“The Ontario ‘scene,’ what can I say? It made me who I am today. It’s where I grew and loved to play; Where else can you get 50 laps a day?” —CRAIG GOUWELOOS, PRO SNOWBOARDER
LOCATION: The chionophiles (snow lovers) of Canada’s most populous province indulge their alpine appetites at the countless resorts scattered within Ontario, whose borders reach over a million square kilometres. The most noteworthy of the bunch are found within a few hours’ drive north of Toronto, where the neighbours are neighbourly and the trees are filled with waffle-topping liquid gold.
TERRAIN: The mineral-rich Canadian Shield acts as a divide between Ontario’s arable farmland in the south and the sparsely populated grassy lowlands in the north. The province is home to one in four Canadians, the majority of whom reside in the urban sprawl of the Golden Horseshoe, a region that spans north from the Great Lakes and includes parts of Central Ontario.
VIBE: What the province lacks in mountainous terrain, its eager participants more than make up for with creativity, passion and parks aplenty. Any chance they get, the city folk set their compasses due north to replace traffic with lift lines and hot-lap the hills with laid-back local crews, a convergence of people who wouldn’t trade their mini-mountains for all the tea in China.
GETTING THERE: Highway 400 N is the vein to the heart of Ontario’s ski and snowboard scene. Mount St. Louis Moonstone and Horseshoe Resort are located directly on this route, and Blue Mountain is a short jaunt from it up Highway 26. A flight into Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and a two-hour drive north will find you standing atop most of Ontario’s resorts.
SLEEP: DELUXE, SLOPESIDE
PARTY FACTOR: 5/5
OVERALL COST: 4/5
Blue Mountain is Ontario’s largest resort, situated on the Niagara Escarpment alongside a plethora of the private resorts. Its beginnings are credited to the blood, sweat and tears of one Jozo Weider, who emigrated to Canada from Czechoslovakia with his family at the start of World War II. He settled in the apple-growing Collingwood region, built a small chalet, the “Blue Mountain Lodge,” and started clearing runs by hand. Weider’s passion bled through, creating a home for throngs of dedicated locals, weekend warriors and aspiring pros. Packed with 42 trails on 720 feet of vertical, it’s no wonder Blue is third-busiest resort in Canada. A cruise up one of its 16 lifts will provide you with a sweet view of the picturesque, frozen Georgian Bay, as well as access to all of its terrain, including a park and a superpipe. Awaiting you at the bottom is a village chock full of establishments that will provide the eats, drinks and accommodations that will keep your energy levels up for the many laps you’ll be making.
Latest: All six trails in The Orchard expansion will have snowmaking capabilities.
Must-hit: Get a crew together and spend the night shredding in the moonlight before you saddle up to a bar in the village. Be sure to bundle, as temperatures are known to dip down into the -30 C range.
Blue Mountains, Ont./ (705) 445-0231 / bluemountain.ca / Runs: 42 / Ticket: $64 / Vertical drop: 720 ft. / Rideable terrain: 364 acres / Lifts: 16 / Open/close: Dec. to mid-Apr. / Freestyle: 1 park / Terrain: 27% beg./27% int./46% adv.
Photo courtesy of Blue Mountain Resort
MOUNT ST. LOUIS MOONSTONE
PARTY FACTOR: 3/5
OVERALL COST: 4/5
Rooted in the heart of the Ontario snow-belt region is Mount St. Louis Moonstone. A short, 90-minute drive from Toronto will find you at one of the best terrain parks in Canada, one that has provided the training grounds for many a pro snowboarder, including Craig Gouweloos. “I was lucky to grow up 10 minutes away from Mount St. Louis Moonstone and Horseshoe Resort, which made it easy for me to be on my board at least 10 hours a day. It’s easy to see why there is a lot of upcoming talented riders that are putting Ontario on the map. Just goes to show, you don’t need huge mountains to have an unreal winter scene with a large community of friendly faces.” Freestyle junkies flock to Louis’ Outback, Junkyard and Schoolyard terrain parks, and its 40 runs provide more than enough corduroy to accommodate the smallest of groms to the oldest of shred veterans. Entering its 50th year in business, the family-run resort is celebrating in a big way. “After all these years, it’s time to ski and snowboard under the lights,” says the mountain resort’s CEO and founder, Josl Huter. Day or night, a visit to Louis will make you feel like one of the Huter’s; from the smiles that greet you in the parking lot to the lifties operating one of the nine chairlifts, it’s clear everyone is here for the right reason.
Latest: Louis is now open for night skiing and snowboarding.
Must-hit: Find your way over to the superpipe for an afternoon of sunny Handplants.
Coldwater, Ont. / 1-877-835-2112 / mountstlouis.com / Runs: 36 / Ticket: $56 / Vertical drop: 550 ft. / Rideable terrain: 180 acres / Lifts: 9 / Average snowfall: 254 cm / Open/close: Nov. 28 to Apr. 5 / Freestyle: 3 parks, 1 pipe / Terrain: 35% beg./50% int./15% adv.
Photo courtesy of Mount St. Louis Moonstone
PARTY FACTOR: 3/5
OVERALL COST: 3/5
Just over an hour from Toronto, Horseshoe Resort first opened its slopes in 1962 with five runs, a number that has since risen to 29. Tucked away in a scenic landscape of valley and forest, this place has its own weather systems, often resembling a snow globe when the rest of the area remains untouched. And it is likely due to this snow-globe effect that Horseshoe is typically the first resort in the area to open for the season. Like the rest of landlocked Ontario, the resort’s 308 vertical feet often see temperatures dip well below zero, so be sure to put on an extra layer or two before heading out for the post-work soul carves under the lights.
Latest: Improved lighting, a fully redesigned terrain park, skicross course and a brand new Salomon rental fleet.
Must-hit: Be sure to get there for the annual Horseshoe Open from March 14-15, where riders participate in a rail jam, slopestyle contest and big air showdown under the lights before the ensuing after-party at the chalet bar and local watering hole, the Crazy Horse.
Barrie, Ont. / (705) 835-2790 / horseshoeresort.com / Runs: 29 / Ticket: $53 / Vertical drop: 308 ft. / Rideable terrain: 61 acres / Lifts: 7 / Average snowfall: 223 cm / Open/close: Nov. 29 to Mar. 29 / Freestyle: park / Terrain: 15% beg./50% int./35% adv.
Breakfast: On your way to Horseshoe, start the day off right at Loobies before making your way to the hill. Located on your way to the resort from Highway 400, Loobies will get you going with the classic bacon and eggs done right. Grab a butter tart for the road.
Lunch: Hit up the Moonstone or Louis lodge for a midday energy boost with their cafeteria staples.
Dinner: Pull up a chair at Blue’s Firehall Pizza Co., but not too close… you’ll need the belly room after you fill your gullet with one or two of their tasty pies.
A short drive from Blue will find you at The Alphorn Restaurant, where you’ll get to test the “Best wienerschnitzel in Canada.” And be sure to start yourself a beer passport; “Around the World in 44 Beers” is a must for anyone taking laps on the mountain.
Blue Mountain: Sony Snow Crown, Mar. 13-22
Mount St. Louis Moonstone: Snowboard Ontario Provincials, Feb. 27-Mar. 1
Horseshoe Resort: Horseshoe Open, Mar. 14-15