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Blue Mountain

Blue Mountain

Travel Midwest
By Jim Neff
posted: 12/15/2001

In 1935, members of the Blue Mountain Ski Club would hike to the peak of Blue Mountain and plunge down rudimentary trails mined with stumps, boulders and ravines. Ten years later, its humble beginnings were greatly enhanced by Jozo Weider, a young Czech immigrant hired by the Toronto Ski Club. Weider put a sign outside the Blue Mountain lodge that read: "Four Instructors: Lessons All Day. He also built a new lodge that could accommodate 38 guests; delivered and cleared a decent trail system; and got the Red Devil—a nine-passenger sleigh pulled by a ropetow—to operate dependably.

But Weider's vision was far grander than his initial accomplishments. His ultimate goal was to build a complete ski village. He started the process by procuring a 999-year lease on Blue Mountain from the Toronto and Blue Mountain ski clubs. Thus, he transformed the area from a private ski facility to a public one. Unfortunately, Weider didn't live to see his vision fully realized, but his family carried the torch, developing Blue Mountain into the sixth most-visited ski resort in Canada—even without a real ski village.

The skiing at Blue carries its own weight, but the resort has one other priceless asset: its location. It sits in the middle of one of the most gorgeous landscapes in North America, overlooking pristine forests and the Georgian Bay. The top of the ski area rests on a two-mile-wide section of the 45-mile Niagara Escarpment. "We like to say that Blue is as wide as Whistler is tall, says Director of Marketing Paul Pinchbeck. Each of its 34 trails is a rivulet—an isolated trail, spilling 720 feet to the valley floor.

After half a century, Weider's missing village is on the way—thanks to a cash infusion ($500 million in Canadian dollars) from Intrawest, which partnered with Blue in 1999. Intrawest's Debbie LaFave says "Blue Mountain was already a vibrant resort, so all we're doing is helping take Weider's dream to a higher level. By 2010, Blue will have nine lodges, 1,800 condo-hotel units, 800 townhomes and single-family homes, plus a village clustered around three plazas, with 70 shops and restaurants. Already, a quarter of the development is in place in hopes of attracting skiers from Detroit, Buffalo and Cleveland, as well as the 10 million people who live in Toronto's metro area, 90 minutes away.

Blue's trail system is broken into four distinct pods, each with its own high-speed six-pack (and two more on the way) augmented by eight additional chairs spread across the mountain. The South Base features the bulk of the novice terrain and houses a new childcare center. One notch north is the Village Base, scored with intermediate terrain and anchored by the Grand Georgian and Weider Lodges. The Georgian recalls the grandeur of old Canadian railroad hotels, while the Weider resembles a rugged alpine lodge. A must-see in this quarter is Memory Lane, a trail hosting a garden of copper and marble daisies, each honoring a significant person in Blue's history. Farther north is the Inn Base with the tradition-rich Blue Mountain Inn and Jozo's Bar (the original saloon) at the bottom. Adventurers in this area can suck up the bumps on Mogul Alley or hit the superpipes at Badlands Terrain Park. The hardcores will move farther north to the North Base—the original section of Blue—which contains nine expert runs.

All four areas at Blue are sure to be covered in white—whether or not the bay delivers—thanks to Blue's $10 million computerized snowmaking system. Sitting in front of his display terminal, where each light represents one of 300 snowguns, snowmaker Harry Cummings can create a blizzard with the click of a mouse.

One of the best aspects of Blue is that—as in Weider's days—the ski school is at the heart of the operation. Nowadays, the fleet of instructors has grown from four to 265. Still, the mission remains the same: "to make every skier—whether here for a day or a week—feel like part of our family, says ski schhool director Chris Lewis. To that end, the Blue school includes a menu of choices, including adventure camp for kids, race clinics, women-specific programs and packages for families. The best thing about Blue is that even with all the great skiing and new developments, the resort has stayed true to its roots. It's just a few more steps closer to fulfilling Weider's dream.

Click below for a dining guide and details of Blue Mountain.

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