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Contributor Kim Kerr finds out Ontario’s busiest ski hill has something for all abilities in her overview of Blue Mountain Resort Skiing
It takes vision and imagination – not to mention a great deal of hard work – to turn any resort project into a going concern. It’s even harder when that project involves a mountain that’s mostly inaccessible to the very people you’re hoping will visit.
But that little obstacle certainly didn’t stop Czech immigrant Jozo Weider from laying the foundation for what has become Ontario’s largest and most popular mountain destination. Today, Blue Mountain Resort is a multi-million-dollar concern spanning some 700 acres, and attracting 1.5 million guests each year to enjoy winter and summer activities.
Although no longer around to see just how big his resort was to become – Weider died in 1971 – Weider likely wouldn’t have been surprised. When work began on the development in 1941, the Weider family cleared the trails by hand. The first lift was anything but glamorous: it consisted of two sleds pulled up the hill by a cable powered by a truck engine, serving just three runs. And with limited road access, the first skiers had to be picked up from nearby Craigleith station after arriving by train.
Blue Mountain Resort Skiing: Something for everyone
Fast-forward to today, and Blue Mountain Resort skiing amenities have grown tremendously. The resort’s wo ‘bases’ (South and the Village) boast 40 ski and snowboard trails, 30 of which are available for night skiing, and seven chairlifts with a capacity of 20,620 skiers per hour. There are also now five terrain parks available for snowboarders.
It all adds up to in excess of an impressive 750,000 lift tickets sold per year, making Blue Mountain the third-busiest ski resort in Canada after Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia and Mont-Tremblant in Quebec.
While we’re talking numbers, here’s a few more to digest: the resort has a vertical drop of 720 ft, is 2.5 miles wide, its longest run is 4,000 ft with an elevation of 1,482 ft.
The resort’s 164 acres of skiable slopes – almost all of it covered by state-of-the-art snowmaking machinery – is split evenly into terrain designated for skiers of particular abilities: 27% for beginners, 27% for intermediate, and an impressive 46% for advanced skiers.
The Blue Mountain Resort is also the proud owner of one of the largest snowmaking set-ups in Canada. This state-of-the-art system is capable of pumping an impressive 13,000 gallons of water per minute – enough to supply the copious amounts of fresh snow needed to cover the resort’s many trails.
A total of 455 snow guns – including 420 tower guns, 10 mobile guns and 25 sled mounted guns – fire the water droplets into the air where they freeze, and are capable of covering an acre of land with a foot of snow in an astounding six minutes.
More than 32 miles of steel pipe was buried beneath the frost line to carry this huge volume of water, pumped along by four air compressors and 12 water-pumps. The water is stored in three reservoirs with an impressive 45,000,000-gallon capacity, much of it drawn along three km of pipeline from Georgian Bay.
Blue Mountain Resort Skiing for Novices
Those new to the sport are extremely well catered to in terms of equipment rentals (always a good idea before shelling out on stuff you may never use again), as well as a top-notch ski and snowboard school.
Private lessons and programs are available that will see beginners progress to an intermediate level within the season, while those moving up to an advanced level can be trained to tackle moguls, racing, the half-pipe and terrain parks.
All in all, some 300 ski and snowboard pros are available for instruction between the South and Village Base lodges. The beginner area at the Village Base has two dedicated runs with two chair lifts. The Easy Street run offers a long, gentle slope and is great for beginners young and old.
Blue Mountain Resort Skiing for Advanced Skiers
Once the basics have been mastered, it’s over to the Graduate run, slightly steeper and a little faster. The new South Base beginner area – conveniently located next to the Kids at Blue childcare centre – is great for younger members of the family, and has two magic carpet surface lifts.
A fun Kids’ Camp (for kids aged seven-12) operates at South Base seven days a week, and the Children’s Activity Centre offers childcare services for youngsters aged 18 months to six years. A combined childcare-skiing program is also available for children aged three to six.
Seasoned skiers and boarders are well catered to with a number of advanced race-focused programs hosted by former World Cup athlete and Olympian Rob Crossan and his team. Programs include adrenaline-filled racing and skill development clinics, park and pipe programs, training stubby courses and an introduction to full gates. The emphasis is on fun and racing skill development, with an introduction to both GS and SL type courses, and including an element of ski racing fitness.
A Place to Lay Your Head
While the larger hotels are located in Blue Mountain Village, there are a number of excellent alternatives spread around the remainder of the property. The closest of these to the hills is Blue Mountain Inn. Located at the north end of the resort property, the Inn is the resort’s original slope-side retreat and was part of Jozo Weider’s original development.
The Inn has benefitted from a $1.2 million renovation that saw the addition of a private mountainside ‘oasis’ complete with four new hot tubs. In addition, the inn’s indoor pool, sauna, as well as its games- and exercise rooms, were all given an overhaul, as was the 13,000 sq ft Blue Mountain Conference Centre. On-site entertainment includes the Blue’s Lounge, Jozo’s Bar, and the Pottery Restaurant, a casual eatery serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
There are also numerous great luxury accommodation options located in nearby Collingwood, too. For details of these and more info on the best resorts for Blue Mountain Resort skiing vacations, check out Top Hotels in Blue Mountains and Collingwood.
Contributor Kim Kerr is a Muskoka-based freelance writer.
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