President’s Report – Optimistic news regarding the upcoming season!!

October 27th, 2021

Dear HPSC Friends!

Since the last SnoBiz there have been some major positive public announcements that impact our upcoming season!!

The American government has finally announced the re-opening of the land board for non-essential travel as of November 8th for those fully vaccinated (including mixed vaccinations).  This means we will be able to run our bus trips to Holiday Valley (NY), Killington (VT), and Jay Peak (VT)!!! And on a personal note, I will finally be able to visit my best friend Tricia and her family in Pittsburgh for American Thanksgiving next month! 

Long trip sign up is this coming Thursday October 28th at 8pm sharp and I am hoping to get on the Holiday Valley trip! (I have already used my one Front of the Line privilege as President for the St. Mortiz trip in March).   There are a lot of great trips to consider. 

The vaccination passport system is now in place with the Ontario QR code document now available for download; please do so ASAP.

The Ontario government has announced plans for further opening up, with the aim to have all COVID restrictions lifted by the end of March 2022.  This week, capacity limits are being lifted for restaurants and bars, which means that we can finally start planning for some indoor social events hopefully in November and December.  Please stay tuned!

With this announcement, our local resorts have a much better sense of how they will need to operate this season.  This means that we will also be able to provide you with a better sense of how we will be running daytrips shortly. 

Given these announcements and the high level of vaccination rates in Ontario, finally, there appears to be a light at the end of this extremely long tunnel. I am very optimistic that this will be a great season for HPSC!!   

Cheers!

Justin Graham, President

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!

Looking for a volunteer!

Downhill day trips is looking for a volunteer coordinator for Monday day trips. This role includes closing the registration page on Thursday evenings at 6pm, downloading appropriate registration lists from the website and emailing Blue Mountain and Pacific Western Transportation (our bus company). This position requires the coordinator to be available Thursday evenings for about 30 minutes to complete necessary work. 
Helpful skills include familiarity with basic Microsoft Excel and computer skills. The volunteer will receive training and assistance at the beginning of the season. 
If you are interested, please email Erika, Director of Downhill Daytrips at daytrips.director@hpsc.ca

So you are vaccinated . . . now what?

As announced earlier in the summer, the HPSC Board made the decision that to protect the health of other club members and volunteers, in order to participate in most in-person club events this season you will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID.  

The first step will be to attest to your vaccination status on your member profile page, at the same time you acknowledge the Code of Conduct, Waiver, and Rowan’s law declaration after September 1st when membership renewal occurs.  Any falsification of vaccination status will be considered as a breach of the HPSC Code of Conduct and will be subject to disciplinary review

However, without confirmation of vaccination status the Long Trips Committee will not be able to arrange roommates or run close to full buses, that allow us to control the costs of trips. Or allow other portfolios to ensure only those fully vaccinated are participating in events. 

Therefore, as a second step at some point during the fall, we are asking that members provide our membership team with proof of your vaccination status (i.e. 2nd shot vaccination certificate or federal vaccination passport announced last week) by emailing it to vac@hpsc.ca.  Only those on the membership team will have access to these emails and once they confirm your status by reviewing your document, all of your documents and emails will be deletedThe club will not be storing your private vaccination record.

PLEASE HOLD OFF SENDING YOUR DOCUMENTATION UNTIL AFTER SEPTEMBER 1 WHEN RENEWALS OPEN. 

For those concerned about privacy, on the vaccination certificate, we only need to see the following information: Name; Date of 2nd vaccination; Agent (COVID-19); Dose – 2 of 2.  All of the rest of the information can be blacked out. 

If you feel uncomfortable in emailing your documentation, we will also be arranging for numerous in-person events (i.e. after each week’s SkiFit; other nights during the week at locations around the city) when you can show the membership team your proof, and they will note your status.  If you cannot meet in person and are concerned about emailing your documents, we can arrange for a personal Zoom call where you can show your document.  We will NOT be recording or taking screen shots.

Please note that to register for charter or long trips at our signup nights in September and October you will need to have at least attested on your member profile that you are fully vaccinated. As with all members you will also need to provide your vaccination document at some point prior during the fall. If you are not fully vaccinated by trip signup night, you will not be able to register for trips until you are (if spots are still available).  If you have not had your second shot yet and want to sign up for charter or long trips, please arrange for your second shot so as soon as possible. At that point you can update your member profile page and send in/arrange to show us your vaccination proof document.

As mentioned earlier, you do not have to send in your vaccination proof right away.  If you feel more comfortable doing so when the Federal vaccination passport becomes available that is fine.  We just need to review your document prior to your first in-person event (please allow at least 5 days for our team to review and confirm your status – we are all volunteers so it might take time to get to).  If you are signing up for a long or charter trip it should be before full payment.

For charter trips, you will likely be required to provide the newly announced federal vaccination passport to our tour company partners. As well, last week the Federal government also announced that proof of vaccination will be required for travel, including domestically, by plane, train, etc. And it makes sense to assume that long distance bus trips should also be included. 

If you CANNOT be vaccinated due to a medical condition, and can provide a doctors note to our membership team simply stating this (without any medical diagnosis information) you will be able to have limited participation in club events this year, (i.e. drive up for a day trip and participate in lessons).  However, as announced earlier you will not be able to register for any long or charter trips, or to go on the bus for daytrips.

We acknowledge that members have the free choice to not be vaccinated; however, we as the directors of the club have the duty to protect the health and safety of our club members and volunteers to the best of our ability.  Until the pandemic is declared over in Canada, the best option for protection and moving to a more ‘normal’ environment is vaccination.  If you are dissatisfied with this policy, we are truly sorry.  We can, upon request, if you choose, to defer your membership for another year or refund your membership fee (however, your club seniority would be maintained), and we will welcome you back once pandemic measure are lifted.     

Justin Graham

President, High Park Ski Club

Update on the 2021/2022 downhill day trips season

We are excited to announce that we are planning a full downhill day trips season. Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Wednesday trips will return to your favourite Ontario hills including Blue Mountain, Mount St.Louis Moonstone and private clubs which we have held close partnerships with for many years, with some new additions.

We are also hoping with continued vaccination rates increasing and relaxing of restriction, buses will run for every day trip.

We have decided not to run our day trip to Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, New York for this season as we are focusing our trips on more local destinations to help the Ontario ski industry regain momentum after a challenging 2020/2021 season.

In anticipation for this season, the downhill day trips team is encouraging all members to get vaccinated. Only fully vaccinated members will be permitted to participate in enclosed/indoor spaces such as taking the bus, eating with other HPSC members indoors, etc. A detailed policy will be released closer to the season once updated provincial guidelines and specific ski hill policies are announced.

A schedule will be released in the fall including details on lessons for skiers and snowboarders. Until then, the best way to prepare for this season is to get vaccinated and stay active! We’ll be back on the hill together soon.

HPSC President’s Report: Please get the jab!

Dear HPSC friends

I sincerely hope that you and everyone in the HPSC community has had a safe and healthy spring!

There really appears to be a light at the end of this crazy year that we have all experienced.  Over the last few months, individual Ontarians have done a fantastic job of moving quickly to get vaccinated when eligible, including many HPSC members. It appears that whoever wants to be vaccinated will be able to get both shots by the beginning of the fall in September (if not sooner). 

Your HPSC board are moving forward with planning for the coming year based on the assumption that we will be able to have a much more normal season.  However, not everything will be exactly as it was in previous years. Like most organizations will have to, we have had to make a decision regarding who will be able to participate in club events for at least the upcoming 2021/22 season.

After consultation with our lawyer, the HPSC Board, in order to do our best to protect the safety of ALL HPSC members, have come to the decision that for the upcoming season in order to participate in any event involving enclosed spaces such as buses, planes, trains, hotels, restaurants etc. we will ONLY ALLOW THOSE WHO ARE FULLY VACCINATED TO PARTICIPATE.

We will be asking members to attest to their vaccination status and anyone who falsifies their status will be considered in breach of the HPSC Code of Conduct and will be subject to disciplinary action. 

The bottom line is that only those who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to book ANY of the Long or Charter trips, take the bus for daytrips, or attend any social events held indoors etc. 

Our lawyer has advised us that we need to provide some form of accommodation for members who CANNOT be vaccinated due to a health or religious reason.  Since transmission of COVID is much lower in outdoor settings (especially when masked) these members will still be able to participate in events held outside.  So, for example, they will be allowed to drive up for a daytrip, and take a lesson, but will not be able to take the bus. We will require these members to provide some form of proof from their doctor simply stating that for a health reason they cannot be vaccinated. 

Our specific policies on how day trips will be run will be worked out with our resort partners as they become clearer later in the summer and fall and will be communicated as soon as we can prior to the season.   As has been the case since the start of the pandemic HPSC will also monitor and follow the public health guidelines for Toronto and the location of any destination we are going to. 

While the future does seems brighter, what we have learned over the last year is that nothing is guaranteed. But getting vaccinated appears to be the best option for our society and for HPSC to get back closer to the normal we were accustomed to prior to the pandemic.   I urge all members to get both their shots as soon as they can! 

I am really looking forward to talking with as many HPSC members as possible in person during the coming season.

Cheers!

Justin Graham, President, High Park Ski Club

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.