Story by Arjun Sehgal
Vacay.ca Social Media Specialist
BARRIE, ONTARIO — When the stars come out, Horseshoe Resort turns on one of the more unique winter activities available in the Greater Toronto Area.
The Moonlight Trail Experience guides guests of this resort one hour north of Canada’s largest city through the woods of Copeland Forest, an expanse of pine, birch, maple and oak trees that would take your breath away even if you weren’t manoeuvring between them on skis. The Moonlight Trail Experience takes cross-country skiers on a run that lasts about 90 minutes. Lanterns light the trail through the forest while the canopy above, alive with the glow of a full moon and millions of stars, draws your gaze. The torches set up as directional aids through the wilderness, which also increases your visibility and chance to catch sight of local wildlife, such as deer and foxes.
It was only my second time on skis, but my lack of skill didn’t deter from the enjoyment. Although I did fall a few times, this outing was far from burdensome and no where close to a realization of my worst fears, which included thoughts of being airlifted by helicopter to a hospital, a leg in a position it shouldn’t be. But the the Moonlight Trail Experience ($24, including rental equipment) was pleasant and invigorating, completely different from what I expected.
One of the guides had made trail grooves for me to just slide through towards the checkpoint, lessening the amount of effort I needed to exert. The weather was only a few degrees below freezing, the brisk wind on my face was welcome as it cooled the perspiration, and the reflection of the stars on the clear open air was mesmerizing. At the checkpoint, hot apple cider and marshmallows awaited at a bonfire.
Fine Dining in Barrie
Long an escape for Torontonians, Horseshoe is increasingly embracing the locavore movement, encouraging the community and culture to grow the food and identity of the resort. Being affiliated with the farmer’s movement, with its local seafood and fresh ingredients, helps to define the resort’s cuisine. As part of Central Planning Farm Fresh — a network of Central Ontario farmers — Horseshoe Resort is able to source local ingredients that complement its surroundings and the recipes of chef Dylan Tulloch.
A native of Barrie, Tulloch has worked at Araxi, an exceptional establishment in Whistler, British Columbia that made the 2012 Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Guide. Now at Silks Dining Lounge, the flagship eatery at Horseshoe Resort, Tulloch specializes in imaginative dishes using the best ingredients he can locate. The food truly blew me away.
The Seafood Tasting appetizer ($15) consisted of five-spice pan-seared Digby scallop over Asian slaw, Nova Scotia lobster bisque shooter with truffle oil, Chesapeake Bay crab and blue cheese croquette with saffron mayo; a variety of delectable goodness from the sea. Following this filling dish, I sampled a taste of the small yet immaculate grapefruit slush served in a matinee glass to cleanse my palate right before the main entree: A 10-ounce centre-cut pork chop, brushed with kung pao sauce, and served with green-tea infused jasmine rice, napa cabbage and baby bok choy slaw ($28). The dish was scrumptious. Dessert featured Faye’s Triple Chocolate Cheesecake ($9), consisting of raspberry-infused white and milk chocolate marbled cheesecake with dark chocolate and hazelnut crust.
When talking to the guests, I found out that plenty make the drive just to enjoy a meal at the resort along with the atmosphere. It was easy to understand why, given the quality of Tulloch’s cuisine and the elegance of Horseshoe.
Year-Round Fun at Horseshoe
The 51-year-old resort is open year round, with activities and events in every season for every demographic. In the winter, guests come for the ski hills, whether they’re teaching their children to go downhill, or schussing or snowboarding themselves. Others enjoy trekking through the Copeland Forest in snowshoes and staying at the resort, where they can soak in a hot tub and take advantage of other amenities.
The Kids Korral offers camps for all ages, while the Shizen Spa caters to grown-up pleasures. The spa, which has four locations in Ontario, features numerous Japanese-inspired treatments. The resort also has fireplaces nestled throughout the resort and in a number of the rooms (sadly mine wasn’t so appointed) that leave a quiet and comfortable place to curl up to between activities.
Driving back to the urban jungle that is Toronto, I was amazed just how close it is to escape into nature, relaxation and fun. When you leave the 416 and 905 areas, you can take advantage of what really is great about the GTA. You just can’t go zorbing or skiing through the crowded suburbs and city streets.
The experience — the trees, the scenery, the stars, gorgeous sunsets and especially being in the serenity of nature — is what I will take with me from Horseshoe Resort. That and a temptation to return soon to experience the peace and tranquility — and another slice of that decadent cheesecake.
More About Horseshoe Resort
Location: 1101 Horseshoe Valley Road, Barrie, Ontario
Contact/Reservations: Telephone 855-835-2790 (toll free) or visit the resort’s website.
Ski Rates: Nordic skiing can be enjoyed for as low as $15 at Horseshoe. See the full rates here.
Menu Prices at Silks: Dinner entrees range for $26-$36. See the full menu here.