Long Winters, Short Lines
By Mike Spry
There are two types of Southern Ontarians: Those who count the seconds until winter arrives, and those who can’t wait until it ends. For those of us in the former category, now is the winter of our content. Meteorologists are predicting a long one, aided by La Niña and a robust lake effect sure to bring both heavy snow and yet warm breaks.
Sounds like the perfect winter for the slopes. Whether you’re a skier, snowboarder, or just an après-ski professional, skiing around the Greater Toronto Area presents some unique challenges. The weather can fluctuate unpredictably, the traffic can be cumbersome, and snowfall absent altogether. And that’s before you even get to the hill, where long lines, poor grooming, and poorer company can make for a frustrating—and yet expensive—afternoon.
Private ski clubs are a marvel of a solution for GTAers who love to ski but are turned off by the pastime’s inherent challenges. These clubs offer what no other resorts can: short lines, state-of-the-art grooming and snowmaking, above-the-fray dining, and even daycare, among innumerable other amenities. Think of these resorts as country clubs for the chilled months—small communities of enthusiasts to spend your winters with.
Read on to see which private ski club is best for you. Bundle up, and invest in your family’s winter.
Alpine Ski Club
Just two hours north of downtown Toronto, on the eastern front of the Niagara Escarpment, lies the kind of winter experience one imagines demands a longer trip. The Alpine Ski Club boasts the most trails of any ski club in the region. This Ontario gem promises thirty-six runs on 20km of beautiful marked trails, half of which are ideal for beginners, but plenty of challenges for advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders, all readily accessible from five ski lifts. Panoramic hilltop views are spectacles, as are the runs.
The club was the winner of the 2021 Simcoe Reader’s Choice Award for Best Ski Resort, Best Wedding Facility, Best Banquet Facility, Best Live Entertainment Facility, and Best Recreational Facility. But that’s just the tip of the summit. Alpine Ski Club is a private resort that allows its members the rugged joy of winter sport paired with the comfort of urban amenities. Spread over 120 acres at an elevation of 760 feet, the 45,000-square-foot clubhouse has sweeping views of the Escarpment and Georgian Bay and offers private spaces, full food and beverage service, an adult lounge and fireside bar, plus childcare at the Little Kids’ Club.
• New 45,000 sq.ft. clubhouse
• Robust social calendar of events
• World-class on-hill programs (producing Olympic-level athletes)
• Extensive network of snowshoe, cross-country ski and hiking trails
Beaver Valley Ski Club
On the steeper part of the Niagara Escarpment, and just a stone’s throw from the Bruce Trail is Ontario’s Beaver Valley, known for its apples, agrarian beauty, and winter recreation. At its heart is the Beaver Valley Ski Club, a private ski resort that offers 20 ski and snowboard runs serviced by six chairlifts, 12km of cross-country skiing, numerous snowshoe trails, a terrain park, and two clubhouses—all less than two hours up Highway 10 into the bucolic splendor of Southern Ontario.
Après-ski is as Canadian as hockey, and where better to wind down from a Saturday of skiing than with live music and a cocktail in the adults-only lounge. But Beaver Valley is truly for the whole family, with registered Early Childhood Education staff at their Playschool childcare centre for kids 6 months up to 6 years old. Crafts, skiing, and outdoor activities are just some of the offerings for your little ones, plus private lessons for the shyer kids. Beaver Valley is “recognized as an industry leader and provider of progressive park features, outstanding park etiquette and safety, and high-level ski and snowboard events” and will surely make your family winters ones to remember.
• Signature run called Avalanche; The steepest groomed run in Ontario
• Great terrain parks
• Access to a variety of snowshoe trails
Caledon Ski Club
What if I told you that you could be part of the Greater Toronto Area’s premiere family-oriented skiing, snowboarding, and multi-seasonal activity centre less than 45 minutes from the downtown core? Impossible? Not at all—welcome to the Caledon Ski Club, 55 acres of private majesty just outside the city.
Just north of Mississauga, you’ll find one of the GTA’s greatest treasures where the Niagara Escarpment and Oak Ridges Moraine collide, and just a snowball’s throw to the Bruce Trail. Here you’ll discover 25 runs for all ages serviced by 6 all-quad chairlifts and two magic carpets, plus 8km of snowshoe trails, a pristine outdoor ice rink, a 9-hole disc golf course, plus a terrain park for the progressive winter enthusiast. Your après-ski is catered to by contemporary cuisine and pizzerias in two lodges, childcare for kids ages one to five, shuttle service, a ski school, plus a host of off-season activities.
“We chose Caledon Ski Club because of its close proximity to Toronto and wonderful family environment, perfect for teaching your children how to ski and a variety of other activities for children and adults continually throughout the year.” — Jeff & Natallia Hergott
• Closest Private Club to Toronto
• Fantastic Recreational and Competitive PrograMming, leading to Members competing in both PyeongChang and Sochi Olympics
Craigleith Ski Club
For over 60 years, Craigleith has been offering Southern Ontario the best of winter fun along the edge of Georgian Bay. Thirty-two runs carved into the Niagara Escarpment powered by 6 lifts. Only two hours from the city, the hills are covered with the latest in snow-making technology (the best in Canada) from 500 automated snow guns converting 6000 gallons of water per minute to snow. Add in a base lodge filled with delectable eats, a full-service bar and a Starbucks in the lobby, Craigleith offers all the amenities you need for a winter wonderland.
“When considering where to ski in Ontario, community and programs ranked as important as the clubhouse and amenities for us. Our family chose Craigleith as we felt their brand and values as a ski club were aligned with our personal ones. We enjoy the laid-back and social atmosphere. The check-your-ego-at-the-door mindset really makes for a fun and easy-going environment – free from politics and cliques. The friends who introduced us to the club, and the new ones we’ve made – whether through new circles or reconnecting with people from our past – have become an integral part of our lives both on and off the hill. Since the pandemic hit in March, we quickly made the bold move to commit to living in Craigleith for 3 years. We’ve been able to really form a fun group nearby the club that participates in not only skiing but hiking, biking, beaches, dinners, and more! We’ve really embraced being here and haven’t looked back!” — Steve & Jessica Cryer
• Breathtaking views of the beautiful Escarpment and Georgian Bay
• State-of-the-art snowmaking
• Outstanding terrain
• Competitive ski and snowboard programs for all ages
Devil’s Glen Country Club
Duntroon, Ontario, is a delightful township known for its love of sports, proximity to the Bruce Trail and the Niagara Escarpment, and Devil’s Glen. Built on over 200 acres nestled into the Escarpment, Devil’s Glen offers 24 runs serviced by five lifts reaching an elevation of over 500 feet, plus 20km of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails, 6 km that are groomed, traipsing along the Bruce Trail. All of this plus a pro shop; snowboard, ski, and racing instruction; state-of-the-art snowmaking and grooming; a terrain park, and so much more.
Truly a family spot in the spirit of the Greater Toronto Area, Devil’s Glen also offers its Little Devils program. The initiative is dedicated to ensuring safe and fun childcare for newborns up to six-year-olds, plus offers its Weekend Mini Club drop-in program so that the whole family can enjoy its much-needed time on the slopes. Your après-ski time is spent in what is perhaps the crown jewel of the property, the Eberhard Zeidler-designed ski lodge from the renowned architect who designed Canada Place, Ontario Place, and innumerable other Canadian landmarks. This is truly a modern amenity with a nostalgic feel—you can even see families setting up grills all winter long. A truly postcard locale.
• Over 500 acres on some of Ontario’s most spectacular countryside
• Unique size; one of Ontario’s smallest memberships for a Private Ski Club
• Groomed trails that are second to none
• Northern exposure and protection from winds
The Georgian Peaks Club
Eight hundred and twenty vertical feet. Eighty-six skiable acres. Twenty-four trails. Five lifts. Two levels of terrain parks. And the only ski area in Southern Ontario with enough vertical rise to hold a F.I.S. (International Ski Federation) sanctioned Giant Slalom race.
This is Georgian Peaks—a one-of-a-kind ski club experience burrowed into the Niagara Escarpment and within a ski spray’s distance of Georgian Bay. The club was founded in 1960, and the property has bragging rights to an elevation 250ft higher than any other club in the region. They recently broke ground on a new lodge, which will be the epicentre of an already majestic locale.
This club promises big hill runs, community, and energy, in the package of a small community just outside of Toronto. The mountainside decks are framed in peerless views of the region—it’s like living in a postcard. Enjoy an après-ski with three licensed lodges and four food venues (adult-only Founders Lounge, the deli and salad bar, and the mountainside BBQ and pizza oven), plus over 20 beers on tap throughout, and three fireplace lounges. And nothing extends après-ski like a kids’ club and daycare so that the whole family can recover from a day on the slopes.
• Over 800 feet in elevation
• Alpine Programs have placed more athletes on Canadian National Teams than any other Club in Ontario
Osler Bluff Ski Club
In 1948 two buddies from Quebec sought out shorter lines and privacy for them and their ski community. Their journey took them to Collingwood, Ontario where the locals pointed them towards Osler Bluff. Two generations later, the ski club is an Ontario institution.
Osler Bluff has grown into a winter wonderland, a destination for discerning families featuring a 6.5 acre terrain park; a liquid-cooled ice rink; 27km of snowshoeing trails; a summer club with two tennis courts, heated pool, change house, and a play area for small children; a newly re-fashioned clubhouse, an upper chalet, the renowned Orchard Lodge; plus “a brimming social calendar, including themed après, buffet dinners, junior après activities, family events and much more.”
Plus ski hills. Osler Bluff boasts a number of things that many Ontario ski hills can’t: a staff with 90 years of service to the province’s ski and snowboard community, nearly 750 feet of elevation, one kilometre runs, and the most skiable acreage per member of all the region’s clubs—all within two hours of Toronto’s downtown core. One hundred and thirty acres of pristine trails edged into the Niagara Escarpment promises long runs, long days, and winter wonder.
• Snowshoe trails through some of the Niagara Escarpment’s most stunning environments
• One of the highest ski hills in Ontario
• A liquid-cooled 50 x 100 foot skating rink