Classic vs. Skate: What’s the difference and what do I choose?

If you’re new to cross-country skiing, you may not know that there are two different styles of skiing – classic skiing and skate skiing.

Classic skiing is the original form of cross-country skiing. Skiers ski in preset tracks made by groomers using a technique we call diagonal stride to propel themselves forward. With the skis in the track, the skier puts their weight on one ski, pushes off, and glides on the other ski. Then repeat! (This is a super simplified technique explanation). Most people will start their cross-country ski careers in classic. While classic technique is actually difficult to master and perform efficiently, it is relatively easy to get moving on the trails and takes perhaps a little less fitness to do so.

Instructor Regina works on her diagonal stride during an instructor training session.
HPSC member Natalie gave skate skiing a try last winter!

Skate skiing emerged as a newer technique. Done outside of the classic tracks, it resembles an ice skating motion (hence the name) with the skier pushing off the skis laterally to propel themselves forward. When done well, it’s fun and fast! There is, however, arguably a steeper learning curve to skating; while it varies between individuals, generally it takes people longer to get functionally moving with skate skis. And it can be exhausting at first. But if you stick with it, it becomes lots of fun, and less tiring as your technique improves.

The skis, boots, and poles are different for each. Classic skis are longer than skate skis, and classic poles are shorter than skate poles. Skate boots have more ankle support than classic boots. Skate gear tends to be more expensive to rent.

Conditions will dictate which technique will be more fun on any given day. I love classic skiing when there’s lots of fresh snow, or it’s a perfect blue wax day with fresh track. If you only skate ski, you’ll miss out on the beautiful classic-only trails Ontario has to offer. On a harder packed, or icy, day, give me skate skiing! That’s when you can really fly. Temperature can also play a critical role; if it’s really cold, skate skiing is going to be a slog.

HPSC offers lessons in both techniques! Learning both will open up a whole new world of skiing.

If you only skate ski, you miss out on fun adventures like this! (Orford, QC 2019)

Cross-country ski/snowshoe 2020-21 season update

We are currently planning the best we can for our season given COVID-19. To make the experience as safe as we can for members, the following policies will be in place:

We are committed to running buses provided we can do so in accordance with public health guidelines. If they run, we will have reduced bus capacity (approximately 30 people) and one bus/trip (meaning trips are limited to 30 bus spots). Mandatory masks (worn properly, covering both the mouth and nose) in all indoor spaces (bus and resort). NO EXCEPTIONS. We have confirmed that almost all of our resorts will accept bus groups this year (except Wasaga).

Friends at Georgian Nordic! Let’s repeat, just 6ft apart.

We will ask our members to commit to spending as little time inside resorts as possible. The bus will be our indoor lunch spot. We recommend bringing a pack to ski with that has food and extra clothing. It will definitely be a different experience this year! Think of yourself as a backcountry explorer.

We will leave the resorts a bit earlier, at 4pm, to reduce the amount of waiting time at the end of the day.

Ski school is committed to providing lessons, although we may have to scale down our offerings in the interest of adhering to public health guidelines to keep everyone safe as well as based on our instructor availability. Luckily our classes are usually small and physical distancing when teaching isn’t a problem.

Drive up members will have to register online for lessons, and will be responsible for purchasing their own trail passes and rentals.

Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available. We ask for your patience as the situation is very fluid.

We are excited to get out skiing! Keep healthy and safe in the meantime.


Heather Steel, Director, Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

HPSC at Horseshoe Resort 2020

Enjoy a XC ski/snowshoe stay-cation with HPSC

The XC team is pleased to announce that our Family Day long weekend adventure is booked! Trip W6 will be heading up to Hunstville for three days with options to ski and snowshoe in three different places: Arrowhead (one of our favourites!), the trails near the West Gate of Algonquin Park (Fen Lake for groomed trails and Minnesing Trail for backcountry skiing), and the Frost Centre in the Algonquin Highlands. This will be a self-drive trip, car-pooling with those in your bubble.

The cost for this trip is $310 for three nights, double occupancy; the single supplement is $305. We will be staying at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Huntsville – Muskoka. The rooms come with a fridge and microwave, so you can bring much of your own food if you want. We are hoping to offer instruction for beginners and perhaps guided snowshoeing, but this is not yet confirmed. Trip sign ups start on Thursday, October 29th at 8:00 pm.

A little about the ski and snowshoe locations! The Frost Centre has 22 km of trails at all levels, plus backcountry trails. Facilities include two on-trail, self-serve warm-up cabins (equipped with wood stoves), washrooms, outdoor toilets and parking; we are confirming that these facilities will be available in 2021. Arrowhead Provincial Park we know and love, but may not get to this year as a day trip. Arrowhead has an extensive set of classic and skate trails as well as snowshoe trails, some lovely classic-only ungroomed trails, and warm up buildings (note, these may not be available this year). The Fen Lake Ski Trail is located at the West Gate of Algonquin Park. It offers four loops from 1 to 18km with both easy and more challenging sections. All trails are groomed and trackset. A shelter and toilets are located at the beginning of the trail and at Fen Lake. Alternatively, the Minnesing Trail (23 km from the West Gate) has four loops ranging from 6 to 32 kilometres. The trail is maintained for backcountry wilderness skiing and is not groomed. Snowshoes are permitted on this trail.

Last year’s Family Day trip in Sault Ste. Marie was a blast. Let’s make it a great one this year!

Ski swap season is almost here

A couple of our favourite resorts are holding their annual ski swaps this year, but have modified procedures to comply with physical distancing rules. Plan early if you want to attend.

If you need equipment, look at Hardwood Hills and Highlands Nordic. While the equipment is second hand, they know their stuff and can help fit you.

(We do not have any affiliation with these swaps; if you have questions, please contact the resorts directly).

Update on Downhill Day Trips

The weather is hot and summer is in full swing, but the downhill day trips committee has been planning for snow and winter! Thinking ahead to next season, Erika and David (Director of Snowschool) met virtually with all of our downhill resorts. Hills are fully committed to being open and offering skiing and snowboarding, and are excited to welcome back HPSC skiers and snowboarders. As expected, hills will have COVID policies in place for next season. Masks will be mandatory inside, social distancing protocols will be in place and capacity will be limited. As HPSC reserves our dates well before the winter, we will have reserved lift tickets to all hills. This will include our bus and drive-up members. We are also planning for protocols on the bus, organization to drive-up registrations, and lessons. We will be releasing more details in the fall and closer to the winter, but for now, rest assured that we are doing everything we can to ensure we can get on the hills and enjoy our ski days as much as any other year.

– Erika Clark, Director of Downhill Day Trips

XC Ski Season 2020/21: An Update

While we won’t be racing this year, we still can have fun on the trails! Photo: Michael Connor.

Dear XC Ski and Snowshoe Members,

I hope you have had a wonderful summer. I’m sure there is still lots of sun and heat to enjoy.

The board has been hard at work all summer planning our upcoming ski season – made especially challenging, as you know, by COVID-19.

Membership for the club is now open (as of Sept. 1). I know that many of you are probably unsure about signing up when there are so many unknowns. I hope that this update will provide a little more clarity about what is (likely) to come.

First, our membership fee is set at $140. You can sign up and if you don’t use your membership (i.e., sign up for a long trip or day trip, take a lesson) by the end of January and you don’t want to use your membership the rest of the year, you can email us ( by 11:59pm on February 1st to get it deferred to the following season. Doing this will not affect your quest towards a 25-year membership.

Second, while I don’t have a crystal ball, I think the following is the most likely scenario for our XC season: we will run one bus/trip at reduced capacity (likely around 30 members). We have no idea what demand for the buses will be, but we anticipate less demand. If there is enough , we will try our best to run trips on Saturday and Sunday. If there is not enough demand for that, we will reduce to one trip a weekend, alternating Saturdays and Sundays. Members can drive up to meet the bus and take lessons (for which you will have to sign up online so we can plan). If there is not enough interest to run the bus at all, we may consider organizing a drive up season. We would offer lessons at the resort, but instructors and members would be responsible for getting there on their own. You would need to be a club member to get lessons, and this is contingent on our Ski School being willing to participate.

Third, we are discussing a number of safety policies, including:

We can still toast marshmallows!
We just need to be a little further apart…

Masks (on the bus and inside the resort)

Reduced capacity on the bus (see above)

Bus safety policies (cleaning after arrival and after lunch, boarding procedures)

Limiting indoor time as much as possible (bus open for lunch to limit resort time)

New bus and resort procedures (e.g., no walking around the bus visiting with friends, staggering lessons so everyone isn’t returning for lunch at the same time)

No social events (i.e., no potlucks, wine and cheese etc…sorry!)

No race program (no programs that encourage large gatherings)

These policies are not yet official and may change as I communicate with the resorts and work with the XC team to create as safe an environment as we possibly can. Our focus will be getting out to ski and take lessons, having fun together, physically distanced of course, on the trails.

While we are doing what we can to minimize the risk, we cannot completely eliminate the risk. Members will have to do their own personal risk assessments. If you decide the risk is too much for you, we wish you a wonderful winter and will welcome you back to the club with open arms when you feel it is safe.

Stay tuned for more information! We ask for your patience as we and the resorts are figuring this out as we go. It may take some time to figure out all the specifics.


Heather Steel

Director, Cross-country Skiing and Snowshoeing

Costume skiing is pandemic approved…just 6ft apart!

Next season planning

As summer swings into high gear, I wanted to take this opportunity to assure our XC ski and snowshoe members that we are planning the best we can for next season.

The situation with COVID-19 is very fluid, and we are exploring a number of different possibilities for running trips in a COVID-19 environment. We may not have answers soon, but rest assured we are doing our best to make a ski season – in some form – happen if at all possible.

We will keep our members informed of developments the best we can. In the meantime, enjoy the summer!


Heather Steel

Director, Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

Skiing in the time of COVID-19

As we are all adjusting to new rules and realities, the downhill day trips team is monitoring the ongoing public health situation. As our 2020/2021 season is still months away, much of our planning does take place in the summer and fall months. Currently, larger resorts such as Blue Mountain are only beginning to slowly open their summer operations and do not have any updates for the winter season. We are hopeful that our winter will include skiing and snowboarding, however, it may look a little different. We can expect fewer people on chair lifts and few people in the lodges. As new guidelines and policies emerge, the downhill daytrips committee will keep HPSC members in the loop and updated on decisions or revisions to club policies. Suggestions and feedback are always welcome, and we look forward to seeing you on the hills soon!

Cross-country volunteer opportunity!

The HPSC cross-country team met recently to debrief last season and start planning for next season.

Clearly, next season will depend on how the COVID-19 pandemic progresses through the summer. However, as of now, we are planning for a full 2020-2021 season. The club as a whole will discuss contingency plans as the summer progresses.

In the meantime, we are recruiting volunteers! We have a new opportunity perfect for those looking for a way to give back, but who are able to commit only a bit of time.

Next year, we’d like to offer 3-4 group ski opportunities for beginner new members. These would be held on select trips in January and early February in the afternoon. We are looking for members who would be willing to lead these group skis. The time commitment is approximately 2 hours in the afternoon on one ski day (or however many you want to lead). You would be leading a group of beginners on some of the easier trails at the resort. The goal is socializing and fun! No need to be a long time member, or a high level skier. The only requirement is a friendly attitude!

We hope these group skis will allow new members the opportunity to meet more skiers at their level outside of the lessons and feel more comfortable from the get go in the club.

If you’re interested, please email Heather at

Have a great summer!

We want friendly faces like these!

An awesome XC season comes to an end…

While winter took a while to arrive, and the season ended sooner than we would have liked, 2019-20 ended up being a great season! We ran 17 day trips and a very successful long weekend trip to Sault Ste. Marie. We got to all of our favourite resorts – Hardwood, Horseshoe, Highlands, Scenic Caves, Wasaga, Kawartha, Arrowhead, and Georgian Nordic (and a few lucky members even got to go to Mansfield on a Wednesday!). We managed to get in four of our five races, our backcountry trip to Kolapore, and we offered lots of guided snowshoeing and lessons. Registration was amazing – we had 6 two bus trips this year! I look forward to more of the same for next year.

It takes a great team to make our season happen. Thank you to the following members in particular for all their invaluable contributions and leadership:

  • Weekend day trip coordinators: Monica Sauer, Theo Kempe, David Cloutier, Jean-Emile Paraiso, and Gayatari Bharadwaj
  • Finance coordinator: Paul Moser
  • Ambassador coordinator: Linda Lavalee
  • Snowshoe coordinator: Cynthia Wheatley
  • Bus captain coordinator/tour coordinator: Howard Gibson
  • Ski School director: Elaine Rennet
  • Ski School operations director: Jeff Stainsby
  • Ski School director of instructor training: Janine Jorgensen

And thank you to all of our bus captains, snowshoe guides, ski tour leaders, and instructors! I know our members appreciate everything you do for the club.

Our last trips of the season ended up being Mar. 7 and Mar. 8, although we didn’t know it at the time. These were great trips for different reasons. Mar. 7 at Georgian Nordic was on the cool side, and conditions a bit icy, but we had lots of fun making s’mores around the fire! Mar. 8 was 12 degrees and sunny at Horseshoe! Members shed the clothes and had a great day in the sun. We can always look back on those memories and look forward to next year. Check out pics below from this last weekend.

Everyone take care of yourselves and your loved ones! We’ll be back skiing before you know it.


Heather Steel, Director, Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing