Thunder Bay, Ont., boasts the largest Finnish population in the world; outside of Finland. The Finns love their snow sports, and it's no different in this northern retreat. The area used to boast four or five good ski hills, but over the last decade that has dwindled to one. The one they have left, however, Loch Lomond, is large by Midwest standards with a 750-foot vertical drop, and offers top-notch skiing and riding for the 80,000 or so Finns that call this portion of Canada home.
Loch Lomand offers outstanding scenery and some of the best advanced runs around the Great Lakes. It feels like you may run out of highway heading north before you reach the industrial, working-class city of Thunder Bay. The drive up Minnesota's Arrowhead to Canada is nothing short of spectacular. Sheer rock cliffs drop into the icy-blue waters of Lake Superior and endless forests stretch inland. The ski area is perched on an escarpment just south of the city, which is about 50-some miles above the border.
Your eyes are immediately drawn to a tall headwall that looms directly above the chalet when you drive into the parking lot at Loch. Jolly Giant and Devil's Dive are a formidable duo. The Giant's headwall is reminiscent of Western headwalls. It's steep, but wide enough to entice unwary intermediates into its clutches. Drop over the edge, and you're in full view of the day lodge all the way to the bottom.
Devil's Dive, which is next to the Giant, cuts a narrow, steep, twisting swath through the trees all the way to the bottom. It's the Heartland version of Stowe's famed Nosedive back in the early years before it was widened.
Intermediates and beginners will enjoy the south side of the mountain with its less intimidating terrain. Birch and Maple are long enjoyable cruising runs that are great to warm up on before heading to the headwall.
Make sure you try the Finnish pancakes at Hoito. They may be the best outside Finland. It's about as far north as you can ski and ride mid-continent.