Ontario ski areas near the Greater Toronto Area

By Brian J. D’Souza   Trail Canada

Although the hills in Southern Ontario may not be as well known as those in BC, Alberta or Quebec, there are many popular and accessible resorts that are both fun, nearby and cost efficient.

Ontario’s largest ski resort, Blue Mountain, is located about 2 hours north of Toronto, near Collingwood. With 5 terrain parks, 13 lifts and over 34 trails, Blue boasts one of the highest vertical drops in Ontario: 216 meters. At $62 , Blue Mountain’s price of a weekend full-day (9AM to 10PM) adult lift ticket is one of the most expensive in Ontario. A full season pass runs $824, but early bird specials are available.

If you’re eager to save money and gas, there are many other options located closer to the GTA. One such resort is Hockley Valley, located about an hour from Toronto. Throughout the years, Hockley has defined itself by providing an upscale environment for out of town guests or locals looking for an elegant getaway spot. Its 14 runs, serviced by 5 lifts, offer a variety of inclines for skiers of all abilities. A weekend full-day ticket runs $40, while a season pass is $499. Again, a number of promotions and discounts await the budget-conscious skier.

Another mid-sized destination is Horseshoe Resort, conveniently located about an hour north of Toronto near Barrie. Horseshoe claims to have the longest ski season in Southern Ontario, so chances are you won’t be disappointed at the start or end of the season. There are 23 trails and eight lifts, with an equal number of easy, intermediate and difficult runs. An adult weekend full-day (8 hour) ticket is priced competitively at $43. Horseshoe doesn’t offer full season passes, but you can get a pass for Monday to Thursday for $310.

Mount St. Louis Moonstone compares favorably to other Ontario ski areas with a vertical drop of 165 meters. Located just two hours north of Toronto, Moonstone may be inaptly named, as its early closing time (4:30 PM) will surely discourage night skiers. Although it offers no overnight accommodations, there’s something for everyone at Moonstone’s 39 trails and 13 lifts. Wait times in lines are short, and there is also a half-pipe and terrain park serviced by a dedicated quad lift. An adult weekend ticket is priced at a hefty $44, while a full season pass runs at $670.

In addition to the larger resorts, several relatively close smaller ski “hills” can be found, including Glen Eden (near Milton), Devil’s Elbow (33 km from Peterborough), and Chicopee (in Kitchener). These more modest ski areas offer between 11 and 14 trails, with 5-6 lifts each. Chicopee prides itself on being a “learning performance center” where beginners get an introduction to the sport in a relaxed and inviting manner. If you’re looking for a fairly quiet and economical locale to polish your skills on the slop, one of these areas would make an ideal destination.

For those seeking to avoid the busy lineups during peak times, there is always the option of joining a private ski club. Mansfield Ski Club and the Caledon Ski Club both offer private memberships with initiation fees priced at $5,000 and $10,000 respectively. These prices do not include annual maintenance fees or additional costs for family members who plan to ski. Both Mansfield and Caledon are closed to the public during the usual busy periods (weekends, holidays) making them less attractive to most recreational skiers. In terms of value for money, those that don’t ski every weekend would probably be better off taking an occasional getaway to Whistler Blackcomb, Lake Louise or Mont Tremblant.

Most of the resorts mentioned above offer a wide variety of activities and amenities to ensure maximum customer satisfaction. Blue Mountain, Hockley Valley and Horseshoe Resort all have spas where you can get a rejuvenating body polish, a Swedish massage, and a host of other lavish treatments. These resorts also house fine dining establishments, like the decadent Oliver & Bonacini at Blue Mountain, the quaint Horizons dining room at Hockley Valley and charming Silks restaurant at Horseshoe Valley. Finally, there are cozy bars to kick back and enjoy a specialty martini or import beer to cap an evening of winter fun.

Wherever you live in Ontario, you owe it to yourself to seek out the ski resort that’s ideally suited to your personal needs. If you’re hesitant because you’ve never skied before, remember that virtually every resort offers lessons. Always call ahead to check whether advance bookings are required to get a qualified instructor. It’s never too late to embrace the fun and excitement of skiing, especially with so many resorts to choose from so close to home.

For up to date and detailed weather information on all Canadian ski resorts along with links to individual websites, simply surf to Sno Country Mountain Reports.

Blue Mountain
Hockley Valley
Horseshoe Resort
Devil’s Elbow
Chicopee
Mansfield Ski Club
Caledon Ski Club
Whistler Blackcomb
Lake Louise
Mont Tremblant

All prices quoted are exclusive of GST and correct at time of publication (12/12/2006).

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