It's beginning to look a lot like ski season around these parts, so I’m really starting to crave some Ontario turns. I was up at Blue Mountain Resort last month for a “Soak and a Statuette” (you know, that old chestnut), and it was coming down pretty heavily for mid-freaking-November.
Then I remembered that never-before-skied moment from February last year, when I hit one of Blue’s runs all by myself — as in alone, solo, with no one on the trail except yours truly.
On a typical winter weekend Ontario's largest ski resort is packed. This was certainly the case during my February visit, when most of the lift lines spilled out of their roped-off lanes and every restaurant and bar was hopping.
But one section of the hill (pictured below) was dreamily serene. How did I get away from the madding ski crowd? By heading off-piste, Ontario-style, to "The Orchard" (pictured below), a 64-acre section of cleared and graded Niagara Escarpment that was labelled as "shoeshoe trails" for years. But that changed last season, when Blue completed a $10 million expansion consisting of a high-speed, six-person chairlift and night skiing on three of the Orchard's six new runs, one of which, at 1.6 kilometres, is the longest beginner trail in the province.
My alone-time on the trail only lasted about 15 seconds, as I was soon followed by Collin Matanowitsch, the PR manager at Blue, who gave me the go-ahead to take a test run out of bounds.
The life-long resident of nearby Collingwood seemed quite pleased to be joining me, what with the inch of fresh snow coating the gentle, groomed slope. You just can’t go wrong with fresh tracks right after the demolition derby of Happy Valley.
Even when it lacked a lift, Blue opened the Orchard on select powder days; it took me about five minutes of leisurely cross-country to get there from the Beaver Tails hut near the top of the Southern Comfort chair.
So let it snow, okay? Because without it, there will be no Beaver Tails atop the Niagara Escarpment.
*More like a dining-room table walled off with Lego bricks, kindergarten art creations, Hama-bead kits and a drowsy raccoon.