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Landmark Memories

You go back to your favourite skating rink or café and the memories rush back over you like it was the first time. The first time you slowly picked your way through a snow-covered forest you’d never visited before, lacing up skates and taking that first step onto the frozen trail. That day on the snow-covered hill you slid down again and again, to the soundtrack of your friends’ cheers and laughter, then gathered around the coffee shop tables drinking hot chocolate.

When you remember a landmark memory, you don’t just remember what happened – you remember where it happened, places you’ll go back to again and again.

We asked five Ontarians to share those memories here with you – their winter firsts, bests and mosts. Travel along with them, using the map on the page by clicking on the icons to visit each local’s landmark memory across the province.

Winter-loving culture in Sault Ste. Marie

Trish Rainone grew up in Sault Ste. Marie and, after spending a decade in Toronto, moved back to her hometown when the pandemic struck. Rebeka Herron hails from Vancouver but, lured by the charms and ease of small-town life, also moved to the Soo around the same time. Together, they now run a film-production company 180 Sisterhood Productions.

Trish: Winter in Sault Ste. Marie and its neighbouring towns have a magic of their very own. During the holiday season, one of my family’s beloved traditions is going to St. Joseph Island, which is about half an hour away from the Soo, for snowshoeing, or even just walking around on the snow-covered trails.

It’s a really quaint, picturesque island. There are beautiful lighthouses, tiny old single-room churches, lovely rustic houses, and you can see the ships passing by in the shipping channel. Each winter, we strap on our snowshoes and make our way into the wintery woods, a fragrant mix of deciduous trees and evergreens. We often spot wild turkeys, deer and even the odd red fox. Sometimes we even spot blue jays and red cardinals up in the trees – the way their colour splashes against the white background is beautiful.

The white glistening snow – which gets to about six feet deep – makes the forest appear bright yet peaceful, with snowflakes falling all around you, it can feel like you’ve stepped into a winter wonderland.


Sault Tourism

After a day on the trails, we like to warm up in this great café, the Black Bear Café and Eatery; they have the most delicious coffee from the local St. Joseph Island Coffee Roasters.

Rebeka: As someone who didn’t grow up in Northern Ontario, I still feel like I’m making those new memories each season. On the weekends, my partner and I will pile into the car with our winter gear and head out to enjoy an epic winter adventure.

My partner is from India, where winter is completely different. Last year I took him and some friends sledding for the first time. They couldn’t get enough of racing down the snow-covered hill on their plastic boards, howling with laughter the whole way down. Now they’re all asking, “Can we go sledding again?”

The saultstemarie scenery is picture perfect

Supplied by Trish Rainone

The Soo community really comes together and helps newcomers, immigrants and refugees experience true Northern winters, making sure that they have warm clothes and introducing traditional treats like hot chocolate and eggnog.

Trish: Our community’s winter-loving culture is truly unmatched. There’s this really great annual winter festival called Bon Soo: It has things like ice slides, various shows, skating, ice sculptures. Growing up, I used to do the lip-syncing contest every year. One year, I performed “Hey, Mickey” with my friends – we thought the song was about Mickey Mouse! So we wore Mickey Mouse clothing and we even had someone dressed up as him. I still remember the choreography.

Bon Soo Winter Carnival

Rebeka: We’re also super lucky that there’s a thriving arts and film scene up here in Northern Ontario. The gorgeous winter landscapes are super desirable for seasonal movies – but you never quite know what’s going to happen on set. When we filmed our 180 Sisterhood Productions Christmas movie, A Christmas Letter, for CBC here in Sault Ste Marie in early 2021, we had snow in pre-production, but it melted a week or two before shooting. Suddenly there were even tulips sprouting! So, we really had to get creative with the story and production design. We wound up bringing in a special-effects snow team. Ultimately, the varied nature of the seasons in the North are part of what make it so beautiful, and such a desirable filming location.

Trish: We have so many talented artists and a thriving theatre community, too. Whether it’s a live theatre event at the Sault Community Theatre Centre, a concert at the Loft at the Algoma Conservatory or a night out at the Art Hub, there’s always something fun and interesting to do. It’s a chance to stay warm while celebrating local artists, performers and theatre crews.

Taking in the art of Georgian Bay

As a kid, Steven Brunelle knew he wanted to be an artist, but life got in the way – until recently, when the January landscape outside his small-town Ontario window inspired him to pick up a paintbrush again. Now, his works have been exhibited at the Midland Cultural Centre, and he sees the making of his next piece in the winter landscape every time he steps outside.

Starting a new painting is like diving into cold water. The first step for me is mental preparation; I need a bit of time. I might stare at the canvas and envision what it’s going to look like. Then, once the brush finally hits the canvas, it starts to flow.


Keepers of the Tomb, 2021
Steven Brunelle

I have always been an artist, but I was never a painter. I only began to experiment with painting in 2015 when I was running the Painted Turtle, a gallery space in my hometown of Lafontaine. One winter day, I found myself standing by the window, and suddenly felt the need to put brush to canvas, inspired by the towering rocky outcrops that flank the famously clear blue waters, blanketed at this time of year in snow and gleaming ice along the shoreline. People come from all around the world to see this rugged, wild place – but I get to call it home. That’s why my first paintings were of the Georgian Bay landscapes, including the animals and birds that live around me.

Then, in January 2021, I decided to take painting more seriously. This time, I focused less on the landscape and more on the creatures themselves. I’m not a morning person, so when I was working on my winter paintings – ‘Kichikawana, the Legend is Born’ and ‘Keepers of the Tomb’ – my process was to start painting at about noon and work until 8 p.m. or so.

In the past, my art was always black and white, but when I began working on this series, I started adding vibrant colours and working on a larger canvas; now, I feel like I’ve perfected my style. It’s influenced by the Woodland School of painting, which is one reason I began using vibrant colour in my work. (Bright colours are a hallmark of this style of art, each with a deeper meaning.)

Fall skies in Northumberland

Northern Ontario Travel

I found inspiration from going on walks in the morning, taking time to notice the art around me – miles of crisp white snow, glistening icicles, the contrast between snowy fields and the memories of cotton candy-hued skies at sunset – before I sat down in front of my canvas. Living in such a beautiful area that has such a rich history, it's not hard to get inspired around here. There’s Awenda Provincial Park nearby: It follows the Nipissing River, and you get really nice views of the islands in Georgian Bay, which in winter are dusted in snow that clings to the evergreens perched on their jagged, dramatic cliffs. Those striking views make their way into my works, like the pieces depicting Giants Tomb Island and the legend of the giant Kitchikewana, who created Georgian Bay’s 30,000 Islands.

I’m very proud of my culture, but I wasn’t raised in it. My father was Métis and my mother was from Kitigan Zibi First Nation, but was fostered to a family in Lafontaine as a teenager. She didn’t become familiar with her Native culture until she was an adult, so my sisters and I got a late start on getting to know our culture, too. But she used to make moccasins and she did a lot of traditional beadwork, so she was able to pass those on. I also inherited some books that my mother had collected over the years, many of them on Native history and Native mythology; they inspire my art, too.

Fall skies in Northumberland


There was a time when winter made me want to hibernate, but these days, I feel like I’ve managed to find myself through my art. Now, I’m having so much fun. When I’m painting and I’ve got good sunlight and some Pink Floyd or Rush playing, what happens is I feel enlightened; things seem really clear. I feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m meant to be doing. And that feeling only gets stronger when I see other people engage with my work, like at Midland Cultural Centre. There is a story being told in each painting, but people get to discover their own connections to each one.

Life has really changed for me. I’m 57 years old and I’m really focused on my new career in art, and so happy I can finally follow my dreams. And it’s all because I had some downtime in the winter, which gave me the opportunity to step outside, and the inspiration to pick up a paintbrush and try something new.

Embracing the outdoors in Durham Region

Emily Tufts grew up on her family’s farm in Orono, Ont. She moved away to start a life in the big city, then came back home to take over the property when her parents retired – and has since built up a sustainable farming business. It’s no small amount of work, but she always carves out time to show her kids how magical the winter months can be.

I grew up spending a lot of time outdoors on the farm with my dad, all year round. One thing I remember so well about the winters is walking behind him through the woods blanketed in snow to the pond that was hidden deep in the forest on our property. He would break a trail in snowshoes and I would follow his footsteps.

Sunset glows golden over the water


I learned to skate on the pond. I remember sitting on the banks in the snow with my brother so my dad could tie up our skates. My brother played hockey, so we would often host games on bright winter days. But the most magical thing about an outdoor skating rink is those evenings where it's getting dark, the snow is falling and everything is so quiet, except for the sound of the skates and the sticks on the ice.

As a kid, I didn’t quite appreciate the amount of effort that went into maintaining that magic for us. It wasn't until I moved back to the farm with my own children that I understood what a labour of love it was to create that experience, because as anybody who has a backyard rink will tell you, maintaining an ice surface for your kids to skate on is not a small job! So, it means a lot that I'm able to recreate the experiences my dad created for my brother and I with my kids.

We want other people to experience the magic, too: We sometimes offer farm tours and host events onsite at Kendal Hills Farm. We also have a business called Graze & Gather, which distributes food from local, sustainable farms throughout the GTA, and people can opt to pick up their weekly or bi-weekly produce bag from the farm.

Destination Ontario

We’re lucky that our property backs onto the Ganaraska Forest, which is an amazing jewel in the GTA that not a lot of people actually know about. You can cross-country ski, hike, snowshoe, snowmobile, and it's right at our back door. Brimacombe is another hidden gem – it’s the best little ski area in the GTA, without the typical GTA crowds. Sometimes I feel like it's our private ski club, but it’s actually a public ski resort with really diverse trails, chairlifts and cute chalets.

Supplied by Emily Tufts

But when I think about my very favourite winter memories, I immediately think of skating on the pond. I can see myself as a little girl standing with my dad, looking at the pond through all those seasons. Now, it's a touchstone that I go back to with my kids. I remember earlier this winter, we took the dog for a walk down there, and it was starting to freeze up. Even as an adult, there’s still that sense of magical anticipation, and I can see it living on in my kids.

Snow-covered trails and frozen waterfalls in Hamilton

Maybe it’s because she’s a December baby, but Ann-Marie Anie has always seen being outside on a perfect winter’s day as a special occasion. Her favourite way to commune with the outdoors? Hiking the snow-covered trails near her home in Hamilton, in search of frozen waterfalls, woodland creatures and a moment of peace in the middle of the urban jungle.

Hamilton has been my home for 35 years; I grew up here. It’s long been known as a friendly city with a rich arts community (home to The Arkells!) and a tasty food scene (local hotspots like Grandad’s Donuts often have a line out the door). But what many don’t realize is that it’s the waterfall capital of the world, full of outdoor trails and striking nature.

I treasure the time I spend in nature, away from crowds and the sounds of the city. It’s restorative and energizing. I often walk on the Chippewa Trail : It’s quiet and the terrain is flat. And I enjoy walking around Hamilton Harbour along the bay where you can see the water, ships, waterfowl and other smaller wildlife, like possum.


Smalls Coffee

But my favourite winter wandering destination is Tiffany Falls Conservation Area, just a 15-minute drive from where I live. Most people think of it as a place to go in the summer, but I love how peaceful it is once temperatures drop.

The first time I went for a winter walk at the Falls, it was with my friend, Angel. We both have birthdays in December and it was an opportunity to celebrate each other and catch up.

The trail we walked, Tiffany Falls Side Trail, is about two kilometers long, and though we chatted along the way, we also spent some time walking side by side in silence. We walked over a bridge before we got to Tiffany Falls, and that bridge struck me as a metaphor for life: When things get tough, there’s always a way across.


We loved those moments so much it’s now a regular activity for us. We take turns bringing each other coffee from a local cafe, places like Red Church Cafe or Smalls Coffee. (My order is usually a cafe latte or matcha latte, always with coconut milk. Both of these independent cafes deliver seriously good lattes.) And the mid-morning walk is a beautiful opportunity to have one-on-one time and really catch up with each other.

Red Church

Approaching the Falls, I love hearing the sounds of the water. There's the waterfall but there's also a little stream around it. We stop to listen and are often surprised – sometimes there are animal sounds that you can hear from the trail that you wouldn't necessarily notice in the city.

When Angel can’t join me, I’ll sometimes head out to Tiffany Falls for a winter walk on my own. I intentionally don’t listen to music; instead, I turn off my phone and just observe. I look at how the snow covers the tops of the tree branches and the tracks of the animals, large, like deer and rabbits, and small, like birds. I love the feeling of the crisp breeze swirling around me. Aside from the sounds of kids playing in the distance, it’s still. The sound of the water from the falls is soft, and watching it trickle down the snow-covered rocks is mesmerizing.

Walking to the falls is an opportunity to slow down and reconnect – with myself and with my friends.

Forest walking and food by the fire in Norfolk County

Carpenter David Schonberger is the proprietor of Ottercreek Woodworks in Norfolk County. He spends his days in the forest surrounding his home and woodworking shop, and is continually awed by his encounters with flora and fauna.

Last winter, I had an amazing encounter in the forest behind my house.



I was out foraging for mushrooms, so I was walking with my head down, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw something rustle about 40 yards away.

At first, I thought it was a coyote because of its colours, but I peered around a tree and realized I was looking at a great horned owl perched on a fallen log, and he was looking back at me. I slowly approached him, very aware that it was his space and not mine. I got maybe 10 feet away, sat down on my own log and then we just looked at each other. He would blink his eyes very slowly, and every now and then, he would turn his head as owls do – almost all the way around.

At one point, he got off the log and got a little closer to me. He spread his wings, showing me his huge wingspan. I respected his boundaries and didn’t try to approach with my camera. We just shared a moment with each other. It probably lasted 10 or 15 minutes, and then I went my way and he went his. It really was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of encounter.

Charlotteville Brewing

I don’t think many people often have a reason to go into a forest in the wintertime, but it’s one of the best times to go. There’s no foliage, so you can see through a lot of the forest at once, and you get that contrast of the brown and grey bark against the bright white snow. And there’s this silence that’s at once peaceful and breathtaking. To me, it’s organic. It’s raw.

Almost five years ago, we decided to open our doors to our woodworking business and welcome guests into the shop to build their own charcuterie boards alongside me. We developed our “From Tree to Table” experience, where we take guests into the forest to discover its inner workings before they get to working building a board. My job is to break down that colonial mindset – the idea that we own forests and they’re there for us to harvest – and show it as a living organism that provides us with water sequestration, carbon, a cooler environment, wind depression and all these things that tie into the “wood wide web,” as we call it. While we're there, we make tea with ingredients that we forage along the way.

The panoramic view from up top

Supplied by David Schonberger

As a family, when we want to venture to other wooded areas beyond our home, we often go to the nearby Backus Woods. In the winter, we’ll pull our daughters on sleds through the forest. And then we’ll go for breakfast afterward in Port Rowan at the Country Fork, a cozy little spot that serves delicious homestyle comfort food on rotation all winter long.

If we’re venturing out in the evenings, Charlotteville Brewing Company is a very cool brewery in the heart of Norfolk County that we love; they took down an old timber-frame barn and then rebuilt it as this brewery with a cozy, authentic barn-like interior.

On one of our recent trips out there in the winter, they had an outdoor fire going, there was snow on the ground and we were surrounded by forest. The string lights hanging around us created a warm glow while we had drinks and warm snacks by the fire, just the four of us. Between the tranquil forest, the shimmering snow and the toasty warmth of the fire, it was pretty special.

For me, being in the forest is a way to reconnect with myself, to ground myself. I have a creative job, and sometimes it’s hard to maintain that creativity throughout the year, so if I’m stuck, I’ll go into the forest and I leave feeling excited to create again. I might come across a cool tree or an interesting fungi or have an experience like my owl encounter, and then it’s just like, “Wow, okay, I’m refocused.”

explore other seasons
Summer Fall Winter

There are certain memories that we always go back to, the way you do your favourite skating rink or café. The first time you slowly picked your way through a frozen forest you’d never visited before. That day on the snow-covered hill you slid down again and again, to the soundtrack of your friends’ cheers and laughter.

When you remember a landmark memory, you don’t just remember what happened – you remember where it happened, places you’ll go back to again and again.

Here, five Ontarians share with you their winter firsts, bests and mosts – where they shared moments, created community and found home. Travel along with them, using the map by clicking on the icons to visit each landmark memory across Ontario.

About the illustrator

Elyssa is a digital designer and illustrator residing in the GTA. Her main focus as an artist is to bring some life and colour to the everyday mundane things. Her bright and youthful pieces are inspired by the nostalgic memories of growing up within the vibrant walls of her grandmother’s house back in the Philippines.

Stay safe and use extreme caution before heading out on a frozen lake or river in Ontario to determine ice safety.

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This content was produced by The Globe and Mail’s Globe Content Studio on behalf of Destination Ontario. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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