Story by Angelica Stirpe
COLLINGWOOD, ONTARIO — Blue Mountain Ski Resort has been a draw for Ontario’s winter sports enthusiasts for many years and this season it’s getting ready to host some of the world’s best athletes. Among the new activities and special events coming to this town about two hours north of Toronto are qualifying competitions for the 2012 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.
Anticipation is already stirring in Blue Mountain as it prepares to host the North Face Park and Pipe Open, which will be crossing the border into Canada for the first time. The resort, which is one of three stops on the tour this year, will host events from January 12-15.
“Everybody on the resort is really excited about it. The events this year are the biggest on-hill events Blue Mountain has ever had,” says Collin Matanowitsch, the public relations representative for the resort.
That freestyle skiing competition is one of a few big events headed to Blue Mountain in coming months. For the third time, the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup Cross will be hosted at Blue Mountain followed by the first LG World Cup Snowboard Cross to be held at the resort. These events take place in early February as part of the FIS Freestyle World Cup, which will showcase racers from around the world.
“It will be a global circuit with international competitors, and it’s great to welcome them all. The course we set up here is amazing with weeks of preparation that goes into it,” says Matanowitsch.
With more than 251 acres of skiable terrain, the most sophisticated and largest snow-making system in Canada, and a number of activities offered to its guests, Blue Mountain has developed into a unique world-class resort. But even for those less interested in the slopes, the options for entertainment this time of year are plentiful.
“We refer to it as the ‘16 Weeks of Winter,’ where there is really always something going on for everyone at Blue Mountain,” notes Matanowitsch.
Here are a few highlights for the 2011-12 season:
Fireworks in the Village
While fireworks last year were only celebrated on New Year’s Eve, this year’s fireworks will go off every Saturday evening at 8 pm throughout December. A great spot to watch the dazzling sky of lights is overlooking the mill pond in the Village, which overflows with restaurants and retail shops, like many other ski resort towns in Europe and North America.
Huddled at the base of the slopes, the Village at Blue Mountain is the perfect setting to get you in the true spirit of the holidays. Take a seat on a horse-drawn carriage with friendly company or loved ones by your side, as you ride through the cobblestone streets and surrounding areas. Carolers will stroll throughout town singing holiday classics, so make sure to take those warm earmuffs off when you see them walking out and about. Of course, you’ll be able to meet Jolly Old Saint Nicholas and snap a photo with him. You can catch these merry events every Saturday and Sunday afternoon until Christmas.
Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster
For the adventurous spirit, Blue Mountain is offering another way of getting down the hills this year. Newly opened for its first winter is Ontario’s only mountain coaster, the Ridge Runner.
“It has been a really popular attraction at Blue Mountain. We have had great feedback from all of our guests so it will be open all winter long,” says Matanowitsch.
Riders will experience a thrill as they dart through snowy trees leaving them with a scenic view of Georgian Bay and the Niagara Escarpment. You can purchase adult tickets (ages 12 and older) for $15 per ride and a youth ticket (ages 2-12 or under 54 inches) for $5 per ride. The Ridge Runner will be open on weekends and holidays from 10 am-4 pm for the winter season, weather and conditions permitting.
This is where the non-stop excitement is at Blue Mountain. Known as Activity Central, visitors can enjoy snowmobiling, snowshoeing, toboggan tours, ice fishing and cross-country skiing. During December, you can participate in a free one-hour snowshoeing experience every Friday at 11 am in the Village.
Scenic Nordic Adventures
If you’re in the mood to get a taste of nature this winter then snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are ideal ways to spend the day. Take a breath of cold, crisp air, as you trail through sugar maples, beech trees, oaks and scenic caves on the highest point of the escarpment with magnificent views. A one-day trail pass on weekends and holidays costs $18.50 for adults (ages 18-64) and $14.50 for youth (ages 6-17). Prices are slightly cheaper during the week, with day passes costing $14.50 for adults and $12.50 for youth. Additional costs apply to equipment rentals.
It’s a holiday classic. What better way to enjoy a winter night than to bundle up in your scarves and mitts and go for a skate at the five-acre Mill Pond in the heart of the Village.
“Especially in the evening when the hills are lit up, it’s a real beautiful place to be,” remarks Matanowitsch.
Don’t worry, you won’t be far from hot chocolate or, an Ontario favourite, beaver tails, to warm you up after a twirl on the rink.
ABOUT BLUE MOUNTAIN RESORT
Prices: Lift tickets for skiing generally range from $39-$69 for adults and $39-50 for youths and seniors. Check the Blue Mountain website for details and specials.
Accommodations: A number of lodges and hotels in a variety of price rangers are in the Village and surrounding area.
To book: Contact 877-445-0231 or check the website for reservation details.
Location: 108 Jozo Weider Blvd, Blue Mountains, Ont.
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