Story by Adam Bisby
VILLAGE OF BLUE MOUNTAIN, ONTARIO — Let it snow. There, I said it.
I’m starting to crave some Ontario turns. I was up at Blue Mountain Resort last month for a “Soak and a Statuette” (you know, that old chestnut), and it was snowing pretty heavily for mid-freaking-November.
Then I remembered that never-before-skied moment from February last year, when I hit one of Blue’s runs all by myself — as in alone, solo, with no one on the trail except yours truly.
On a typical winter weekend Ontario’s largest ski resort is packed. This was certainly the case during my February visit, when most of the lift lines spilled out of their roped-off lanes and every restaurant and bar was hopping.
But one section of the hill was dreamily serene. How did I get away from the ski crowd? By heading off-piste, Ontario style, to “The Orchard,” a 64-acre section of cleared and graded Niagara Escarpment that was labelled as “shoeshoe trails” for years. That reputation changed last season, when Blue completed a $10-million expansion consisting of a high-speed, six-person chairlift and night skiing on three of the Orchard’s six new runs, one of which, at 1.6 kilometres, is the longest beginner trail in the province.
My alone time on the trail only lasted about 15 seconds, as I was soon followed by Collin Matanowitsch, the public reltaions manager at Blue Mountain, who gave me the go-ahead to take a test run out of bounds.
The life-long resident of nearby Collingwood seemed quite pleased to be joining me, what with the inch of fresh snow coating the gentle, groomed slope.
Even when it lacked a lift, Blue opened the Orchard on select powder days; it took me about five minutes of leisurely cross-country to get there from the BeaverTails hut near the top of the Southern Comfort chair. I’m just saying: No snow, no BeaverTails atop the Niagara Escarpment.
So let it snow, okay?
More Ski Highlights in Eastern Canada
I can’t wait to hit some of the big mountains I just covered in a Globe & Mail roundup of worldwide ski resort news. But what about the other smaller resorts of Eastern Canada?
Their new additions may make smaller waves, but they’re more relevant to me (and to most of Canada’s population). After all, I’ll make more turns in Ontario and Quebec than anywhere else this season. Plus, relatively speaking, enhancements at smaller resorts can have a bigger impact on the overall ski experience than can multimillion-dollar upgrades on taller peaks. Here, then, is the biggest 2014-15 news from Eastern Canada’s public ski resorts:
Horseshoe Resort: A newly designed Parkscapers/Bosse Snowpark features a slopestyle area, rail plaza, and ski- and snowboard-cross course. Plus, there’s a new magic carpet lift in the beginners’ zone.
Brimacombe: Located at the bottom of the Vault terrain park, the new Brickworks Plaza includes interchangeable features such as an urban-style planter box, two ledge boxes and a close-out round bar rail. It will also host Brimacombe’s new Battle of the Plaza event series on January 17, February 7 and March 14.
Laurentian Ski Hill: There’s a new magic carpet lift on the beginner hill, as well as a handle tow for the terrain park and three new features.
Snow Valley: A new 300-seat chalet will offer marketplace-style dining.
Camp Fortune: A second magic carpet will carry beginners to the top of a new “Discovery” learning area.
Mont-Sainte-Anne: Not a “small” resort by any means, Mont-Sainte-Anne is naming a new expert run after mogul skier Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau, who started skiing at this Quebec mountain at the age of four and went on to 23 World Cup podiums, a world championship, and a fifth place at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR
Marble Mountain: The easternmost ski resort in the country adds some zip this season. Skiers can take the Western Newfoundland resort’s popular zip line tour that goes across frozen Steady Brook Falls.