Spring has arrived here in Ontario and usually we would be planning the last trips of the HPSC season and looking forward to the year-end party. Unfortunately, this season we never really got started. All we have to look forward to is next fall and the kickoff to what we hope will be a fantastic rebound year.
While I am very optimistic about next season, right now I am reminded of when I was hiking in Killarney Provincial Park last fall. One of the highlight day hikes in Killarney is ‘The Crack’ – which refers to a steep gorge which you must navigate just before reaching the top and the fantastic views of the La Cloche mountains (photo above is from my hike at the top of The Crack). In the last leg of the hike the direction sign is basically an arrow pointing up! At this point in time, we are facing the third wave of this pandemic which some are saying will be worse than the previous two. However, the vaccination rollout has sped up with plans to have all Ontarians (at least those who want one) to have at least the first shot by the beginning of summer. So while we are currently facing a very difficult time, there is a light at the end of all this.
Please stay safe and do what you personally can to ensure that next season at this time the only topic of conversation will be how fantastic spring skiing is!
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!”
I have always loved the history of skiing. And Sun Valley has more history than most in North America.
It was the first destination ski resort built in the US (established 1936), long before Vail or Aspen were even thought of. It had the first chair lift in the world and was the playground of Hollywood stars and celebrities from the Golden Age. Gary Cooper and Ernest Hemingway used to eat (and carouse) at the Trail Creek Cabin. In fact, Ernest Hemingway wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls in Suite 206 of the Sun Valley Lodge hotel. And his grave is located in the area. The hallways of the Sun Valley Lodge are lined with photos of the celebrities who have stayed or performed there (they also host skating shows in the summer).
And it is the setting for two of my favourite movies “Sun Valley Serenade” from 1941 staring among others The Glenn Miller Orchestra (and is shown 24/7 on one of the TV channels at the resort and is shown daily in the Village Opera House), and “Ski Party” (1965) – the last of the “Beach Party” series of movies, with special 1960s musical guests including James Brown and the Flames (dressed up in a ski sweaters and those old stretch ski pants.)
During the season of my 50th birthday, Sun Valley was included as one of the HPSC trips. It was a little more than I would normally spend, but it was well worth it.
Sun Valley, Idaho is not easy to get to, so therefore is not part of our tour operator’s standard roster of trips. This excursion was put together specifically for HPSC. We arrived late on a Sunday night after a very long travel day (Toronto-Denver; Denver-Boise; and then a 3 hour bus ride). The first thing we noticed is that the Sun Valley Lodge doesn’t just have a doorman, it has both an outdoor door man, and also an indoor doorman. And they had staff to take all of our skis to the ski room.
The hotel is not just the only luxury feature. Arriving at Bald Mountain on the free and frequent local buses (the hotel and resort complex is across the town of Ketchum from the main hill, Bald Mountain) you encounter one of the most luxurious base lodges you will likely encounter. (Sun Basin in Utah, owned by the same company, has a similar vibe). All carpeted, comfy chairs, stone topped tables, two-story stone fireplace. Free cubbies with doors on them. You can also leave your ski boots at the day lodge over night or have them dried out over night at the pro shop. Skis/boards can also be stored overnight at the hill. And the food!!! I have never seen a salad bar like it!
If you have ever skied at westen resorts and suffered from altitude sickness, not to worry about Sun Valley. Bald Mountain tops out at just 9,100 feet (so no altitude sickness), but one of the great things is that the slope is a consistent pitch from top to bottom.
While the skiing is fantastic and varied, it is the extra experiences that made this trip so memorable. It was the horse drawn sleigh ride at twilight to the Trail Creek Cabin for dinner. It was having lunch at the famous mid station restaurant “The Round House” and having fondue in Averall’s Bar (named after the founder of Sun Valley and President of the Union Pacific Railroad, Averall Harriman) located on the lower level of The Round House and looking out towards the town of Ketchum. It was listening to live jazz in Duchins Lounge in the hotel. It was seeing “Sun Valley Serenade” on the large screen at the Opera House in the village, and meeting some of the locals. It was sitting in the huge outdoor heated pool – more like a hot tub 55 feet in diameter.
While there are many celebrities who live in the area, the town is very unpretentious. And you will never know who you will meet. While we were there, Tony Robbins was holding one of his higher end events. On the bus back to the hotel one afternoon, while a couple of us were talking about meeting some of the people who were part of Tony Robbins event, a blond women about my age, who piped up and said that they were also part of the event. She mentioned that Tony Robbins events had helped her daughter recover from an injury and get back to dancing with the New York City Ballet. She mentioned that as a former Olympian it had been helpful as well. We asked “What sport?”
“Figure skating” “Pairs?” “No singles” she replied just as we were stepping off the bus. Later that night, one of our group reported that when walking along the hallway in the hotel, she noticed a photo of our Olympian. Looking her up it turned out to be Rosalyn Sumners, the US Silver medalist at the 1984 Winter Olympics – who narrowly lost to Katarina Witt.
At Sun Valley you never know who you are going to meet. It is not about your fashions, or what bar you are drinking at, it is really about the skiing and an authentic (while admittedly comfortable) experience. While there might be a bar to drink champagne at, most places are much more low key.
Every year, I always check off Sun Valley on our Long Trips survey. But it is not just me – Sun Valley was voted as the Number 1 Western Ski Resort by the readers of Ski Magazine for the 2021 season, moving ahead of Aspen Snowmass. And in my view well deserved.
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 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 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.
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.
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!
Since the beginning of this pandemic, High Park Ski Club has said it will follow the stated public health guidelines. Due to the change in public health guidelines for Toronto, we had to cancel the final two SkiFit sessions.
On the positive side, we had 10 very productive and enjoyable SkiFit sessions since September on beautiful fall Saturday mornings in High Park. I don’t recall one bad weather Saturday.
Thank you to all who made it out to the sessions. A number of new members came out, as well as a core of longer-term members. Hope that you had a good time preparing for the upcoming season.
I would also like to sincerely thank George, Cynthia, Theo, and Sandra for assisting in running our weekly hiking sessions.
I hope we are able to get back to our normal fitness program next year and look forward to seeing all of you at SkiFit starting in September 2021. Hopefully we will be able to reinstate our traditional post-workout brunch.
For your own personal mental and physical health, I would encourage all of you still get outside for some exercise before the beginning of the season. I know that I will.
Was I ever excited to wake up to a thin blanket of snow this morning. Not enough for a ski in the park, but I had an awesome trail run!
We are getting ever closer to ski season. While the board is busy firming up our policies and procedures for this coming season, there’s lots that you can do to prepare for the ski season.
We are still running Ski Fit! This is a great way to get some exercise in High Park with your fellow members. Remember that this year you need to register on the website to participate. There are limited spots.
If you aren’t coming to Ski Fit, still get outdoors for consistent exercise so you are fit come ski season. Run, walk, hike, bike…whatever makes you happy! There is also cross-country ski specific training I covered in a post from last year. Don’t let a blustery November slow you down. It’s one of my favourite times of the year to run.
Finally, it’s time to think about making yourself – and consequently your ski community – safe for the winter. As cases increase, particularly in hot spots like the GTA, public health experts recommend that we decrease our close social contacts to keep the spread down and our communities safe. This is particularly important as the holiday season approaches. As difficult as it is, we know that prolonged, un-masked indoor social contact spreads the virus. If we want our ski season to run, let us, as the HPSC community, commit to keeping ourselves out of high risk situations. If we all follow public health guidelines to the best of our abilities and circumstances, we can keep each other safe and hopefully ski and snowshoe all winter long.
This bout of snow will disappear, but winter will arrive in full force soon. Do your snow dances and keep yourselves and your loved ones safe!
I like to say that I survive the summer in anticipation of the fall and the joy of winter. And this year is no different.
Autumn has always been one of my favourite times of the year – the crisp air, the colours of the trees, and of course preparing for the upcoming ski season, including the weekly HPSC SkiFit in High Park. This year, SkiFit has provided the opportunity for me to reconnect with members, as well as meeting a number of new members who have come out.
I know that many of you have been anxious to hear what our exact plans are for the year. In a normal season all of these things would have been announced by now. However, as we all know this is not a normal year. We are still working out details (and prices) with the various resorts because they are still working things out on their side. We will be communication plans as soon as we can.
HPSC members are different than many Canadians – we actually look forward to the coming of winter. And this year even more so than usual! A good omen for me was the arrival a couple of weeks ago (on my birthday) of a surprise package – my Ikon pass for the coming season!! And the news this past weekend that Mount Norquay in Banff has just opened, it’s earliest first day in it’s 95-year history.
I know this season will be much different than usual, but I can tell you that I am still looking forward to having a fantastic year.
At this time of year, we usually turn to our family and friends and give thanks for what we have and who we have in our lives. I personally want to thank all of you for making the community of High Park Ski Club members and friends one that I truly value and am very proud to be a member of. As I have said before, you may have joined HPSC to ski or board or snowshoe, but what keeps people coming back year after year are the friends that you make.
I also want to thank all of you who have shown your faith in the club and have already renewed your membership in this very different year.
While we are clearly in the expected second wave of the pandemic, the thing to remember is that the situation we face right now is not likely what we will be facing in two or three months time when the season kicks off. Or in four or five months when many of our charter and long trips occur. Remember you don’t decide on what you are going to wear in January based on today’s weather.
We are a resilient community who will find a way to thrive this coming season through being willing to adapt and change as the situation requires. In many ways we need to approach this season like you would a double diamond run, especially here in Ontario . . . you may have a plan on what you want to do, but in almost all cases you need to adapt to the changing snow conditions, the patch of ice you didn’t expect, or the build up of heavy snow at the bottom.
As September turns to October, the HPSC pre-season is starting to heat up.
SkiFit has been running for a few weeks now (with registration filling up early each week), the AGM was held on September 23rd to review last year and vote on a few changes to the By-laws, charter and long trip sign up is open or will be in the next few week, a special shopping event with Skiis and Bikes has been arranged (and for those uncomfortable about coming in person or those out of town a special discount code will be available for online shopping) for Wednesday October 28. People in general are starting to prepare for the cooler weather.
I personally want to thank all of you who have show your faith in the club by already renewing your 2020/21 membership. Our members are the reason we on the board are doing all the work to make sure we are ready to run a season under whatever guidelines we face.
This coming winter it is anticipated people will need and want to find ways to get outside, and snow sports will be a prime activity. Much like many who got back on bicycles this summer after long layoffs, we anticipate a lot of former skiers will once again turn to our sports for winter fun. One of the best ways to find new HPSC members is by your word of mouth, so if you have family, friends, or colleagues who are former skiers or boarders, tell them about the club, show them the website, or have them to email email@example.com for more information.
Our first and hopefully only pandemic era Annual General Meeting was held viz Zoom on Wednesday September 23rd.
We want to thank all of those who registered and who logged into the AGM. While the meeting went off without a hitch, we sincerely hope that next year we will be able to get together in person to raise a glass to our fantastic club.
A special thank you to long time member, snow school instructor, and former board member, Laura Shephard for acting as this year’s AGM Chairperson.
Thank you to past president Stella Rossovskaia and the rest of last year’s board for leading us through the review of a very successful year. A year that helps set us up to better deal with the coming season. The 2019/20 AGM Report is available for review on our website under About Us/Club Documents. You need to be logged in to access the documents.
We also want to thank the attendees for all of the questions submitted and asked during the meeting regarding last year and this year. A list of all questions and answers will be posted in the next few weeks on the blog.
And finally, congratulations to Karen Snow for being approved as our new Director of Administration.