor in enjoyable outdoor experiences. Layering is key, so you can add or remove as needed.
Here’s a quick list of essentials to keep yourself toasty from head to toe:
- A good base layer – thin and made of soft wool, silk or synthetic
- Socks – wool or a warm synthetic
- Long-sleeved shirt – not cotton (retains moisture and stays cold)
- Long pants – fleece, synthetic or wool
- Sweater – fleece, synthetic or wool
- Winter boots with good treads
- Warm parka or jacket with a hood
- Fitted hat – fleece or wool
- Mittens or gloves with water-resistant shells
- Scarf – Fleece or wool
- Sunglasses – snow glare is intense, protect your eyes
- Ski goggles – not always necessary, but can make a difference on a windy cold day
- Kleenex or absorbent handkerchief – In the cold, your nose will run, so protect your skin (and sleeves) by having something handy to wipe and blow.
Find everything you need for your next adventure at Take It Outside or The Trail Shop.
Drop in to view the latest gear by your favourite brands.
- Base Layer Pants
Men: Smartwool Merino 250 Base Layer Pant – $120
Women: Icebreaker 250 Vertex Snow Storm Leggings – $160
Men: Smartwool Larimer Socks – $30
Women: Stance Neopolitan Socks – $23
- Long-sleeved Shirt
Men: Icebreaker Waypoint Long-Sleeve Half-Zip – $250
Women: Lole Crescent Snood Long-Sleeve Top – $140
- Long Pants
Men: The North Face Summit L5 LT Futurelight Pant – $500
Women: Arc’Teryx Gamma Ski Pant – $230
Men: Fjallraven Ovik Fleece Sweater – $120
Women: Arc’Teryx Covert Hoody – $220
- Winter Boots
Men: Lowa Oslo II Mid GTX Boot – $329
Women: Sorel Whistler Tall Boots – $330
- Warm Parka or Jacket
Men: Parajumpers Gobi Jacket – $1,098
Women: Canada Goose Rosemont Parka – $995
- Fitted Hat
Men: The North Face Logo Box Cuffed Beanie – $35
Women: Brume Galatea Hat – $75
- Mittens or Gloves
Men: Outdoor Research Gripper Heated Sensor Gloves – $250
Women: Auclair Kiva Moccasin Mitts – $42.50
Men: Buff Merino Wool – $25
Women: Lole Eternity Scarf – $68
Men: Ryders Strider Polarized Sunglasses – $89.99
Women: Body Glove Cloudbreak Polarized Sunglasses – $29.99
Louis Garneau Massif Snowshoes – $179
Louis Garneau Vector Showshoes – $189
Yeti Rambler 20 oz. – $40
Yeti Rambler 30 oz. – $45
Men: Canada Goose Garson Vest Print – $525
Women: Indygena Dolga Vest – $260