Where to buy cross-country ski and snowshoe gear

The winter will be here before we know it! If you want to buy gear rather than rent, you may want to think about it sooner rather than later. Last year, cross-country ski gear flew off the shelves as people sought safe ways to enjoy winter outside. While demand may not be at the same level (especially if downhill is open and some indoor fun returns), I still expect it to be high. October is usually when new stock arrives. So, where can you buy gear?

Retailers

Velotique – a bike and ski shop in the east end. They are probably the most knowledgeable about skis in the city. My top recommendation for a city retailer.

MEC – we all know MEC. I don’t find the staff is as knowledgeable anymore, but if you know what you want, it’s a great option.

Skiis and Bikes – I think they sell cross-country equipment? It’s been a while since I’ve been in the store. But you can give them a try too.

Ski resorts

If you can get out to Hardwood or Highlands Nordic, both have top notch pro shops with excellent staff who can fit you right. My top choice because I trust them.

Call the resorts to find out their shopping policies. You may still have to book appointments this year.

Ski swaps

Hardwood, Highlands and sometimes Velotique host ski swaps where you buy used equipment (or take your equipment to be sold). If we receive information about ski swaps, we will share on the blog and on the Facebook group. These generally happen in October and November.

Received word that Hardwood’s Ski Swap is Oct. 16-17 by reservation. Book early! https://www.hardwoodskiandbike.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Ski-Swap-Guide-2021.pdf

Received word that Highland’s Ski Swap is Oct. 30-31. Double vaccination required. Highlands Trailblazer Dust Em’ Off Ski Swap – 2021 – Highlands Nordic

If you have questions about gear, there is lots of information on the blog about just that!

A primer on buying skis, boots, and poles

A bit on waxing

A primer on buying snowshoes

Clothing considerations

What to expect for cross-country skiing & snowshoeing, 2021-2022 edition

Hello cross-country skiers and snowshoers!

I hope everyone was able to have a great summer under the circumstances. Great weather to spend lots of time outdoors.

The HPSC board is planning for the winter. We hope to be able to ski and snowshoe with you all this year! I missed everyone last winter. I know that everyone must have lots of questions about what the year will look like. Trust me…so do I! Given the public health situation changes constantly, it’s tough to plan. We will be implementing policies that are in line public health guidelines, but it is not clear what those guidelines will be yet. But here are a few things that you can probably expect on the cross-country side this winter.

Keeping the fun on the snow

We’ve got a big contingent of snowshoers!

While HPSC is known for our fun day trip social events (bus potlucks, socials at the resort etc.), we will be keeping our fun strictly outside on the snow this year. This year isn’t the time to start sharing food. But, we will have lessons and guided snowshoeing, as usual. We are also introducing a new afternoon guided ski option for beginners on select day trips (especially in January). Volunteers will lead a group ski for beginners, allowing new skiers to learn the trails better and meet more people at their ski level.

Improve your ski skills

I made my class climb a big hill. Trust me, it was a pedagogically sound decision 😉

For those wanting to hone their skills – or learn some! – we will be offering lessons with our great group of certified instructors. Normally our lessons are small groups (about 6/class) and it is easy to distance on cross-country skis. We hope to be able to run normal lesson programming this year. Only the indoor components will likely change – probably no eating lunch with your class and no video analysis (at least indoors). We also will likely stagger the lesson start and end times so as to alleviate congestion on the bus at lunch.

Get comfortable outside

You may want to wear more than this with limited indoor space…!

While we don’t know what the indoor distancing guidelines will be this winter, the resorts have said that there likely will not be much indoor access again. Plan to spend more time outside than usual (you may want to travel with a small pack with snacks and extra clothing, as I suggested last year). We will work with the bus company to have the bus as our home base. What that looks like exactly is still being worked out.

Speaking of the bus…

With our mandatory vaccination policy, we are comfortable running buses this year. What the experience on the bus looks like, however, is still being worked out. Masking is likely to be required, and we would likely ask members to refrain from eating and drinking and walking around the bus to socialize. We all will also need a healthy dose of patience, as we all will likely need to get ready on the bus.

Once our policies are worked out, we will be communicating them to the membership through the website, this blog, and SnoBiz. We appreciate your patience as we work hard to plan a great season. We will update members as soon as new information becomes available.

Hoping for winter wonderlands this year!

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.

What can I expect on the bus on cross-country day trips?

We are committed to running bus trips this season. Like past years, the bus will get you to and from the resort safely.

However, COVID-19 means that there will be some changes to the bus experience. Here is what you can expect on a HPSC bus this season….

Reduced bus capacity

We will be limiting the bus to 30 members. This will enable us to space out appropriately. If you come on the trip with a member of your household, you must sit with them (even if you are tired of them!). This will enable those without a bubble partner to sit alone.

Don’t forget your masks!

Masks must be worn on the bus at all times on the trip up and down. They must be multi-layered cloth or medical masks. No neck warmers, scarves, bandanas, buffs, masks with valves etc. Be sure to bring more than one in case you lose it, it gets wet etc. Eight months in, you should have a nice little selection of them by now.

Limited food and drink consumption while in motion

Unfortunately, the Director will not be making brownies for you this year.

You are only permitted absolutely necessary food and drink consumption, limited to quick sips of water and very quick snacks. No full meals, no sharing of food, no alcohol permitted. This is the only instance in which you may – briefly – remove your mask. Please do not board with a cup of coffee and leisurely drink it. Please eat breakfast before you board (or at the resort upon arrival) and make sure to hydrate and eat before you board the bus to come home. Ideally there will be no food and drink consumption while the bus is in motion and everyone is on board, but we recognize there may be some limited, medically necessary circumstances.

A quiet trip

While we can have fun socializing – physically distanced – with our friends while skiing, the bus will be a quieter ride than normal. We request that you keep talking to a minimum. You must remain seated at all times, except if you need to use the washroom. Please no socializing on the trip to and from the washroom.

Keep the rambunctious fun on the trails!

Different check in procedures

The bus captain will not check members in by talking to them individually. The bus captain will use the microphone to call out your name and remind you of your registration options. If you have a serious issue, you may call the bus captain over, but please try to save your questions for arrival at the resort. Likewise the DOD will not be talking to members about lessons; you must register in advance. If you haven’t, you can go to the meeting point and see if they can fit you in.

All members are expected to follow our policies and procedures if they choose to come on a bus trip this year. If we all work together and cooperate, we can have a safe ski season!

What can I expect at the cross-country resorts this year?

As a member of our cross-country organizing committee said the other day, we’re coming full circle this year, going back to how people used to ski before fancy chalets were built. What did this look like? You showed up in your car, got ready to ski in the parking lot beside your car, grabbed your day pack with all your ‘survival items’ for the day and headed out. When you got back, you changed by your car, hopped in and headed home.

Get into your costume outside this year!

Given physical distancing rules for indoor spaces, you can probably guess that access to indoor space is going to be very limited at the resorts this year. We will be unable to rent private rooms this year. Gone are the days of all those leisurely indoor activities – getting ready, reading, socializing. Indoor time should be limited to quick trips to use the washroom and warm up for a few minutes. But be prepared that you may have to wait in lines to do so.

Where do I get ready and store my bags?

Members will have to store their bags and get ready on the bus. We suggest that you come to the bus already dressed in your ski clothes. The same goes for the end of the day – you will not be able to change in the resort and thus you may not be able to fully change your clothes, unless you are comfortable doing so in the parking lot (if you are, great!). Otherwise, we suggest bringing a dry top and socks to change into (trust me, dry feet make all the difference) and be sure to have your winter parka waiting for you on the bus.

Where can I eat lunch?

We will have the bus open for an extended lunch period. A maximum of 10 people will be allowed on the bus and must space out appropriately. We request that you eat quickly with no socializing. If there are people waiting outside to come on the bus, vacate the bus as quickly as you can. We don’t want to formalize lunch slots, and hope our members can be courteous with each other. The bus will be wiped down after lunch.

Speaking of lunch, there are going to be limited food options available at the resorts, and what exists may take a long time to get. We suggest bringing your own lunch and snacks on every trip.

If it’s warm enough, we recommend bringing your lunch on the trails with you.

It’s often nice enough to eat outside, especially in March. If you like a hot lunch, invest in a thermos!

What should I bring?

Because you will be spending significant amounts of time outside this year, we recommend that you bring a small day pack filled with items to help keep you warm should you have to wait outside while not skiing. While everyone is different, this could include extra gloves/mitts (really warm ones!), a dry top base layer (maybe something thicker than what you ski in to keep you warmer), an extra pair of socks, and a down jacket that folds up small (a great investment in the winter). Pack water and extra snacks – a hydrated and fueled body is a warmer body!

Are the resorts taking extra measures to provide warming options for guests?

We have been talking to the resorts about their winter plans. Our sense is that right now resorts are not planning for extra facilities and infrastructure. They expect people to use their cars (and for us, the bus) as their “home base”. This could change through the season, but for now we recommend not counting on it. So bring what you need to keep yourself comfortable in the cold. Look at the weather forecast and evaluate for yourself if you will be comfortable being outside (you can cancel by Wednesday at 8pm). We will update members about resort facilities as new information becomes available.

If you have any questions about the season, please contact crosscountry@hpsc.ca

How does COVID-19 affect my cross-country ski lessons?

Our Cross-Country Ski School is working hard to ensure that we can offer high quality lessons within the guidelines set to keep you safe.

Your instructors will still be all smiles…just from 6ft away!

We will have fewer instructors available this year and we must adhere to a strict 4:1 student instructor ratio. This means that we will be offering 4 lessons every trip – 3 classic and 1 skate – with only 4 students per class. Members will have to sign up for lessons online during trip registration, indicating their class of choice if space permits. Unfortunately, this year we may not be able to fit everyone in who wants a lesson. Priority for lessons spots will go to the members on the bus. We will accommodate drive ups if possible.

COVID-19 guidelines will generally not affect the actual ski lessons. Cross-country skiing is an ideal physically distanced activity and our lessons are normally small groups. To keep everyone in lessons safe…

  1. The instructor will ensure that all participants are physically distanced throughout the lesson.
  2. If physical distancing is not possible at times, the instructor will ask all participants to put on their mask.
  3. The instructors will not be providing video analysis.
Expect the same crazy antics! Just further apart.

All participants must complete the COVID-19 screener on the morning of the trip and prior to the lesson. The instructor will confirm this with you before starting the lesson. If you have not done it, and are not able/willing to do it on your phone, you will be asked to leave the lesson.

If we are unable to run the buses, we will not be running any HPSC lessons.

If you have questions about our lessons and new protocols, please contact crosscountry@hpsc.ca.

How do I register for cross-country day trips this year?

If you are a member and want to register for a trip, the procedures haven’t drastically changed. But we wanted to review the process and highlight a few things that have changed.

Step 1: Find the trip you want to go on

You can find our event calendar with all the registration modules here. Immediate upcoming events will appear on HPSC’s home page.

Don’t worry, our calendar is online!

Registration modules will be visible for the entire season, but trips will open for registration on the Monday two weeks before the trip at 9am. The date a trip opens for registration will be on the event description.

Please be patient; we will get the registration modules up as soon as we can!

Step 2: Decide which registration module you need to use

For each trip, you will see two registration modules – one for bus participants and one for drive ups. Choose whichever one is relevant for you.

The drive up registration module is only for drive ups who want to take lessons. If you aren’t taking lessons, you don’t register at all for a trip. You may meet the club where we are going, but you must pay for your own trail pass and rentals at the resort.

Step 3: Register!

Carefully follow the registration instructions.

For bus participants, answer all the questions – chose the bus (or voucher if you have one to use), your the trail pass (ski or snowshoe), your rentals if needed (classic or skate), your bus pick up location, and your lesson level if taking lessons. You must pay before your registration is seat is confirmed. If you do not pay, your registration will canceled after 15 minutes and you will not be on the trip. You will not be able to change your trail pass and rental registration options, so be careful! If you change your mind, you will have to arrange it yourself at the resort and incur the extra costs. If you have questions about registering, email crosscountry@hpsc.ca.

For drive ups registration, you will only indicate the lesson level you want. You must pay for your own trail pass and rentals at the resort. Please only register for lessons if you actually intend to come.

For both bus and drive up registrations, you must check a box indicating that you agree to follow HPSC’s COVID-19 policies and procedures and that you will not come on the trip if you are feeling ill. This is of paramount importance to ensure the safety of our member and the continuation of our ski season.

Register and find yourself in a winter wonderland!

Drive ups and cross-country day trips

We are making every effort to run our buses this season if public health guidelines allow us to do so safely. The bus experience has always been the cornerstone of our club – the bus is a space for furthering the friendships made on the snow. Plus, you get to sleep after a hard day on the trails.

But, this year is different. We understand that some members are hesitant to take the bus, but still want to take advantage of the lessons the club offers.

If you take a lesson, you too can learn advanced ski maneuvers like this.

If you want to drive up and take lessons this season, there are some things you need to know…

Members on the bus will get priority

Because bus members will be outside all day (i.e., they will not have a private car in which to take refuge), they – particularly beginners – will receive priority for lessons. Drive up members may sign up for lessons and we will let you know on the Friday prior to the trip if there is a spot for you. Our ski school will have fewer instructors this year and we must follow strict guidelines to keep our members safe. This means we just don’t have the capacity to offer lessons on the same scale as in the past.

You must register online for your lesson

Lessons in a winter wonderland at Scenic Caves.

You will now register for the trip online just like bus participants. Look at the calendar and find the trip you want. You will see two modules for every trip – a bus module and a drive up module. Choose the drive up module and follow the instructions to register for your lesson.

You must still buy your own trail pass and rentals at the resort

Unfortunately, we are unable to process payment for your trail pass and rentals. Please arrive at the resort early enough to take care of that before the lesson.

Sometimes we take away your equipment!

Meet the club at the resort and join your lesson

If there is a spot for you in a lesson, we will let you know on Friday. We will also let you know where and when to meet. Generally we meet in front of the chalet 30 minutes after the bus arrives (usually 1030-11am depending on the location).

You must complete the COVID-19 screener BEFORE you join the lesson

By registering for a lesson, you agree to follow all of HPSC’s COVID-19 policies and procedures. On the morning of the trip, before joining the lesson, you must complete the COVID-19 screener (the link will be in the trip status email). The instructor will confirm that you have completed it. If you haven’t, you may not join the lesson. If we discover that you incorrectly told us that you did, you will be considered in contravention of our policies and serious consequences may follow.

What if I want to drive up, but I don’t want lessons?

If you want to drive up and meet your HPSC friends for a ski day (even if you are not a member), that’s fine. Look at the schedule to see where we’re going and just meet us there. You do not register online as you have to pay for your own trail pass and rentals at the resort.

However, we request that if you are experiencing symptoms of illness, please do not interact with HPSC members (it’s best to stay home!). If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 and have skied with HPSC members, we request that you email crosscountry@hpsc.ca with a list of people that you skied with so that we can contact trace appropriately. Thanks in advance for considering the safety of our club.

If you have any questions about driving up, please email crosscountry@hpsc.ca.

Instructor Heather with a couple consistent drive up members in winter 2020. Hope to see you – physically distanced, of course – this year!

Working together to make our XC season happen!

Still hoping for snow over here! In the meantime, I want to make sure our members are prepared for what this ski season will bring the club. Lots of things will remain the same – good friends, lots of laughs, high quality lessons (including beginner lessons). But, there are some things that are going to look a little different this year, and we all – the board/volunteers, members, and resorts – need to work together to make it a success.

These babies are going in my pack!

First, we’ll be hanging out outside most of the time. Good thing us cross-country skiers and snowshoers are tough! All the resorts will have restricted access to indoor facilities in order to adhere to physical distancing guidelines. To compensate, we will have the bus open for lunch (with physical distancing rules in place). We also highly recommend that you bring a small pack to ski with. In your pack, you can bring extra snacks (or lunch, if it’s warm enough to eat on the trails), water, maybe a small thermos with warm liquid, and extra layers (I’ll be bringing my down coat, extra socks, and my big puffy pink mittens that keep me warm no matter the temperature!). There will be limited food options, so we suggest you always bring your lunch this year. We will also be getting ready on the bus and storing our personal items on the bus. Some of you already do this, so it won’t be a major change. For others (like me!), it will be.

Second, members need to be very careful when registering. Due to changes in the procedures we have to follow at the resorts, we cannot allow members to make changes to their registration options on the bus this year. Be careful not to make any mistakes; if you do contact crosscountry@hpsc.ca to rectify by Thursday 6pm before the trip (the trip registration deadline). If you have to make changes after that, you are responsible for doing so at the resort and will incur any extra costs.

Third, we’re all going to need a big dose of patience this year! Everything – loading and unloading the bus, getting the tickets, getting our rentals, organizing lessons – is simply going to take more time this year due to physical distancing guidelines. But if we all have some extra patience and understanding, treat each other with kindness and respect, and work together, I am confident we can make this a safe and successful ski season.

Looking forward to the day when we can be within 6 feet of each other. Until then, patience!

Remember – wear your masks, practice physical distancing, and wash your hands!