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.

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!

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!