Inside Scoop: Trailhead's James Malcolm

By Jordan Whitehouse

If there was a list of people most qualified to give advice on where to go for outdoor winter adventure in and around Kingston, James Malcolm’s name might top it.
Since 2004 he’s owned Trailhead Kingston, one of this city’s go-to sources of outdoor gear and guidance, but since he could walk outdoor adventure has played a big role in his life.
Growing up in Cornwall, Ontario, he and his family would often take month-long camping trips to provincial parks. “I remember when I was maybe 10, my dad would have us white-water paddling, wearing rubber boots and handwashing gloves in March,” he says with a laugh.
His first piece of advice for anyone thinking of getting outside over the next few months: embrace the winter:

“You can’t say, ‘Ah, I hate winter.’ You really have to try it. The winter’s not going anywhere, and every year it’s coming back. So how can you look at it in a positive way?”

Read on for more of his advice on where to ski, snowshoe and skate around Kingston, as well as info on Trailhead rentals and their moonlit snowshoe outings.
 

For those who’ve never experienced the outdoors in and around Kingston, what should they know?

Because we’re affected by Lake Ontario, the volume of snow we get can be limited. Cross-country skiing isn’t fun on glare ice, but you can snowshoe on it. But then the question might be, why bother when I can walk, especially when there’s not that much snow? I would suggest that although the snowshoe is designed for flotation on the snow, the crampon on the modern design allows for incredible grip. And the snowshoe is everybody’s friend — we use a little saying here: “If you can hike, you can snowshoe.”
 

So where are your favourite spots near Kingston to snowshoe?

Anywhere I would hike I would snowshoe. I like Rock Dunder in the summertime, and I like it in the winter. The view is outstanding there, and the trail is awesome. But when the ice is in, I’d say just go along the edge of a lake. It’s great for viewing wildlife, and if there’s any snow buildup, it’s right there along the shore. There’s also a place we support financially called Gananoque Trail, which lies between Kingston and Gananoque parallel to the 401. It’s a great series of trails that are used infrequently, and I love going there.
 

How about cross-country skiing? Which spots top your list?

First choice would be Little Cataraqui. It’s got 10 kilometres of groomed trail, which is good for a little community with little snow. Lemoine Point is popular because it’s easy access from the north and south. And unless you like going out at dawn, you’ll likely be following somebody else’s trail there, so it’s groomed in a way. Because Frontenac Park is fairly hilly, it wouldn’t be your first choice for somebody who’s new. For somebody who is reasonably comfortable with their balance, it’s a fantastic place to spend a full day. There’s so much trail out there.
 

And for those who want to strap on the blades and go for a skate — where would you send them?

Skating is really popular here, so come on in to Trailhead, rent a pair and just go down to Market Square. Or in a typical cold winter, they could access any one of the outdoor rinks in town [there are 13]. So there’s lots of opportunity without even going out onto the lake, but when the lake does freeze, it’s spectacular.
 

James hitting the ice for some hockey with his family.
James hitting the ice for some hockey with his family.

 

What can you tell us about Trailhead’s outings this winter?

We actually plan them when we know the snow is here, but they’re evening events and we schedule them for full moons, so we’re probably looking at something for early February and early March. We supply the snowshoes and a little snack. We just ask people to bring a headlamp, and off we go to a little spot north of town off Unity Road. It’s a two-hour outing, and for a lot of people, it’s just so foreign to do it at night, but they love it. Last year we were also able to have a fire to warm up.
For more info on these outings and Trailhead in general, head to trailheadkingston.ca.
 

Trailhead Winter Rentals

Snowshoes: $15/day, $30/weekend
Cross-country skis: $20/day, $40/weekend, $75/week
Skates: $10/3 hours, $15/24 hours