Wednesday, November 12, 2014

DAY TRIP TO BLUE MOUNTAIN

It was the Thanksgiving weekend and we decided to go for a drive north of the city to check out the fall colors. It was a beautiful day and the drive was uneventful. My partner was in the passenger seat taking pictures and my son was in the back seat enjoying the scenery. 



Tractors for sale.





Green barn and silo.




The power of the wind.



Grain elevator in the distance.  Click on the link to find out more about the grain elevator.



http://www.town.collingwood.on.ca/node/483


I had printed a Google Map to Blue Mountain and got it out when I got closer to our destination. I knew the way to Collingwood from Brampton, but getting to the actual attraction was tricky. Either the map needed an update or someone needed to add a few more signs saying that you’re on the right track. I threw the map aside and just went with my natural sense of direction. I could see the mountains and I knew I was on the right path when the vehicular traffic picked up. And then when I saw the crowds of people I knew that I was in the right place. 

There were four entrances, each one leading to a different place: red signs labeled 1 South led to the South Base Lodge, blue signs labeled 2 Village led to The Village, orange signs labeled with 3 Inn led to the Blue Mountain Inn, and black signs labeled 4 North led to the North End parking lot.  I came across three large dirt parking lots but they were all full. It was a job trying to get through the people. We wondered what was going on.

My partner got frustrated and started talking stupid saying how he wasn’t going to be walking all over the place, and I tried to ignore him. I drove around some more and tried to find the entrance to The Village, but apparently it was a walk-through with parking on the outer circle. I got out of there and drove to the top of the mountain where there were a few attractions: zip-line, tours, some cave, and hiking/biking trails. Vehicles were parked on the side of the road and tickets were under everyone’s wiper. I drove some more and found a small parking lot. I was relieved to get out of the car as I was beginning to get “car fever.” We go out, stretched, and went for a short walk.

The crowds were unbelievable. There were people running, walking, biking, and a tour guide had people riding Segways. We had to yield right-of-way to bikers because they didn’t care where they went. We wondered if it was always like this or was there something going on. We stopped to talk to a few people; some were out of town, some were locals who told us that it was always crowded, especially on weekends. But it’s a ski resort, what is there to do other than that? Well, I guess they all had the same idea as we did.

We walked farther and took a few pictures. The scenery was nice. You could see the entire bowl shape of the southern end of Georgian Bay, to the east the Wasaga Beaches, the town of Collingwood, and to the north distant shorelines of the bay. It was hard to take pictures because there were so many people passing by, but we managed.



This is The Village from atop the mountain. It may look quaint, but looks are deceiving.


Then something happened, I needed to pee. There were no portable toilets anywhere, so I did what any woman would do, went into the bushes. Not a very good idea. The bushes were also swarming with people! My partner and son walked with me half-way down one of the slopes and I squatted in some thick underbrush while the boys kept watch. I couldn’t understand why a big attraction like Blue Mountain, brimming with people, did not have at least one portable toilet! 

We went into the woods and found that there were trails all through the woods. Stairs were built to help with the climb. Little streams flowed from above. It was very nice, but nothing remarkable for a two hour drive. I wanted to walk down the slope to get to The Village to check out the stores and to see if there was a place to eat, but the boys didn’t want to. My boys are couch potatoes which is unfortunate for me because it’s a fight every time I try to get them out. I was a bit disappointed, but I was tired from the drive and it was starting to get cold. We took some more photos and headed back to the car. 



My boys, the couch potatoes.

As we drove away, we heaved a sigh of relief. Even though we were outside we were surrounded by thousands of people. It was like downtown Toronto on New Year’s Eve. All we wanted to do was get out of there. My partner drove home, my son fell asleep in the back seat, and I dozed off in the passenger seat.  

When we got home it was late so we went for take-out. I sat at the computer munching on my fried chicken (yes, I eat fried chicken occasionally, don't judge me) and researching Blue Mountain. I came across some review sites and perused the reviews, seems like everyone who left a comment had nothing good to say about their experience there. Most people commented on the crowds, the expense, the lack of a decent restaurant – I’m glad we waited to get home to eat, and how going south of the border was a better idea. I copied a few comments below.


"Growing up in Toronto, Blue is the closest thing to a "mountain" that we have around here and therefore it seems to be the place to go. It has always been over crowded. To give credit to Blue, opening up the "orchard" area has seemed to disperse the crowds a bit, but 15 minute waits for lifts are still very common. I won't comment on the amount of snow because ultimately Mother Nature has final say on that front, but what I will say is that due to the sheer volume of people on the hill whatever snow there is gets quickly eroded away by around 11:00 a.m. After that the snow is slushy or very icy (depending on the temperature). The things that seem to be out of Blue's control however, are the clientele. Blue gets an inordinate amount of idiots on their hills. I'm not talking about beginners or simply young rowdy kids here; I'm talking about semi-experienced skiers/boarders that think they are on some sort of World Cup circuit and have no regard for anyone else on the hill. I've been to Blue many times over the last 30 years and just about every time I witness many near misses. It really is quite dangerous. Blue seems to have no patrols on the hill (other than the first aid patrol). It seems that these same people feel it's okay to throw cans and litter off of the chair lift. Never have I seen so much garbage under the lift anywhere! Just an FYI....if you are wanting to go to the terrain park, Blue charges EXTRA for that! I've never been ANYWHERE that charges extra for runs that you've already paid for!! My recommendation (even if it means you find this little gem) is that if you live in the Toronto area and want a weekend or a couple of days skiing/boarding...turn your car south and go across the border to Holiday Valley just south of Buffalo. Yes it's a longer drive, but they have more vertical there and the time will be made up by not waiting in line at the lifts."

"This is the first time I'm writing a review and I am hoping this would be a wakeup call for Blue Mountain if they ever read these reviews. I was there a couple a weekends ago when a friend's daughter got wiped-out by a snowboarder, right at the base of the run 20 or so meters from the Inn's lift. She was taken to the hospital by ambulance with a head concussion (she was wearing a helmet) but luckily she has recovered well. My 8yr old daughter almost got wiped-out by a Toronto ski Club instructor who jumped over the top of a hill without looking and seeing that my daughter and another child were skiing right in front of him past that edge. This was happening on the way to Happy Valley which is supposed to be "Slow area and green run" Yesterday we visited Blue Mountain resort again. This time the crowds were not as big, but they had all the resort's snow making guns blowing snow on an already foggy, and very cold (-15C) and windy day, reducing the visibility to ZERO in a lot of areas on most of the ski runs. I skied the north side and the Inn's side and I was constantly afraid that I could ram into a lift tower. I thought yesterday was the most dangerous ski experience I've ever had, despite skiing a lot of much bigger mountains (Colorado, Utah, Alberta, BC, Europe, etc.). I talked about this to the people running the lifts and they merely shrugged off my concerns. This resort doesn't seem to care about its customers' safety at all. They get big crowds during the weekend and on holidays because they're the only resort close to the GTA having a somewhat decent terrain. Very disappointed."

"Been twice to Blue recently and have been wiped out by a board both times. There really should be separate runs for each, since they move differently and boarders have larger blind spots. (Note I am an advance skier, with regular turns (not like beginners who travel across the hill erratically). Also so many boarders block the opening of the runs, instead of going off to the side of the run. There should be a designated area for adjusting boots & bindings. Safety is a real issue here at this hill. Not worth the risk, will go elsewhere."

"Again, it is Ontario, and Intrawest loves to add all the goodies in order to make you feel your somewhere else, you’re not it is just Ontario. So the prices are now high, the slopes are busy, low prices rooms hard to find close to hill, too much ice etc."

"I should start by saying that in Southern Ontario just about anywhere you go you can expect it to be busy. Blue Mountain however goes above and beyond this... From my visits there are always way more people at the resort than the hill can actually handle. The lift tickets are rather pricey for what you get (56 dollars for the day when I went). I did not have to rent, but people I was with did and the rates were high (38 dollars for a day). The hill itself is alright at best; I found the hill to be really chopped up and wasn't expecting this at all. I didn't find any of the runs to be terribly challenging, but there is a good variety. In summary Blue Mountain is an alright resort if you don't have any other options. Contrary to what many people think, it is not actually the biggest hill in Ontario, so don't believe everything you read. For anyone in Southern Ontario looking for the absolute best skiing/snowboarding you can find in the province... head up north to Sault Ste. Marie if you have the time. You will not be disappointed as Search Mont provides basically everything Blue Mountain doesn't... cheap lift tickets, non-existent lines, the best hill you can ski/snowboard in the province AND it’s bigger than Blue Mountain."

I and my family have been skiing at Blue Mountain for over 30 years. The only reason that we continue to ski there, is because of its proximity to our home, and our love of skiing. The Mountain itself has little to offer that is attractive to the avid or fairly accomplished skier. The staffs is inconsistent in their level of friendliness, courtesy, and enthusiasm, which I suspect is directly attributable to the level of interest and training supplied to them by their supervisors and managers. We have noticed a decided decline in the level of customer service/appreciation since the arrival of INTRAWEST. It is also interesting to note that Blue Mountain is one of the only resorts in North America that we have visited which will not guarantee your accommodation location. In other words, you may want, and indeed be prepared to pay for slope-side accommodation, but when you get there, you take what you get. Think twice before spending your hard earned money at this over-priced, underserviced excuse for a resort.

"Food is expensive. And forget buying gear there. But then that’s kind of expected. Why bother. When downtown Collingwood is approx. 3min away. And you can find a lot better options, Also when it comes to renting gear. You can rent gear just outside the resort. It’s a fraction of the price. Ps. AVOID HOLLIDAYS... IT WILL BE BUSY."

"Overhyped and overpriced. Crowds are too large you spend more time waiting for lifts than you do skiing. The mountain despite its posting has no expert or advanced runs. Any intermediate can ski any runs at Blue. Intrawest does such a great job drawing crowds into the area that it over loads all the services and eateries afterwards. The accommodations are very good but too pricy for the type of experience you get at Blue. The cost of everything in the village is exorbitant so don't lose or break anything or you will have to take a bank loan to get replacement equipment or clothing. My suggestion for the same price but a real hill is Tremblant. But explore Holliday Valley New York Ellicottville 53 runs with some great drops. Forget Blue. 1000 more vertical feet and it may be worth it."

"I am a Toronto area resident. And I would have to agree with all the arguments from the first post. I have had many equally dismal experiences at this mountain. And there are attractive options, close to the GTA, Barrie, for instance."



Even though I prefer cross-country skiing, I plan on returning to Blue Mountain in a few months perhaps for a night or two to gain a better perspective and report back with a more informative post.



www.bluemountain.ca

http://www.onthesnow.ca/ontario/blue-mountain/reviews.html