Story and photos by Clay Dolan
As temperatures plunge and the Great Lakes snow machine kicks into full force, winter sports enthusiasts come alive with giddy anticipation. Many Ontarians may dread “special weather advisories” and snow squall warnings, but for those of us who live for powder, it’s music to our ears. Like school kids hoping for a snow day, we watch the radar and wind direction praying for a big north wind that will dump lake effect snow on the hills. And with any luck, we just might get more than forecasted.
With the Escarpment blanketed in snow and Blue Mountain a flurry of activity, it’s the early bird that gets the turns. Local tip: park at the top of the hill. You won’t have to walk far and while people are waiting at the bottom for the lifts to open you’ll get a head start on the freshies.
After a big dump of snow, it takes the Blue Mountain patrol a little while to ensure each trail is safe. The Central runs are usually first to open, so we often burn a few quick laps there before heading to the north end. My favorite choice for deep turns on the Silver Bullet lift is Rinus. Stick to the tree line and follow the pitch all the way to the top of the Tube Park. The last pitch on L-Hill often serves up some of the tastiest turns.
The deepest snow is usually found at north, which also happens to have some of the steepest terrain at Blue, and because there is no night skiing at this end, it’s the first area to be groomed each evening, meaning the snow has more time to accumulate on top of the fresh corduroy—the perfect combo because deep snow slows you down so you need a steeper pitch to keep your momentum. We follow the patrollers as they open each run, lining up at the top waiting for the ribbons to drop. Like Olympic sprinters in the blocks, it’s an all out race to the pitch. One of my favourite runs at north is skier’s right on Spectacular then down Avalanche.
Since it takes a little effort to skate across the top, Kandahar and Dieppe will usually give up some un-tracked turns later in the morning.
Once all the main runs are skied out it’s time to hit the glades. “Going South Glades” at the top of Weider Express provides a few turns as you head toward Happy Valley. Then it’s back over to the Silver Bullet to search out some snow in the “Village Glades”. If you haven’t done much tree skiing, the Village Glades are a perfect learning ground. Tip: when glade skiing don’t look at the trees, look at the spaces between them and that’s where you’ll go.
By 11:00am most of the fresh turns have been had and things are starting to quiet down. It must be a coincidence then that Jozo’s opens at 11. If you were out before first chair (because you parked at the top) it’s not frowned upon to have a beer before noon. Add a steaming, hot bowl of Rod’s Chili for a satisfying, quick recharge.
Now, it’s decision time. Do you go to work (if it’s mid-week), or do you go back out in search of the last, elusive fresh stash. I usually choose the latter, and since I grew up skiing at the Toronto Ski Club from the ripe age of 3, I know where a few hidden gems lie (seephotos accompanying this article).
With a bit of luck we could be in for a few more powder days than usual this year. And if Georgian Bay holds off freezing for a little longer, the Great Lakes Snow Machine could keep churning out the white stuff. If you don’t yet own a pair of fat skis, go get some. They make powder way more fun, and they’re the ski of choice for slushy spring snow. Speaking of Spring, Wiarton Willie died this pastSeptember—lets hope the new guy takes that as a warning and keeps his furry butt underground. Like I said, while many Ontarians dread the cold and snow hoping for an early spring, we Escarpment locals embrace winter and choose to #liveitoutside. |E|