Gear talk: skis, poles, boots edition

Now that we’re solidly into fall, it’s a good time to talk about what you need to launch your new passion – cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

If you’re brand new to the sport, we recommend that you rent for the first few times; once you know you love the sport, buy gear. It will save you lots of money in the long run. Once you invest, you’re good to go for years, although you may want to upgrade eventually as ski technology advances and/or your skills outgrow your skis.

As with any sport, you can spend as much as you want. There’s everything from wider, heavier entry level recreation skis at the low end of the price point (about $200) to thin, super light carbon race skis at the top end of the price point (about $1000) and everything in between.

Broadly speaking, there’s two types of skis – those used for skiing on groomed snow (either classic or skate) and those for backcountry touring. While you can use any (classic) skis in the backcountry, if that is your main purpose for skiing, it is best to buy actual backcountry skis. They are wider and have edges, both of which have advantages on ungroomed snow. Since we do not do backcountry skiing, this post will be aimed at skis designed for groomed snow.

There is no one type of skis that are “best”. The skis that are best for you are based on a number of personal factors, including your skill level and the type of skiing you do/want to do as well as your budget. They also – and this is critical – have to be sized correctly for your weight. Both classic and skate skis have flex in them (called the camber). If a ski is too stiff for you, you won’t be able to get enough weight on the ski to push off the snow effectively. If a ski is too soft for your weight, it will drag on the snow and you won’t be able to glide well – and that is the fun part of skiing! This is why I don’t recommend buying a random set of skis off the internet. I prefer to physically go to a store where they can put me on a ski and make sure that it will work for me. Here I will give you a broad overview of skis so you can get a sense of what you are looking for and can be more prepared when you go to a store. This is the most advice I can give – I am not an expert and you should speak to the experts in the store to figure out what is right for you.

First, up, classic skis. Classic skis come in waxable or waxless. Waxable means that you apply wax to the grip zone under your foot, and that wax grips the snow when you put your weight on the ski. This used to be the only option – if you wanted to ski, you had to put on wax! Waxes come in different temperatures and what you use depends on the snow temperature. When conditions are good for waxing (when it’s cold), waxable skis are fast and awesome. But, conditions in Ontario are highly variable with increasing freeze/thaw cycles and more and more ski days hovering around zero. Consequently icy conditions are becoming more common and waxing can be a real challenge.

Skins on top; scales on the bottom

Luckily there are now a ton of great quality “waxless” skis on the market, which makes skiing a bit more accessible because you don’t have to worry about grip waxing (you can just slap on some liquid glide wax – see our other article about waxing – and go). Waxless skis either have a pattern etched into the grip zone (“scales”) or a strip of mohair (“skins”) that grips the snow. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Scales are great for beginners because the grip zone is longer and it is easier to achieve grip. That’s important for beginners to have fun – you don’t want to be slipping and sliding all over the place. However, scales do not have great glide – that’s the trade off. I actually feel myself slowing down on the downhills and double poling is more frustrating with my scales. Skins have much better glide as the grip zone (the skin zone) is much shorter than scales and they don’t drag on the snow as much. You will find going downhill and double poling much faster. However, it can be trickier to achieve good grip as they require better technique (you need to be able to balance on one ski and get all your weight on it). They do come with bindings that move forward and back to help with more grip or more glide, but that may not be enough if your technique doesn’t allow you get your weight on the ski when you push. I also find there are certain conditions when skins are challenging to get grip even when you have good technique. When temperatures hover around zero or it’s icy (or I just really want reliable grip and I’m ok with less glide), I still use my scales (because I have that option). There is no right answer for what to get; you need to weigh the pros and cons. If your technique is not great (like most beginners), you could start with scales and upgrade to skins later (so this would mean having to buy a new set of skis in a few years if you wanted). Or, you could start with skins and have your technique “grow into them.” This *may* be frustrating for first little while. Remember, this is just one opinion about skins; others say that skins are supposed to work really well in the conditions I find frustrating with them. Do some research, talk to experts.

Skate skis are a little less complicated to buy as you don’t have a grip zone to worry about; you just need to worry about getting the right ski for your weight so that you can push off laterally and glide effectively. Skate skis are shorter than classic skis and have a bit more of an edge to them (so you can push). The shorter ski gives you better agility than on classic skis.

Once you have your skis, you will need boots and bindings. Boots are important – get a pair that are comfortable, or your feet will be unhappy. Walk around the store and really make sure they will work. Like skis, boots come in a whole range of price points from about $200 for basic boots to a heck of a lot more for lighter race boots. Skate boots have a higher ankle to provide more support as you move laterally. There are what are called “combo” boots that you can use for both classic and skate (some people love them, others don’t…it’s a personal thing. But the combo boots are likely also better now than they used to be). Bindings used to be specific to the boot you bought, as there were two different types of bindings. But all the companies now make compatible bindings, so this is no longer an issue. I prefer manual bindings, but, again, it’s a personal thing.

Poles are the final piece of the puzzle. Skate and classic poles are different lengths. Classic poles should generally come up to the top of your armpit (generally people are going a little higher than they used to) and skate poles to your chin/mouth. A nice feature to have is the hand straps that click out of the pole – so that you don’t need to take them on and off whenever you need to do something with your hands (important stuff – like take photos!). An expert at a store will be able to fit you with the right length pole. If they don’t have your size, it’s no big deal – they can cut down a longer pole. Like skis and boots, the price point varies widely from about $40 for really basic poles to hundreds of dollars for super light, carbon fancy poles.

When you are ready to buy, we recommend visiting stores that specialize in skiing. Hardwood Hills and Highlands Nordic have great pro shops and knowledgeable staff. They have demo days where you can try out skis (usually in January), and they sell packages if you are getting a new set up. Hardwood also has what they call “performance rentals” where you can rent higher end skis, which is a great way to try out better gear.  We highly recommend talking to them if you are able to get up there (or we are there). Highlands usually has a 20% off end of season sale and Hardwood this year had a 40% off sale (this isn’t normal, but they normally do have end of season sales). There is no guarantee that at the end of the season they will have your size, though. In the city, Velotique is the best option. MEC sells XC skis, but we recommend buying them there only if you already know what you want to buy. (I find the staff not as knowledgeable as they used to be). It seems like the market squeeze has passed and gear is more readily available.

Everyone has different opinions about gear, and this article is just one. Again, I recommend talking to the experts.

Updated 2023

You too can be an excited new owner of cross-country skis!

It’s time to start planning your cross-country ski & snowshoe winter vacations

Beach destinations in winter? No thanks. We’re all about finding awesome places to play in the snow!

Every year, HPSC offers cross-country skiers and snowshoers opportunities to take overnight trips at some of the best cross-country ski and snowshoe resorts.

Charter Trip

Silver Star, BC is one of the premier cross-country ski destinations in North America. Between Silver Star and Sovereign Lake (a Nordic centre that you can ski to), there are over 100km of daily groomed trails. At Silver Star, you can take the gondola to the top of the mountain and ski with glorious mountain views. Trust us, this is unlike any ski experience you would get in Ontario. There is also extensive snowshoeing at both resorts. Silver Star is a smaller, quieter resort, if that’s what you like. Find out more details here.

This is how much snow there was the first week of December. Imagine prime ski season! Photo cred: Heather Steel.

Overnight Bus Trips

Another favourite resort, a little closer to home, is Mont-Tremblant. You can ski or snowshoe the trails at the resort, or you can take the bus (or ski 6km) over to Domaine Saint-Bernard where 80km of ski trails and 27km of snowshoe trails await. Mont-Tremblant is a lively resort if that’s what you’re looking for. Find out more details here.

View from the trails at Mont Tremblant. Photo cred: Heather Steel.

If a trip with just your fellow cross-country crew is more your speed, we are offering our family day long weekend trip to Stokley Creek, Sault Ste. Marie! This is a new destination for us. Stokely Creek features 100km of beautiful trails for skiers and snowshoers, more than enough to keep you happily skiing for the weekend. Find out more details here.

Northern Ontario’s beautiful trails! Photo cred: Paul Moser.

Our trips are popular and sell out quickly! We recommend registering on the date and time that they open. If they sell out, put yourself on the waiting list. There are often cancellations.

Happy vacation planning!

Long Trips

Trip Sign-Up Night

Get ready! Coming soon are two Trip Sign-Up Nights (TSUN)- Thursday, October 10 for Charters and Thursday, October 24 for Overnight bus trips. You must be a paid member to be able to register for a trip. Don’t wait until the last minute to pay for your 2019-2020 membership. Here is why. Your membership renewal is not automatic; it is handled by a volunteer. While you submit your renewal application and pay online, the actual renewal will take a number of days to authorize. For a new member, the application must be approved which will take a bit longer. So don’t delay, renew your membership now!

How to Register

The procedures for registering on TSUN are on the webpage, TRIP SIGN UP PROCESS. Please read this page carefully so you understand what to do when the time comes. Popular trips can sell out very quickly, sometimes within the first minute or two. So if you are unsure what to do and are fumbling around with the website, you could miss out. As the Boy Scout motto says, “Be prepared.”

Travelling with a Friend

If you want to travel with a friend, roommate or spouse, you can register for yourself plus ONE additional person at the same time. Both of you must be members. Simply put a “1” in the Guest field and continue to the payment page. After you have paid the $200 deposit, you are guaranteed 2 spots.

Charter Trips

Six of our 2020 charter trips will go on sale on Thursday, October 10. Don’t look for the “Register” button now, you have to wait until October 10. Read over the detailed descriptions and decide which trips appeal to you. If you are uncertain about a trip or have questions, contact the Trip Leader who will clarify and get you the answers.

Trip Leaders

Trip Leaders were assigned in September and are undertaking their training this month. When training is complete, the names and contact information will be posted on a webpage. The page is only open to members so you must login to see it. If you find the page now, you will see that names are missing – be patient, they’ll be there soon.

Parking for Overnight Trips

We are looking for an alternate parking lot for our 2020 overnight bus trips. The lot would need to accommodate approximately 25 cars for the duration of each trip. If you can suggest a suitable location or want to help us find one, please contact Kevin Chabot, Parking Coordinator, .

Bill Bates, Director

SkiFit is back!

The temperatures are falling and the leaves are turning…this means it’s time for SkiFit, HPSC’s popular pre-ski season fitness program.

Every Saturday, join ski instructors John McHutchion and Karen Evans and their amazing crew of volunteers in High Park for a variety of fitness activities. There’s a level for everyone – for those who want a tough workout to those who just want to get out and move around.

The best part is the post workout brunch at the Grenadier Café!

Having fun & getting fit.

If you’re new the club, it’s a great opportunity to meet new people before the snow flies. Returning members can reconnect with old friends.

SkiFit will end with our participation in the popular annual event, Climb the Mountain, the first weekend in November in Blue Mountain.

Below are the dates. All sessions begin at 9am in High Park, meeting at The Grenadier Café parking lot.

September 7, 14, 21, 28

October 5, 19, 26 (note there is no SkiFit on Thanksgiving weekend)

Nov. 2: Climb the Mountain

Click here for the event schedule on the website:

Heads up – new Saturday pick up/drop off schedule for cross-country daytrips

Your cross-country executive committee gets lots of feedback regarding pick up/drop off schedules. West-enders point out that they spend twice the amount of time on the bus as everyone else. Drivers want a 400/Hwy 7 drop off on Saturdays (currently only the case with two bus trips).

We’ve decided to tackle both of these issues with a change to the Saturday pick up/drop off schedule. Starting this season, Saturday will feature a REVERSE drop off on the way home, with the addition of a stop at 400/Hwy 7 to accommodate those who drive. If you don’t want to wait to get off at York Mills, please drive to Hwy 7. If you take the subway, you can hop on the subway at Keele, Davenport, Eglington, or York Mills.

 This is what the standard schedule will look like going forward for Saturday:

Pick ups:

  • 750am: Bloor/Indian Rd.
  • 810am: Davenport
  • 820am: Eglinton
  • 830am: York Mills
  • 845am: 400/Hwy 7

Drop offs:

  • 400/Hwy 7
  • Bloor/Indian Rd.
  • Davenport
  • Eglinton
  • York Mills

Two bus trips will operate on our normal two bus schedule, with the regular drop off schedule (Bus 1 – Queen’s Quay/Indian Rd/Hwy 7; Bus 2 – Yonge stops). Sunday will remain on the normal drop off schedule. All pick up and drop off times will be communicated via email and on the status page for every day trip. Be sure to check it before you go.

Long Trips

Overnight Bus Trips

The list of 2020 overnight bus trips with a detailed description of the resorts, hotels, options and what is included in each trip is now on the website, here. These trips go on sale on Thursday, October 24. At that time, the “Register” button will appear on the trip page to allow you to sign up. Don’t look for the Register button now, you have to wait until October 24.

Charter Trips

The remainder of the 2020 charter trips will go on sale on Thursday, October 10. While the first two charter trips to Jasper, New Years and Pragelato, Italy are sold out, you can still add your name to the Jasper waiting list in case of a cancellation. For Pragelato, the waiting list is closed because there were many names already and adding more would not be productive


Some members may have purchased the IKON pass for unlimited use at Blue Mountain. The cost of the base pass is $1,000 CAD and the full pass is $1,400 CAD. These members can use their pass on a number of our trips where the pass applies: Mt Tremblant (3 trips), Killington, Aspen, and Taos. These members would select the no-lifts option. Savings for using the pass are listed in the descriptions. 

Trip Sign-Up Night

The procedures for registering on Trip Sign-Up Nights (TSUN) are shown on the website, TRIP SIGN UP PROCESS. Please read this page so you understand what to do when the time comes. You can register for yourself and ONE additional member at the same time. Simply put a “1” in the Guest field and continue to the payment page.


In the August blog, we discussed the way our trip registrations are done, ie First Come First Served (FCFS). We have used this procedure ever since we changed from lining up in person to signing up online. We felt that FCFS was the fairest and most transparent way although we realize that some members may be at a disadvantage (slow internet, slow fingers, away on TSUN, etc). If you have a suggestion as to how we could improve the procedure, we would like to hear from you. Our objective is to be fair to all members. Please send your suggestions to Bill Bates,

Trip Leaders

Thank you to those who applied to be a 2020 trip leader. During September we will be training these leaders to lead the trips that you will be on. In the week before each TSUN, you will find the names and contact information for trip leaders on the website so you can ask any particular questions that are not covered in the detailed descriptions.

Bill Bates, Director

Wild Apricot for Members app

The Wild Apricot for Members app is a completely free app where you can register for our upcoming events and pay event fees straight from your phone.

The main features this app offers are:

  • View an event calendar and event details
  • Register for an event through the app
  • View existing event registrations
  • Pay an outstanding event registration fee

Here are some previews of what you can see

Social- Cross Fit

Back by popular demand! Come and workout with Stefan Overgaard (Level 3 CSIA instructor and Level 2 racing coach) and his staff.  This series has 6 sessions, each to be purchased individually for $10/session.  Each workout is tailored to your fitness level and emphasizes strength, power, speed, agility, coordination, mobility, flexibility and injury prevention.  All exercises can be modified to your level of strength.  These classes are normally $20 per class when bought as a package, but HPSC is offering them to members for $10!

Classes start promptly at 5:00, and run for 1 hour. Sorry, no refunds for a change of heart.

About the Trainers: Stefan Overgaard is the owner and founder of SXS Fitness (Sculpted by Stefan) and Crossfit Eglinton which is a division of SXS. Stefan brings plenty of practical experience in ski-specific fitness: being a former member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team and currently U16 extended program race coach at Osler Bluff Ski Club. He is very adept with the implementation of strength and conditioning programs for both performance enhancements and injury prevention for athletes of ALL levels. SXS Fitness is also an official partner of Alpine Ontario where they provide fitness testing and contribute to weekly articles on a wide variety of topics ranging from stress relief tactics to nutrition to the best exercises/stretches to do at home.

The staff at SXS Fitness currently train athletes from many sports. They focus on everything from strength and power training to speed, agility, coordination, mobility, flexibility and injury prevention. SXS also has a wellness division which provides Physiotherapy, Registered Massage Therapy, Naturopathic and Chiropractic treatments to complement their holistic approach to keeping the body running optimally. 

Long Trips

Charter Trips

The complete list of 2020 charter trips with a detailed description of the resorts, hotels, flights, options and what is included in each trip is now on the website here. These trips will go on sale on Thursday, October 10. For those with an IKON pass, have a close look at C3 Aspen and C8 Taos where you will save $325 on Aspen and $500 on Taos.

The first two charter trips to Jasper, New Years and Pragelato, Italy sold out very quickly on June 20, our first sign-up night. The good news is that we were able to expand the trips significantly to accommodate many on the waiting lists. Jasper has 42 members registered and Pragelato has 39. Unfortunately at this time those still on the waiting lists will have to count on a cancellation to get a seat. For Pragelato, you will no longer find the Waitlist Button. We had to close off the waiting list because there were many names already and adding more would not be productive. The Jasper waiting list is still open so please add your name if interested.

FCFS vs Lottery

Some members who could not get onto Jasper or Pragelato, have suggested that we should change the way registration is done and switch from a First Come First Served (FCFS) system to a lottery method. We should let you know that a lottery method has been considered in the past although we have never actually tried it. The club felt that a lottery of pulling names out of a hat was fraught with as many difficulties as FCFS. Similarly issues of fairness would arise from a procedure of giving waitlisted members first priority for the next set of upcoming trips, i.e. a Front-Of-The-Line pass.

With online registration, we are aware that those with a fast internet connection have a slight advantage over those with a slower one. And those with fast fingers have a similar advantage. In the minutes after 8:00 PM, a few seconds delay might have made the difference between being successfully registered or being on the waiting list. But here’s the bottom line, there is only a limit to the number of members we can accommodate no matter which method we use. FCFS mirrors the old paper method where we had to line up in person. We feel that FCFS is still the fairest method but will evaluate the lottery again to see if it can offer something that is equally as fair.

Become a Trip Leader

Trip Leaders are very important volunteers for the club. This season we need 16 TLs to lead our charter and overnight bus trips. If you have been on a long trip, you’ve seen a TL in action. If you want to contribute to the club in this way, now is the time to consider it. If you feel it might be too much work for you alone, you can team up with a friend and share the task. Despite the work involved, it is a very rewarding experience and you’ll have fun doing it. You’ll get training, lots of support and a generous reimbursement for your efforts.

Here is what you need to do. Send an email to: Ephraim Fernandez, requesting an application form.  Complete the form and submit it by the deadline of Friday, August 30.

The 2020 long trips program is on the website, charters click here, overnight bus trips, click here. TLs for C1 Jasper, New Years and C2 Pragelato, Italy have already been chosen and announced. So there are a total of 6 charter and 8 overnight bus trips for which you can apply. You need to have led an overnight bus trip before you can lead a charter trip, so first-timers will be overnight bus TLs.

Selection is based on the following criteria:

  • Duration and extent of recent contributions as a volunteer to the club
  • Leadership skills
  • Previous trip experience
  • People skills
  • Business skills
  • Computer skills – Excel & Word
  • Special emphasis on Excel skills
  • Skiing experience

Every HPSC member is eligible to apply. Don’t delay, request your application now as the time is short.

Bill Bates


Snow School Recruiting News!

Given our club’s fast growing membership, the Snow School is embarking on a pilot program to gradually increase our number of downhill instructors over the next few years. This New Instructor Support Program (NISP) will be piloted in the next two years to encourage members to become instructors while being supported in their first year instructing with HPSC.

During the two year pilot program, members with a CASI/CSIA Level 1 will be able to apply without having completed the Instructor Training (although still desirable) if they have some teaching experience or are recommended by a current senior instructor.

Members with these qualifications can now ask for an application form by contacting Christine Bellerose ( The recruiting process: application, interview, and offers based on skills and fit, remains the same.

Experienced snowboarders are invited to contact us now as we can help you develop a plan to join our Snow School in the near future.

Skiers not quite ready to apply now should sign up for IT, get your Level 1 next winter and be ready to join your High Park Snow School!!

Christine Bellerose

Director Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding