Are you sick of me telling you about my ski story yet? How I went from “I’m never doing that again” 17 years ago to becoming a total fanatic this winter?
Within the last five weeks, we’ve skied every weekend except Christmas, bought all four of us skis, boots and all manner of ski paraphernalia (yes, I am officially now poor) and are looking into March Break ski camp for our kids who’ve also fallen in love with winter thanks to the sport.
We actually look forward to the snow, and when the milder days erode the snow banks in our neighbourhood, the kids and I wonder aloud if we’ll be able to ski on the weekend. It’s been such a gift finding something all four of us genuinely love doing, and doing it together.
And that’s why when Blue Mountain beckoned, we packed up as quickly as we could to get there. Hosted by the beautiful Westin Trillium House, we spent three days soaking up everything Blue could throw at us. Because there’s more than just skiing at Blue Mountain Resort.
But since skiing is obviously a huge part of Blue’s winter offer, let’s start there.
What I keep telling everyone (whether they ask or not) is that the biggest piece of our ski success puzzle is lessons. I fully credit private lessons — not just for the kids but for Big B and me, too — with getting us off on the right foot. Literally. Some instructors are better than others, either because they’ve connected with my kids more effectively or helped them get past a mental block in a unique way, but I can tell you that the ski school at Blue Mountain is top notch. The K Man can be a handful with new people; he’s hesitant and cautious and nervous, and sometimes this manifests itself in poor and disruptive behaviour. We’re working on it. But in the meantime, I explain to new people that there may be some bumps.
Then along came Hans. And he was funny and engaging and patient. And despite one tearful fit after a fall, Hans managed The K Man in stride. Both of our kids arrived having only skied with the assistance of toe clips or holding onto an instructor’s pole to stay upright, and within 10 minutes — between Hans and our other instructor, Bronwyn — both were navigating the bunny hill like pros.
This seems like a good time to talk about the bunny hill at Blue. Or, I should write, hills. Plural. Because there isn’t just one. No, no – there are four. FOUR different hills on which to learn before you graduate to the biggie. There’s a teensy hill no higher than six or eight feet with a really mild incline. Then there’s a good-sized hill, which you get to by magic carpet. Then there’s an even longer hill with a slightly steeper incline and a few bumps here and there. And once you’ve mastered those, you move to a beginner hill that’s accessed by chair lift and has about a 45-degree incline at some points. So for beginners, you can really get comfortable and then challenge yourself over and over before you ever go ALL THE WAY UP.
Like I mentioned, though, there’s so much more to do at Blue Mountain in winter — even if you’re not a skier. We found ourselves wandering the pathways of the quaint village, shopping (OK, lots of shopping!) and hanging out near the fireplace in our hotel lobby. On one particularly rainy afternoon, we went to Croc-a-doodle to get creative — just remember to do this at the front end of your stay so there’s time to have your works of art fired, or you’ll spend a pretty penny shipping them home.
And if you need some mama me-time, I highly recommend a restorative yoga class on warm and therapeutic volcanic rock at iwa spa. I did my best to snap a pic of this strange but wonderful slab of rock on the top floor of the award-winning spa, but no picture could do it justice. If the yoga itself wasn’t soothing enough, just lying on this hot rock is said to burn 500 calories an hour. This was my second time on “the rock,” and both times have been incredible, but adding the yoga experience left me feeling like jello. Really good jello. The first time I came in with a terrible cold, and half an hour later walked out feeling at least 80 per cent better. It’s magical rock that is the stuff of unicorn legends and all you really need to know is that you have to try it.
If you’re into water fun, Plunge! is a fun place to kill an hour or two with the kids. It’s like a family version of Scandinave, with indoor and outdoor pools — even a rope swing. I liked that the hot tubs weren’t so hot that I wasn’t comfortable letting my babies get in:
At $12-15 per person (under-2s are free at Plunge!) for three hours, though, don’t do it at the expense of, say, the awesome Hike & Tube activity, which is about the same price:
- The Pottery: smoked trout charcuterie with these amazing and huge capers and a green pea puree that tasted nothing like peas; the garlic shrimp, done to perfection
- Oliver and Bonacini: our favourite restaurant overall, with something for everyone for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you’re eating healthy or on a cleanse, you can actually find something on the menu here that’ll work. Better still, don’t come to Blue Mountain when you’re detoxing. Notable dishes here include the chicken and leek potstickers, Fogo Island cod, grilled cornbread (dripping with gravy and goodness) and the s’more — seriously, HAVE THE S’MORE!
- Firehall Pizza: cool space, great food. You’ve gotta try the caprese salad here, which is topped with pesto, and the hand-cut pulled pork nachos. Both are outstanding. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the pizzas (we tried three and loved them all) but here’s a strange note…there’s no pizza on the kids’ menu. At a pizza joint. Very odd. So if your kids won’t eat your suped-up pizza, you’re stuck ordering them their own, which for my two was far too much
- Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory: Rewarding your kids for good behaviour on the slopes is easy when there are gargantuan candy apples waiting nearby. Choose any of the candy-, chocolate- or caramel-coated apples and request to have them cut. It makes handling and sharing these monstrosities much easier
After all this, I feel like we still only scratched the surface, and I look forward to reporting back once I’ve made it off the big bunny hill an to the top of Blue Mountain. (Wish me luck.)