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!”
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).
Years of urban skiing has taught me a few things…
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.
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!
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:
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).
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.)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.