Ontario’s Private Ski Clubs
By Elli Davis, January 24, 2013
Spending time outside during winter might not sound as appealing as a walk in a spring garden, but the cold outside does not need to rule out all of your outdoor activities. I have been thinking about skiing since we got so much snow here in Toronto. Have you tried it this season? If you have not, as standing in long lines surrounded by strangers is too frustrating for you, you should consider joining a private ski club. In this article, I will introduce some of the interesting private ski clubs in Ontario!
17431 Mississauga Road, Caledon
Torontonians who do not like long car rides can also enjoy fresh air and wonderful snowy conditions. Caledon Ski Club is approximately a 45-minute drive (70 kilometres) from Toronto — very close to the city, yet it seems like a completely different world. Every season, from December to March, Caledon Ski Club offers its members skiing on "26 runs, with six chairlifts and two conveyor lifts for beginners." When considering how popular and respected the club is today, it is amazing that Caledon “began in 1958 on a farm north of Inglewood Ontario when a small group of friends decided to install a homemade rope tow on the property,” as its General Manager, Mike Porter, pointed out.
The club aims to satisfy everybody, so its managers continuously make sure that the facilities, services, and terrain are well suited to the needs of every single one of the club members regardless of age (children are welcome too; there is a special nursery and ski area just for them), their style of skiing/snowboarding, and their skill level (their ski school is ready to welcome anyone who wants to improve). Mike explains, “Our goal is to deliver the Caledon Experience the Caledon Way in a fun, safe, family oriented, recreational environment!”
If you need a new pair of ski shoes, a new snowboard, or any other equipment before you hit the slopes, you can get it all at the club's pro shop. It is very convenient: you do not have to head back home if you have forgotten something, since you can just purchase it right at the club. Moreover, every spring, all club members meet up for Gluhwein, a masquerade barbecue, to wrap up the season in style. For passionate skiers, this event might be a little bittersweet, as they have to say goodbye to the slopes for a few months, but it is nice to socialize with fellow club members nonetheless.
Initiation Fees are divided into several categories. Adults (people over 30) pay $12,000, while the fee for young adults (ages 18 to 29) is $8,000, and their spouses, as well as children (ages 6 to 17) can become club members for $ 6,000. Yearly dues are not the same for everyone; they very much depend on age, and they also regularly change.
As Mike noted, “Three generations of skiers and boarders have made Caledon their winter playground where our members and guests have access to some of Canada’s best instructors and coaches.” Sounds like a wonderful winter getaway!
795534 The Blue Mountains Clearview Townline, Town of the Blue Mountains
What could be a better motivation to start offering your own excellent customer service than a terrible personal experience? A crowded ski resort and long lines on a 1948 ski trip to Quebec are precisely the reasons Struan Robertson and Bill Kingsmill made the decision to create their own private ski club, located approximately 155 kilometers and two hours from Toronto.
Osler Bluff Ski Club
The Osler Bluff Ski Club (OBSC) was born in 1949, letting its member forget all about overcrowded slopes. Within five years, the club had 300 members and quite a long waiting list, too. It is no wonder: the location of OBSC was chosen carefully, after talks with local farmers advising the best possible spot for skiing in the area. Everyone who could afford it wanted to ski in this place (with four lifts), whose "vertical drop of 743 feet is among the greatest in Ontario," and whose "natural terrain provides some of the longest, most scenic trails from beginner to expert." Those who prefer cross-country skiing or snowboarding will find what they are looking for too.
If you (or your friend/family member) do not feel confident enough to ski, Osler offers a simple solution: lectures by ski experts are available to all age groups and levels of experience. Racing is available as well for those interested. Members of the club can look forward to a lively social program for all age groups and frequent events. Those who want to join the club will not find detailed information about membership on the website, and I could not find out either. “We prefer potential members contact our Member Services Administrator so that all queries can be answered in person,” Susan Roseblade, Assistant General Manager told me. However, if you showed serious interest in becoming a club member, they will certainly address your inquiries. Nevertheless, better customer service would not hurt here.
17-242 Arrowhead Road, Blue Mountains
Founded in 1960, the ALPINE Ski Club has become a favourite destination for almost 1,000 families. ALPINE is very family-oriented, and it believes itself to be "in a class of its own." The members of this club can enjoy 35 trails, five lifts, three lodges, and "120 acres of pure skiing and snowboarding excitement" in the beautiful Niagara Escarpmen, located about 160 kilometres and two hours from Toronto.
A variety of skiing, snowboarding, and racing programs are available for everyone — young or old, beginners or experts. You can register online; there is a special, members-only section. Diverse social events are organized regularly, giving club members fabulous opportunities to get to know each other.
Worried about leaving your children alone? Luckily, ALPINE lets parents fully concentrate on skiing/snowboarding; the kids will be supervised by certified education specialists, so there is no need for concern. Moreover, any equipment you might need on the slope is available for sale or rent at the club's shop.
Those who would like to join a club that just screams "family" and "community" and enjoy its diverse terrain including "five of the steepest groomed pitches in Southern Ontario" have a chance to do so via the two introductory membership programs for 2013: the Under 40 Program and a special, two-year Introductory Membership Program. With both, you have to pay a deposit of $1,000, and you (together with your family, of course) can enjoy all the opportunities this private club has to offer.
628213 15th Sideroad, Mulmur Township Mansfield
You really do not have to travel for hours to reach skiing heaven. Mansfield Ski Club is yet another private resort near Toronto that is worth a visit. The motto of the club, “Closer than you think,” speaks for itself. It is about 100 kilometres, which means an hour drive, north of Toronto.
Mansfield was founded in the 1960s (it just celebrated its 50-year anniversary) and today it works as a kind of hybrid public and a private ski club. On Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays (also on holidays and March Break), it is open to the public, and it turns into a private ski club during weekends, which is a guarantee of open slopes and a peaceful atmosphere. “Mansfield has a tremendous family spirit and enthusiastic ski community that really makes us special!” as I learned from Judy Black, the club’s Marketing & Membership Sales representative. Sounds like a perfect place for winter weekend getaways — just you and your loved ones, fellow clubs members, the Mulmur Hills, no crowds or chaos, and “the highest vertical drop within an hour of Toronto.” The terrain in the club is mixed, and it has seven lifts, so that all skiers and snowboarders are satisfied.
As Mansfield celebrates its important anniversary, it has a number of special offers for the 2012/2013 season. A 50 per cent reduction in membership dues is one of them! If you become a full member from July 1st, 2012 to May 31, 2013, the initiation fee is as little as $5,000. You will also have to pay annual fees, which vary from person to person (for instance, senior family members pay $1,395, while the fee for senior citizens aged 65-74 is $720, and kids aged 6 to 15 pay $460).
Despite the reduced fees, this membership is for life, and it includes just about everything — from voting rights and reciprocal privileges at a number of clubs (the Ontario Racquet Club, Island Yacht Club, and The Oakville Club, to mention a few) to full access to all facilities. The club furthermore offers a variety of events for members, programs just for the little ones, racing programs for kids and adults, yearly club races, as well as benefits for families. For instance, children can use the services of the club under their parents’ membership until age 27, and grandchildren can ski under their grandparents’ membership until the age of 12.
If you want to find out if this is _the_ club for you, you can try out all its facilities (including the longest Magic Carpet® in North America) very easily. All you have to do is to sign up or the Trial Membership Program from July 1st, 2012 to May 31st, 2013. For that, you will pay a $1,000 initiation fee, a $450 capital contribution, and your annual dues. If you seem like a good fit and are satisfied with your trial, you will be able to become a full member in March 2013.
Warning: Mansfield is a private club during weekends only. For those who cannot get away from work during weekdays, it is a good choice — they can enjoy the perks of a private ski club any weekend they wish. If you and your family would like to use the privileges a private club offers also during the week, however, I am afraid you will have to search elsewhere.
Ski Bees is not your usual private ski club, but due to the fact it is quite an intriguing concept, I thought it was worth a mention. Ski Bees, “the largest Adult mid-week travelling ski club for both men and women,” as the club representative, Caroline Casey, noted, is not limited to one location — quite the contrary. For those who like change, it is ideal, as it offers mid-week skiing at some of Collingwood's private ski clubs.
For four decades, members of Ski Bees have been enjoying the fun experience that this ski club provides. To travel around various private ski clubs as a member of Ski Bees you have to sign up for a program (this season, it began January 9th, 2013) and for six weeks, on Wednesdays, you and other skiers from the GTA and southern Ontario can ski some of the most popular private clubs that Southern Ontario has to offer. Each week, you visit some of Collingwood’s acclaimed private ski clubs; all you have to do is come to the pre-agreed place, hop on the bus, and let the fun begin!
In addition to these Wednesdays, there are three optional open days at the end of February and the popular Ski Improvement day on a Thursday in February. Moreover, as Casey mentioned, the club organizes a “fantastic annual ski trips.” In 2013, Sun Peaks, BC, Val Gardena, Italy and Banff/Lake Louise, Alberta will be the destinations club members visit.
If your skiing skills are not quite perfect yet, Ski Bees can help in its Snow School program. According to its website, the club prides itself "with having some of the top ski teaching professionals in the province." Check them out and discover whether this is true.
Warning: If you are looking for a stable private club with its own special atmosphere, where you will meet the same group of people every time and whose slopes and lodges will become your second home for many years to come, this might not be an ideal choice for you. Ski Bees is a club for those who prefer change and want to ski in a different resort every time. But if you love to travel (not only around Ontario but around the world) and prefer experiencing something different every time you go skiing, it is quite ideal.