Gear talk: snowshoe edition

Snowshoeing is a wonderful way to enjoy winter in the woods! Photo: Michael Connor

At HPSC, we also snowshoe. Snowshoeing is less complicated than skiing in terms of gear. Basically, you need snowshoes and a good pair of winter boots. While the basic idea of snowshoeing has remained the same (create more surface area to spread out your weight so you don’t sink in the snow), snowshoe technology is much different now than in the days of the wooden shoes. They are now made of lighter materials, such as aluminum (and we’re sure carbon fibre ones probably exist!) or plastic (durable and inexpensive, but will not have as much flex), they have various binding systems, and features like crampons to help you up icy slopes.

Like skis, the snowshoes you want will depend on the type of snowshoeing you plan to do. Are you going to be on well-packed terrain? Deep snow? Flat terrain? Hilly? Are you going to be doing something crazy like running in them? Snowshoes will have different features appropriate to different terrain.

To size them, you need to figure out the weight the snowshoes will be supporting (i.e. you + all your gear). For HPSC daytrips, the weight won’t be much more than your body weight, but if you are headed out on a backcountry trip fully loaded with camping gear, you are going to be much heavier. Snow conditions also play a role; for well packed snow, you can get by with a smaller surface area. But don’t get too caught up in this; any snowshoes will work, they just might not be the most effective for the conditions of the day. Get something that will work for the majority of snowshoeing you will do.

When you are ready to buy, bring the winter boots you plan on wearing and try on shoes. Different binding systems will feel more or less comfortable.

There are also accessories to consider such as heel lifts if you are going to be doing a lot of climbing, or tail extensions to give you more surface area if you need it. Many also snowshoe with poles, especially if you are in hilly terrain. Gaiters are also useful to prevent deep snow from getting inside your boots (speaking from experience…wet socks aren’t fun!).

You can see the use of snowshoes, poles, and gaiters! Photo: Michael Connor

For more information on snowshoes, check out this handy guide from MEC:

Stay tuned for articles in November on waxing and clothing.

Downhill Day Trips

Management of Daytrips for 2019-20 Season

As you may be aware, Erika Clark, the Director of Downhill Day Trips, resigned in late August.  In the meantime we have been searching for a new Director to take over the portfolio.  In late September, long-time member Justin Graham agreed to take over the logistics and management of Downhill daytrips for the upcoming season.  However, for personal reasons, he has chosen not to be the Director.  His title is Assistant Director of Day Trips.  Christine Bellerose, the Director of Ski School has agreed to also represent Day Trips on the HPSC Board of Directors. 

Erika is not going away but needed to step away from the Board to concentrate on her new job.  You will still see her on the bus, and she has agreed to help out where and when she can.  We would like to sincerely thank Erika for her fantastic leadership of Day Trips, and her extensive contribution to the club, over the last year and a half.  Good luck Erika and see you on the slopes!

Downhill Day Trips Schedule

The downhill day trips schedule is now finalized and is currently available as a downloadable PDF on the website under Our Trips – Downhill day trips – Downhill day trips registration.  You need to be logged in to the site.

We are working on adding all of the trips to the calendar but wanted to make sure that you have the schedule to start planning out your ski season.   The first trips will be open for registration by early November.   

Our first scheduled day trip is the annual Test Drive day to Mount St. Louis on Saturday December 7. 

As we have in the past few seasons, most Saturdays we are scheduled to go to Mount St. Louis; Sundays and Mondays to Blue Mountain; and Wednesdays to the variety of private clubs in the Collingwood area.  We have also added in a few new resorts – Mansfield Ski Club and Caledon Ski Club in Ontario; and Holiday Valley in New York.   

Some highlights for the upcoming season:

  • December 7 – First scheduled day trip and first Test Drive Day to Mount St. Louis.
  • December 30 – A special Holiday Week trip to a location the club has not gone to in a very long time – Mansfield Ski Club. 
  • January 11 – Member Appreciation Day and Double Double lesson day at Mount St. Louis.  This is a Member Only trip.
  • February 15 – Special Family Day Weekend day trip to Holiday Valley NY. Note this the only daytrip we will be running over the Family Day weekend.  This is a Member Only trip.
  • February 29 – Test Drive #2 at Mount St. Louis
  • March 21 – Sleep in Saturday.  We will also be going to a new resort for weekend skiers – Caledon Ski Club. 
  • Numerous Pizza days throughout the season at Mount St. Louis and Blue Mountain.
  • Almost every day trip is a Bring a Friend trip – please see the schedule for Bring a Friend trips.

New Pick Up Location Approved by the Board – Liberty Village

We are happy to announce that the HPSC Board of Directors has approved the addition of a new Downhill Day Trips pick up location. 

When we have enough registrants for a second bus, we will now be using a new pick up in the Liberty Village area to accommodate the growing number of members in that part of the city.  The pick-up location will be to the west of Lamport Stadium on Fraser Avenue.  This will be the second pickup after Queens Quay. 

For those using public transit, the King streetcar goes right past, and the Dufferin bus is just a couple of blocks away.  The Exhibition GO station is also within walking distance. For those who drive, there is a Green P paid parking lot on the south side of Lamport Stadium. 

NOTE – This location will only be listed and used (along with Queens Quay) when we have added a second bus to a trip after we have filled the first bus and have sufficient members on the wait list to justify a second bus.  

Information on all of our pick-up locations is located on the website:


Early bird Prices expire on October 31st for membership renewals. But you may want to get in earlier as Thursday the 24th is the Overnight Bus Registration. 

Referral Program

When someone mentions your name as having referred them to the club (on the registration form), you get a bus voucher!!! This will be mailed to you in a short while. 
All bus vouchers currently in circulation must be used by MAY 2020. Check the bus daytrip schedule and plan your winter and use those vouchers! EventViewMode=1&EventListViewMode=1

Membership Director

Long Trips, Oct 22, 2019

Long Trips

Trip Sign-Up Night

Our third Trip Sign-Up Night (TSUN) happens this week on Thursday, October 24 starting at exactly 8:00 PM. Eight overnight bus trips go on sale for the first time. Login, go to the page of the trip you want and scroll down to the “Register” button. Don’t look for the button now; the “Register” button will appear only after 8:00 PM. Registration will continue 24 hours a day until each trip is sold out.

Getting on a Trip

The procedures for registering on TSUN are on the webpage, TRIP SIGN UP PROCESS. If you haven’t renewed your membership yet, do it right away because only those who have paid the membership fee for 2019-2020 are able to register.

Important about Wait Lists

If you see a “Join Waitlist” button instead of the “Register” button, do not think that you have missed out. Go ahead and add your name to the waitlist; there is no cost to do so. You will likely get on the trip in the coming weeks. This is why. Two seats are automatically held back so the Trip Leader can match roommates and deal with single room requests. Some people who have registered change their minds and bail. Some people have to cancel for a variety of reasons. If your name is on the waitlist, you will be contacted in the order you signed up.

Registered Attendees

When you register for a trip you can decide if you want your name added to the list of attendees. The list is not public and can only be seen by members after they login. If you don’t want your name shown, click on the flag and you will show up as “Anonymous”.  If you are already registered and want a change, contact the TL.

Charter Trips

TSUN for charter trips on October 10 was a frenetic evening. We had an overwhelming response as soon as the trips opened at 8:00 o’clock. Several trips sold out immediately and by the end of the evening almost every available seat was taken. The Long Trips Committee began working that same night to get our tour operators finding additional space for those on the waitlists. This was not something that could be done easily or quickly. Airlines had to be contacted, hotels contacted, new contracts prepared and then signed, website updated, etc. Our hope was to get a space for everybody on a waitlist. The rub is that the airlines will charge a higher price for a new block of seats. And the hotel may not have available rooms necessitating a different hotel. This will increase the price of the trip for any new registrants. While we will hold the same price wherever possible, the good deals we originally negotiated are going to be hard to repeat for additional participants.

Trip Leaders

Trip Leader names and contact information are now posted on a webpage. The page is open just to members so you must login to see it. If you have a question that isn’t answered in the detailed description, contact the TL.

Cancellation Insurance

HPSC strongly recommends that you have trip insurance for any long trip. If you are injured or get sick either beforehand or while on the trip you will want to have insurance so you can recover the cost of the trip. And here is an important reminder. Put a photocopy of your insurance information in your ski jacket! If something happens on the hill, you will want to have your OHIP card and insurance information at hand and not back in a hotel someplace. 

Parking for Overnight Trips

We are still searching for a new parking lot for our 2020 overnight bus trips. We need the help of our 1,100 members to locate a new lot. The lot would accommodate approximately 25 cars for the duration of each trip. If you know of a possible location or can assist us, please contact Kevin Chabot, Parking Coordinator, .

Bill Bates, Director

Trip Sign-Up Night

Trip Sign-Up Night (TSUN) happens this week on Thursday, October 10 starting at 8:00 PM. Six of the 2020 charter trips will go on sale for the first time. Login, go to the page of the trip you want and scroll down to the “Register” button. Don’t look for the button now; the “Register” button will appear only after 8:00 PM. Registration will continue 24 hours a day until the trip is sold out.

How to Sign Up

The procedures for registering on TSUN are on the webpage, TRIP SIGN UP PROCESS. You must be a paid up member for 2019-2020. If you haven’t renewed your membership yet, do so right away because membership approval takes a day or two.

Wait List

If you happen to see “Join Waitlist” button instead of the “Register” button, do not think that you have missed out. Go ahead and add your name to the waitlist; there is no cost to do so. You will likely get on the trip in a few days time. Here’s why. We automatically hold back a couple of seats to allow the Trip Leader time to match roommates and deal with the single room requests. Then we order more air seats and hotel space to accommodate the names on the waitlist. If there is a greater number on the waitlist than we can fit, we will arrange another trip. Last season we created a 2nd trip to Banff when the first trip was filled and all those on the Banff waitlist were able to sign up for it.


When you read over the detailed descriptions you will see that each charter trip has a deadline date. At that date, we must release all unsold air seats and hotel rooms. Even though a trip maybe later in the season, we still have a deadline imposed on us that is quite soon. For example our last trip to Taos, NM doesn’t depart until March 21. But the deadline date is Nov 26. Thus you have to look at the whole season when you are considering TSUN so that the season doesn’t slip by and you missed it.

Trip Leaders

Trip Leader names and contact information are now posted on a webpage. The page is only open to members so you must login to see it. If you have a question that isn’t answered in the detailed description, contact the TL.

Parking for Overnight Trips

This is important. If you want to help your club, you can assist us to find a new parking lot for our 2020 overnight bus trips. No one responded to our request last month so it is repeated this time. We need the help of our 1,100 members to locate a new lot. The lot would accommodate approximately 25 cars for the duration of each trip. If you can suggest a possible location, or want to assist us, please contact Kevin Chabot, Parking Coordinator, .

Bill Bates, Director

It’s ski swap time!

Highlands Nordic Ski Swap! 15% of proceeds goes to the Trailblazers (the race team).

Need new-to-you ski gear? Of course you do! Head on over to a couple of our favourite resorts for their annual fall ski swaps.

What’s a ski swap? People bring in their used ski gear and sell it to people who need used gear. There are two ski swaps in October…

Head on over to Hardwood Ski and Bike first on Oct. 19/20. If you don’t find what you’re looking for there, head on over to Highlands Nordic Oct. 26/27. Then show off your new-to-you skis when the snow flies!

Gear talk: skis, poles, boots edition

Now that we’re solidly into fall, it’s a good time to talk about what you need to launch your new passion – cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

If you’re brand new to the sport, we recommend that you rent for the first few times; once you know you love the sport, buy gear. It will save you lots of money in the long run. Once you invest, you’re good to go for years, although you may want to upgrade eventually as ski technology advances and/or your skills outgrow your skis.

As with any sport, you can spend as much as you want. There’s everything from wider, heavier entry level recreation skis at the low end of the price point (about $200) to thin, super light carbon race skis at the top end of the price point (about $1000) and everything in between.

Broadly speaking, there’s two types of skis – those used for skiing on groomed snow (either classic or skate) and those for backcountry touring. While you can use any (classic) skis in the backcountry, if that is your main purpose for skiing, it is best to buy actual backcountry skis. They are wider and have edges, both of which have advantages on ungroomed snow. Since we do not do backcountry skiing, this post will be aimed at skis designed for groomed snow.

There is no one type of skis that are “best”. The skis that are best for you are based on a number of personal factors, including your skill level and the type of skiing you do/want to do as well as your budget. They also – and this is critical – have to be sized correctly for your weight. Both classic and skate skis have flex in them (called the camber). If a ski is too stiff for you, you won’t be able to get enough weight on the ski to push off the snow effectively. If a ski is too soft for your weight, it will drag on the snow and you won’t be able to glide well – and that is the fun part of skiing! This is why I don’t recommend buying a random set of skis off the internet. I prefer to physically go to a store where they can put me on a ski and make sure that it will work for me. Here I will give you a broad overview of skis so you can get a sense of what you are looking for and can be more prepared when you go to a store. This is the most advice I can give – I am not an expert and you should speak to the experts in the store to figure out what is right for you.

First, up, classic skis. Classic skis come in waxable or waxless. Waxable means that you apply wax to the grip zone under your foot, and that wax grips the snow when you put your weight on the ski. This used to be the only option – if you wanted to ski, you had to put on wax! Waxes come in different temperatures and what you use depends on the snow temperature. When conditions are good for waxing (when it’s cold), waxable skis are fast and awesome. But, conditions in Ontario are highly variable with increasing freeze/thaw cycles and more and more ski days hovering around zero. Consequently icy conditions are becoming more common and waxing can be a real challenge.

Skins on top; scales on the bottom

Luckily there are now a ton of great quality “waxless” skis on the market, which makes skiing a bit more accessible because you don’t have to worry about grip waxing (you can just slap on some liquid glide wax – see our other article about waxing – and go). Waxless skis either have a pattern etched into the grip zone (“scales”) or a strip of mohair (“skins”) that grips the snow. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Scales are great for beginners because the grip zone is longer and it is easier to achieve grip. That’s important for beginners to have fun – you don’t want to be slipping and sliding all over the place. However, scales do not have great glide – that’s the trade off. I actually feel myself slowing down on the downhills and double poling is more frustrating with my scales. Skins have much better glide as the grip zone (the skin zone) is much shorter than scales and they don’t drag on the snow as much. You will find going downhill and double poling much faster. However, it can be trickier to achieve good grip as they require better technique (you need to be able to balance on one ski and get all your weight on it). They do come with bindings that move forward and back to help with more grip or more glide, but that may not be enough if your technique doesn’t allow you get your weight on the ski when you push. I also find there are certain conditions when skins are challenging to get grip even when you have good technique. When temperatures hover around zero or it’s icy (or I just really want reliable grip and I’m ok with less glide), I still use my scales (because I have that option). There is no right answer for what to get; you need to weigh the pros and cons. If your technique is not great (like most beginners), you could start with scales and upgrade to skins later (so this would mean having to buy a new set of skis in a few years if you wanted). Or, you could start with skins and have your technique “grow into them.” This *may* be frustrating for first little while. Remember, this is just one opinion about skins; others say that skins are supposed to work really well in the conditions I find frustrating with them. Do some research, talk to experts.

Skate skis are a little less complicated to buy as you don’t have a grip zone to worry about; you just need to worry about getting the right ski for your weight so that you can push off laterally and glide effectively. Skate skis are shorter than classic skis and have a bit more of an edge to them (so you can push). The shorter ski gives you better agility than on classic skis.

Once you have your skis, you will need boots and bindings. Boots are important – get a pair that are comfortable, or your feet will be unhappy. Walk around the store and really make sure they will work. Like skis, boots come in a whole range of price points from about $200 for basic boots to a heck of a lot more for lighter race boots. Skate boots have a higher ankle to provide more support as you move laterally. There are what are called “combo” boots that you can use for both classic and skate (some people love them, others don’t…it’s a personal thing. But the combo boots are likely also better now than they used to be). Bindings used to be specific to the boot you bought, as there were two different types of bindings. But all the companies now make compatible bindings, so this is no longer an issue. I prefer manual bindings, but, again, it’s a personal thing.

Poles are the final piece of the puzzle. Skate and classic poles are different lengths. Classic poles should generally come up to the top of your armpit (generally people are going a little higher than they used to) and skate poles to your chin/mouth. A nice feature to have is the hand straps that click out of the pole – so that you don’t need to take them on and off whenever you need to do something with your hands (important stuff – like take photos!). An expert at a store will be able to fit you with the right length pole. If they don’t have your size, it’s no big deal – they can cut down a longer pole. Like skis and boots, the price point varies widely from about $40 for really basic poles to hundreds of dollars for super light, carbon fancy poles.

When you are ready to buy, we recommend visiting stores that specialize in skiing. Hardwood Hills and Highlands Nordic have great pro shops and knowledgeable staff. They have demo days where you can try out skis (usually in January), and they sell packages if you are getting a new set up. Hardwood also has what they call “performance rentals” where you can rent higher end skis, which is a great way to try out better gear.  We highly recommend talking to them if you are able to get up there (or we are there). Highlands usually has a 20% off end of season sale and Hardwood this year had a 40% off sale (this isn’t normal, but they normally do have end of season sales). There is no guarantee that at the end of the season they will have your size, though. In the city, Velotique is the best option. MEC sells XC skis, but we recommend buying them there only if you already know what you want to buy. (I find the staff not as knowledgeable as they used to be). It seems like the market squeeze has passed and gear is more readily available.

Everyone has different opinions about gear, and this article is just one. Again, I recommend talking to the experts.

Updated 2023

You too can be an excited new owner of cross-country skis!