President’s Report – March SnoBiz

Top of The Crack trail in Killarney Provincial Park looking north to the La Cloche mountains – Photo by JK Graham

Dear HPSC Friends!

Spring has arrived here in Ontario and usually we would be planning the last trips of the HPSC season and looking forward to the year-end party.  Unfortunately, this season we never really got started.  All we have to look forward to is next fall and the kickoff to what we hope will be a fantastic rebound year. 

While I am very optimistic about next season, right now I am reminded of when I was hiking in Killarney Provincial Park last fall.  One of the highlight day hikes in Killarney is ‘The Crack’ – which refers to a steep gorge which you must navigate just before reaching the top and the fantastic views of the La Cloche mountains (photo above is from my hike at the top of The Crack).  In the last leg of the hike the direction sign is basically an arrow pointing up!  At this point in time, we are facing the third wave of this pandemic which some are saying will be worse than the previous two.  However, the vaccination rollout has sped up with plans to have all Ontarians (at least those who want one) to have at least the first shot by the beginning of summer. So while we are currently facing a very difficult time, there is a light at the end of all this. 

Please stay safe and do what you personally can to ensure that next season at this time the only topic of conversation will be how fantastic spring skiing is!

Justin Graham

President, High Park Ski Club

Memories of Tremblant . . . Priceless

By Stella Rossovskaia

Tremblant in my memory is a collection of the bright sparks of heartwarming moments . . . although Tremblant can be very cold at times. I remember the rays of early morning sunshine while gliding with friends on the perfect velvet corduroy of First Tracks.  Skiing Tremblant is like a smooth dance that travels around the mountain’s perfectly groomed wide slopes with stunning views. “Rising and falling” like perfect waltz steps in a sparkling ballroom of blue sky and crystal chandeliers of snow and ice on the trees.

The name, Mont Tremblant, was derived from the Algonquin people, who called it the “trembling mountain”.  “Climb every mountain”, “Edelweiss”, “Blue Danube” or other beautiful music is usually playing in my mind when I ski at Tremblant. These memories are of moments of love for life, dear friends, mountains, sunshine and the snow.

I remember finishing the descent of the mountain (on skis or hiking the snowshoeing trails) via Panache trails surrounded by the trees and chalets, crossing little bridges, inhaling the aroma of the pine trees and fireplaces. While skiing with our club’s expert instructors, I remember taking the deep dive on the St Bernard diamond run straight into the village, with the view ahead of colourful buildings, skiers & boarders lined up at the gondola and the vibrant après ski scene at the base of the mountain.

I saw a tiny picture in a travel magazine once of Tremblant and fell in love with the picturesque alpine village with the big snowy mountain. I learned cross country skiing in school and decided to go with the flow, travelling was my main inspiration.  I joined the club 14 years ago to travel to Tremblant. In my first season I took a few downhill lessons, made many friends and that March I felt like I was flying on the Tremblant slopes, with a crew of happy beginners just like me.

That same year I volunteered for the Long Trips Committee.  In my second year I lead a trip to Tremblant in March – perfect for spring skiing and to finish the season strongly after building my skills and confidence during the few months of winter.

Inspired by the people I have met in the club, and also by my favourite Cirque du Soleil, I organized an Après ski party trip with the theme “Tremblant du Soleil”.  We watched a mix of Cirque du Soleil shows and Warren Miller movies on the bus, sharing jokes and laughter. At the party, a few members surprised us with their creative outfits, accessories and make-up. Seeing everybody’s happy faces after great ski days – priceless. Those moments of friendship are unforgettable.

The history of Tremblant as a ski resort has started as a one man’s dream. Joseph Ryan, an explorer from a wealthy American family from Philadelphia, who came to the region looking for gold in 1938 with friends. They climbed to the summit of Mont Tremblant with skis wrapped in seal skins for traction. After an exhausting trek to the summit, it is said that Joseph Ryan vowed to transform the landscape into a world-class alpine village. Only one year later, his dream was realized. In 1939, Joseph Ryan opened the Mont Tremblant Lodge and installed the first lift chair. The history of the resort includes rising and falling moments, ambitious investments and bankruptcies. The village we know now was developed by Intrawest, which expanded the pedestrian village with architecture reminiscent of traditional Quebec and built new ski lifts, including the gondola . Other changes included building the Grand Manitou summit lodge and a casino located at the base of the Soleil trails. Intrawest also transformed Blue Mountain and Whistler. Tremblant and Whistler have held the title of  #1 Ski resorts in Eastern and overall North America, partially thanks to the beautiful and well planned villages.

HPSC has a long history with Tremblant. The club’s very first New Year’s Eve trip was to Mt. Tremblant to ring in the Centennial year in 1966-67. In the 1970s HPSC rented chalets in Tremblant (and also at Sutton and Blue Mountain).

I’ve been to Tremblant with the club many times. The most memorable trips being the 75th anniversary celebration of Tremblant and the year of our club’s 65th anniversary celebration. Some of the most precious moments for me are singing on the bus “Those were the days, my friends” – a song our members used to sing at the end of each day on overnight trips during the ‘60s and ‘70s; a tradition now forgotten, although remembered and shared with me by our instructors; as well as waltzing down and singing Blue Danube out loud and of course dancing.

Any Tremblant experience must include après ski at Place Saint-Bernard plaza with a live concert or DJ on stage in the spring and dancing at Le P’tit Caribou. We usually form a large circle on the dance floor and lead the dance starting early on and leaving just in time to rest before First Tracks the next day. The key is to dance until the point that you’ll be “steaming” when leaving Le P’tit Caribou on your short walk to the hotel.

We are living through trying times now, which brings out the best in people inspired with community spirit. By sharing our memories about the past and dreams about future happy moments with the club we celebrate life, elevate our spirit and generate positive energy to get through the last stages of this pandemic. 

Cheers dear friends to future club trips to Tremblant and many memorable adventures. Our club will be always part of Tremblant history: View this wonderful video of the early days of Tremblant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQpbthhZjv8

Stella, Long Trips Committee volunteer

My Favourite HPSC Trip . . . Jackson Hole 2015

By Christine Bellerose

Jackson Hole, Wyoming March 2015

I have been on many wonderful trips with HPSC and can remember all of them for tons of different reasons, the people, the snow, the resort, the weather, the food… one that stands out in my memory for all of the above is Jackson Hole, March 2015.

This is the trip where…

– One member arrived in a wheelchair but left the trip standing up after days of skiing!

– One member arrived standing up, skied a number of days and left in a wheelchair after breaking a leg at Grand Targhee but still a good sport!

– One member had to be rescued by patrollers after attempting to go down a chute; no, not Corbets Couloir. No name, you know who you are 😆!

– One member was left behind, at the huge 😉Jackson Hole airport on the way back home!

Jackson Hole, Wyoming March 2015

– At least twenty members made it to the Après every day, thanks to some dedicated skiers who stopped early to save us a table!

– We celebrated St Pattys as if COVID had never existed!

While there was the great Jackson Hole skiing, the spirit of the members made this trip a memorable week for all, great skiing and partying! That is what our trips are about! Soon to come again!


Reminder about Membership Deferral

As we announced in January, due to the unusual nature of this season, the Board made the decision to deferral all memberships over to next season.  No action is required on your part. 

Some members have informed us that they would like to invest their current 2020/21 membership back into the club to help with our finances.  We sincerely thank those members who have made this choice.  If you would like to do so as well, please email membership@hpsc.ca by March 31st

The club is financially stable and can withstand this unexpected year. However, for this fiscal year (ending April 30th) we will be showing a hopefully “once in a lifetime” sized deficit.  This is mostly due to having to delay recognizing the revenue from all of the deferred memberships until next fiscal year.  In addition, even without running any programs, the club has a number of hard costs such credit card charges, insurance premiums, costs associated with the club house (which will be reduced as of April 1st when move to a virtual setup), costs associated with IT, and the required financial review by our accountant, etc..

On the upside, the club will start the 2021/22 fiscal year with a significant balance of membership revenue already on the books and are very optimistic that membership will boom next fall with many of those who sat out this season, lapsed members, and new members all joining the best adult travelling ski club in the GTA (if not the country!!).

The Winter of Our Discontent – Special announcement regarding the 2020/21 daytrip season

Colbourne Lodge-Boxing Day 2020

Moving into 2021, on a positive note, there appears to be a light at the end of this pandemic with the planned schedule of having all Canadians vaccinated by September. (Let’s all hope!) However, as the saying goes, it is always darkest just before dawn. And over the last few weeks we have been facing the darkest times of this pandemic so far.

Truly this has been the winter of our discontent. While we had hoped, at some point, to be able to organize daytrips this season, we did not want to drag out the decision and raise false hope that we would be able to operate this season when realistically we will not.

Given the current province wide lockdown, and the expectation that even if we move into the Red zone by mid-February for a month, followed hopefully into Orange, we would not be able to run any daytrips until mid-March at the earliest (if at all), your Board of Directors has made the difficult decision that we will be unable to run any daytrips this season. Therefore, both the Downhill and Cross-Country and Snowshoeing daytrip seasons have been cancelled.

The pandemic has also impacted our planned long trips. All of the u-drive trips to Quebec resorts have been cancelled, while the remaining charter trips to Alberta and BC are constantly under review based on the latest restrictions. The Club Med trip to St. Moritz was also recently cancelled.

Due to these changes to our plans, we have also made a decision on deferring membership to next season. Please see the next post for more on membership deferral.

I would sincerely and personally like to thank and acknowledge all of the hard work done by our Directors and their volunteers in trying to plan for a season that unfortunately we will not be able to enjoy. The club cannot operate without the numerous hours and extensive efforts by our volunteers. This pandemic season has been especially hard, tripling or quadrupling planning time for no reward. It is the volunteers who make HPSC the fantastic club that it is, so a big THANK YOU to all of you.

While we can’t organize any HPSC trips or events, we still encourage members to get outside and to enjoy local parks, ravines, and trails. It has been great to see the social media posts of members who have been making the best of the current situation and continuing to get outside and enjoying the winter through skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, and skating in our local parks. (I took the above photo of Colborne Lodge on Boxing Day as I circumnavigated High Park on my snowshoes).Although this has been a tough year so far, we will come through this and thrive as a community.

As the current saying goes “Stay Positive, Test Negative!”

Justin Graham

President, High Park Ski Club

Yes, you can cross-country ski in High Park! (Or any other park)

Early season skiing in High Park – November 2020!

With stay at home orders and lockdown restrictions, we’ve got to get creative this year if we want to ski. Luckily, cross-country skiing requires nothing more than some gear, snow, and a sense of adventure. Yes, you can ski in the city!

You won’t find groomed trails in Toronto, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ski. When we get enough snow (think a solid 5-10cm for most people), dig out your skis and head for your local park, Toronto city-owned golf courses (if not in Toronto, be sure to check your municipality’s rules), or anywhere that isn’t private property and has snow.

I’ve been skiing in Toronto for years. Every year I notice more and more people doing it, but this year the pandemic has definitely encouraged more people to try out urban skiing. I stick mostly to High Park and the Sunnyside boardwalk (as it’s my local area), but other popular ski areas include the Toronto Islands (you’ll have to take the ferry over), the Leslie St. Split, the boardwalk at the Beach, Sunnybrook Park and the Don Valley, and along the Humber River. I’m sure there are many more local parks that are great for skiing that I simply don’t know about. Get out and explore your local neighbourhood. Even a small local park can be fun for a little ski time. If you live in the northern GTA, you’re lucky to have access to conservation areas and forests (still won’t be groomed though).

I’ve started urban skate skiing this year, which requires less snow and I can more easily do on marginal conditions. It’s been really fun! But, I don’t recommend urban skate skiing unless you are pretty comfortable on skate skis already.

Years of urban skiing has taught me a few things…

This particular dog didn’t hate the skis, but also wasn’t particularly skilled at skijoring.
  • Don’t expect it to be like skiing on groomed trails. If there’s a lot of snow, it will be a slow trudge through it (honestly, I often think snowshoes would be the better option). If it’s harder packed, you’ll notice your balance is tougher to maintain. Embrace it for what it is!
  • I recommend using an old pair of skis in case they get scratched up (and in my experience, they will, especially if you are like me and ski on some questionable snow). If you only have one pair of good skis, maybe save your urban ski adventures for when we get a big dump.
  • Generally stick to fields/grass unless we get a lot of snow – then you may be able to ski on the paths/roads.
  • Dogs hate skis. Expect to be barked at and chased.
Watching the sun rise from my skis is the best!

We just got a lovely snowfall with more on the way. So get out and ski in your local area and share your fun with your fellow club members in our Facebook group!

Sliding on Skinny Skis 101

Cross-country skiing has seen a huge uptick in interest this year due to the pandemic shutting down other avenues for winter enjoyment. I’ve long loved cross-country skiing and recently I got to share that love – and some tips – for beginner skiers in our club, pulling out their skis from the basement after a long hiatus.

At the beginning of February, we held a virtual information session for anyone in the club interested in learning more about cross-country skiing. 76 members attended! Thanks to all for taking the time, your enthusiasm for the sport, and for all your questions.

I covered the different types of skiing (classic, skate, back country touring); gear (skis, boots, poles, and clothing); and tried to go over some of the fundamentals from my living room. Not an easy task!

I’ve created a resource for anyone interested with all the main points I presented:

Also, this blog has a number of useful posts about gear, waxing and clothing. Check them out!

I hope these tips help you get out on the snow!

Heather Steel, Director, Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

Hopefully next year we can get back to on snow lessons. Photo: Michael Connor.

Most Memorable HPSC Experience – “It happened in Sun Valley not so very long ago . . .”

Vintage poster of Sun Valley – Roundhouse

I have always loved the history of skiing.  And Sun Valley has more history than most in North America.

It was the first destination ski resort built in the US (established 1936), long before Vail or Aspen were even thought of.  It had the first chair lift in the world and was the playground of Hollywood stars and celebrities from the Golden Age.   Gary Cooper and Ernest Hemingway used to eat (and carouse) at the Trail Creek Cabin. In fact, Ernest Hemingway wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls in Suite 206 of the Sun Valley Lodge hotel. And his grave is located in the area. The hallways of the Sun Valley Lodge are lined with photos of the celebrities who have stayed or performed there (they also host skating shows in the summer).

Poster for the 1941 film Sun Valley Serenade on the wall of the restaurant where we had a group dinner.

And it is the setting for two of my favourite movies “Sun Valley Serenade” from 1941 staring among others The Glenn Miller Orchestra (and is shown 24/7 on one of the TV channels at the resort and is shown daily in the Village Opera House), and “Ski Party” (1965) – the last of the “Beach Party” series of movies, with special 1960s musical guests including James Brown and the Flames (dressed up in a ski sweaters and those old stretch ski pants.) 

View towards Bald Mountain past the Sun Valley Lodge hotel where we stayed.

During the season of my 50th birthday, Sun Valley was included as one of the HPSC trips.  It was a little more than I would normally spend, but it was well worth it. 

Sun Valley, Idaho is not easy to get to, so therefore is not part of our tour operator’s standard roster of trips.  This excursion was put together specifically for HPSC.  We arrived late on a Sunday night after a very long travel day (Toronto-Denver; Denver-Boise; and then a 3 hour bus ride).  The first thing we noticed is that the Sun Valley Lodge doesn’t just have a doorman, it has both an outdoor door man, and also an indoor doorman.  And they had staff to take all of our skis to the ski room. 

Lodge at the top of the Seattle Ridge area of Bald Mountain is just an example of the day lodges at Sun Valley.

The hotel is not just the only luxury feature.  Arriving at Bald Mountain on the free and frequent local buses (the hotel and resort complex is across the town of Ketchum from the main hill, Bald Mountain) you encounter one of the most luxurious base lodges you will likely encounter.  (Sun Basin in Utah, owned by the same company, has a similar vibe).  All carpeted, comfy chairs, stone topped tables, two-story stone fireplace.  Free cubbies with doors on them.  You can also leave your ski boots at the day lodge over night or have them dried out over night at the pro shop.  Skis/boards can also be stored overnight at the hill.  And the food!!!  I have never seen a salad bar like it!

Just below The Roundhouse at mid-station looking towards the towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley

If you have ever skied at westen resorts and suffered from altitude sickness, not to worry about Sun Valley.  Bald Mountain tops out at just 9,100 feet (so no altitude sickness), but one of the great things is that the slope is a consistent pitch from top to bottom. 

Ready to hit the Warm Springs Run
Averall’s Bar on lower level of The Roundhouse for fondue

While the skiing is fantastic and varied, it is the extra experiences that made this trip so memorable.  It was the horse drawn sleigh ride at twilight to the Trail Creek Cabin for dinner.  It was having lunch at the famous mid station restaurant “The Round House” and having fondue in Averall’s Bar (named after the founder of Sun Valley and President of the Union Pacific Railroad, Averall Harriman) located on the lower level of The Round House and looking out towards the town of Ketchum.  It was listening to live jazz in Duchins Lounge in the hotel.  It was seeing “Sun Valley Serenade” on the large screen at the Opera House in the village, and meeting some of the locals.  It was sitting in the huge outdoor heated pool – more like a hot tub 55 feet in diameter. 

Hot pool at Sun Valley Lodge with Bald Mountain in the background.

While there are many celebrities who live in the area, the town is very unpretentious.  And you will never know who you will meet.  While we were there, Tony Robbins was holding one of his higher end events. On the bus back to the hotel one afternoon, while a couple of us were talking about meeting some of the people who were part of Tony Robbins event, a blond women about my age, who piped up and said that they were also part of the event.  She mentioned that Tony Robbins events had helped her daughter recover from an injury and get back to dancing with the New York City Ballet.  She mentioned that as a former Olympian it had been helpful as well.  We asked “What sport?”

“Figure skating” “Pairs?” “No singles” she replied just as we were stepping off the bus. Later that night, one of our group reported that when walking along the hallway in the hotel, she noticed a photo of our Olympian.  Looking her up it turned out to be Rosalyn Sumners, the US Silver medalist at the 1984 Winter Olympics – who narrowly lost to Katarina Witt.

Looking across the village green towards the other hotel – The Sun Valley Inn

At Sun Valley you never know who you are going to meet.  It is not about your fashions, or what bar you are drinking at, it is really about the skiing and an authentic (while admittedly comfortable) experience.   While there might be a bar to drink champagne at, most places are much more low key. 

Every year, I always check off Sun Valley on our Long Trips survey.  But it is not just me – Sun Valley was voted as the Number 1 Western Ski Resort by the readers of Ski Magazine for the 2021 season, moving ahead of Aspen Snowmass. And in my view well deserved.

The Plan for the Season

President’s Report

Planning this season has been like playing a game of three-dimensional chess; for every decision we have to make we have had to consider multiple layers of influences and impacts. 

We have honestly done all we can to try to plan a season as normal as possibly – however, this year is obviously not a normal year.

In a regular season at this point we would be talking about the success of our first trips or a fantastic and fun holiday party.  This year however, as with many our things in our lives, we have had to adjust to the reality of the current situation. 

As you may be aware, the club has already been required to make some hard decisions regarding a number of trips due to the evolving situation from both our resort partners and the overall health situation.  

And this week your Board of Directors has had to make one of the most difficult decision . . .

We have made the determination that High Park Ski Club will not be arranging for any day trips, including drive-ups, while Toronto is in the GREY or RED zone categories. 

Throughout all of our planning and decision making, we have had the following guiding principles in mind:

  • We will follow the latest public health guidelines as outlined by the federal, provincial, municipal governments, as well our industry governing bodies;
  • We will attempt to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 within HPSC;
  • We will arrange for skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing when safety and guidelines allows; and
  • As a club we are all in this together.  To the best of our abilities, we will not create policies that favour one group of members over others.

As a volunteer-run non-profit club, we must act in good faith to abide by all guidelines and policies and procedures that we have put in place. As well, all members and volunteers are required to adhere to these standards in order to enable our club to continue to offer winter activities this season when we are able. As a club we do not have the same luxury in making choices as we have as individuals.  

Your Board has been working on a detailed COVID Protocol document that outlines the procedures and policies that we hope will allow us to move forward with this season. This document allows us to make decisions based on a set of principles and guidelines that have been thoroughly thought out.  It must be noted that this is a living document that will be updated as new knowledge, guidelines, and situations occur. 

The full document is available on our website at COVID Risk Management Framework_2020 12 10.pdf (hpsc.ca)

Following are some of the key highlights:

General

  • The club will act in good faith to abide by the COVID-19 mitigation guidelines established by the federal, provincial, municipal governments, resorts, public health agencies, and CSIA, CSCF, CASI, CANSI.
  • Decision to run trips will be based on the provincial guidelines.  Since HPSC is Toronto based and registered, we need to follow the guidelines as outlined for Toronto, no matter where our members live.
  • As such we will NOT be running/organizing trips if Toronto is in a GREY or RED zone.
  • There will be a mandatory COVID screener prior to all HPSC activities.  Those who are sick or have any symptoms are asked to still complete the screener but to not show up for the trip or event.  A full refund will be processed for these members.
  • All trips will be for HPSC members only.  There will be no Test Drive or Bring a Guest trips.

Lessons

  • Lessons will be limited to a ratio of four members to one instructor.
  • Limit downhhill/snowboard lessons to STEP 3/NOVICE and up.
  • To avoid crowded lesson lineups, lesson start/end times will be staggered.
  • Members will need to wear a non-perforated face covering whenever 6 feet distance cannot consistently be maintained (e.g. lift lines, lesson lineup) and in instances where the resort has mandated wearing a face covering.

Bus trips

  • When we are able to run buses (based on provincial public health guidelines), there will be a maximum of 30 members per bus, with most sitting by themselves in the window seat.  Members can sit with others in their households or whom they are bubbled with.
  • While on the bus, all members must wear an appropriate mask at all times.
  • On the bus, members will need to remain seated throughout the trip (with the exception of going to the washroom.)
  • Food, drink, and talking will be kept to a minimum on the bus. Please eat and drink prior to boarding the bus. No alcohol consumption will be allowed on the bus.
  • The bus will be fully cleaned by the bus company prior to the trip, and high touch areas will be cleaned after arrival and after lunch.

Long Trips/Charter trips

  • There will be no long bus trips this season.  Trips organized to Quebec destinations will be “self-drive” only.  HPSC will not be involved in arranging carpooling. 
  • On trips including Charter trips, there will be no trip leader on the trip.  A trip supervisor will be assigned to create an itinerary and general information which will be provided to trip participants prior to the trip.
  • HPSC will not be involved in assigning roommates this season. 

Consequences

  • Members who are found to not be following the outlined procedures and policies of the club, or those of our resort partners, will be open to escalating consequences from warnings, being asked to leave an event or lesson, suspension from further trips, to being barred from membership.

If a member tests Positive 

  • Members who participate in any club activities and subsequently test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days must inform the club of their test result and are suspended from participating in any club activity until medically cleared.  Close contacts are suspended for 14 days following possible exposure and encouraged to get tested. All close contacts (including all on a bus if that is the case) will be contacted by the club.

We realize that some of you will be disappointed by the processes, policies, and decisions we have had to make.  To be honest we also are disappointed, but these are the difficult decisions that, in the best interests of the club, we have had to make under the circumstances as they currently stand. 

As I have written before we will need to be very flexible in the coming months.  But given the good news this week regarding vaccinations, there is great optimism that next year at this time we will be celebrating together on a trip or at a fantastic holiday party! 

Justin Graham

President, High Park Ski Club 

December Downhill Day Trips Cancelled

Given the recent announcement regarding Toronto’s lockdown, we will be cancelling both downhill day trips scheduled in December. This was not the way we wanted to start our season, but in addition to Mother Nature not cooperating, this is the course we have to take. We are hopeful trips scheduled in January will go ahead. Stay tuned and stay home!