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!

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

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.

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!

Cross-Country ski and snowshoe schedule online

Although summer seems to have returned to Southern Ontario, HPSC has winter on the mind!

If you are interested in where we are cross-country skiing and snowshoeing the year, the provisional schedule is now available on the website. Please note that dates and locations are subject to change as we continue to work with the resorts to confirm plans for this winter.

All resorts offer rentals and have wonderful ski and snowshoe trails. We will, as usual, offer lessons on every trip, unless otherwise noted (at the start and the end of the season). While we may not be able to offer our lessons series this year, there will be beginner lessons offered on every trip. If you need to learn to ski, we will teach you!

Stayed tuned to the website for changes!

Just a reminder of the magic of winter! March 31, 2019 at Hardwood Hills. All it takes is colder temps and good dump of snow!

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)