Adventure awaits at Snow Valley for families looking for high-speed skiing and tubing

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It all started with a Thunder Bay child’s dream in the 1940s.

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Nick Demy was in his mid-twenties when he dreamed of owning a ski resort. Through relationships, determination and a little country

boyish charm, Nick managed to secure land on the northern outskirts of Barrie, eventually known as Snow Valley.

Nick and a few buddies only worked with their hands, cutting trails day and night through dense forests infested with mosquitoes and black flies. Highway 400 did not exist, so major goods and supplies were shipped over muddy gravel roads. The mud was so thick and heavy that ropes connected the trucks to avoid getting stuck. They lived in tents and took advantage of long hours of jogging to the Queens Hotel, Barrie’s oldest watering hole, to buy pickled eggs and beer. They borrowed and scooped whatever they could find, eventually building cables and then a cabin with the help of new owner Murray Anderson.

The Triple S Club was also born: Skiing, security and sociability. Back then, lift tickets were $ 2 and locals accused them of getting rich, but their years of hard work, sweat and tears far exceeded any perceived wealth. Nick was a newlywed and couldn’t afford to team up, selling his stake to Hans Elder, another local businessman who continued to renovate the chalet and the hills. Snow Valley was making a profit, but to compete in a market with two other successful ski resorts within a 20-minute drive (Horseshoe Valley and Mount St. Louis / Moonstone) required a new vision and deeper pockets. This is where Snow Valley really takes off with Hans selling to a group of local Barrie businessmen.

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Money was no longer a concern so the search for a general manager and a ski school principal was underway with the hiring of Rob Butler from Horseshoe Valley. Rob is a personality, a hard worker who puts Snow Valley on the map with his daily ski tips for local TV station CKVR, now CTV Barrie. Rob did a great job as an ambassador for Snow Valley and skiing in general, but felt it was time to slow down, passing the baton to John Ball, who ran the Labatts ski program.

Ball is now in his 19th year as CEO and has never strayed from Snow Valley’s mission: families and learning. John and his wife Jane, a former teacher, live at the top of the hill. He’s a practical guy, who goes down in the morning and then sets off again in telemark in the evening. We recently had a great morning on the slopes and toured the property. The main chalet has a warm, house-style feel with two huge wood-burning fireplaces in the main dining room for warming the body and drying out gear. It’s like a house, because it once was.

As the chalet and cafeteria were relatively small, the owners had to meet the ever-increasing demand for more space. A 6,500 square foot cottage was built to handle the growing numbers, and a maintenance shed was neatly tucked away below. They also tackled the new trend in winter sports with a tube park, and not just any park, Ontario’s steepest and fastest tube park: 10 floors reaching speeds of 80 km / h. There’s also a much smaller tube yard for kids five and under with a separate tuber cabin.

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To complete the full winter experience, a 17 km cross-country ski trail runs through the surrounding scenic forest. For beginners, they will learn in the cool Adventure Park with graduated ski levels and four separate tracks, including an instruction area for snowboarders. But if you really want to see some roots, something that will make you smile, head to the Kids Village to see these tiny little skiers having a blast in the winter chill with equally cold parents, sitting in the bleachers and filming each and every. fall of their future Olympic stars.

Snow Valley is a family matter. It’s not fancy but it’s functional with a neat rental shop to the side as well as a huge parking lot. There are 20 pistes in total and eight ski lifts. Vaccination is not compulsory to purchase a lift ticket, but proof is required to enter the chalets.
Once again, the key to any successful ski operation is owning the skis and knowing what customers want. That’s why Snow Valley remains one of Ontario’s winter hits with something for every member of the family and well worth a visit. Ball tells me their 70th birthday will be a big party next season.

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SNOW NOTES

With the new provincial restrictions, there are a few changes to keep in mind. Daily lift ticket sales will be limited to 50%, so book your tickets in advance as daily tickets will not be sold… Indoor dining is closed but many resorts will offer take out. Again, your vehicle will be your locker room, warm-up center and restaurant… Indoor restrooms will be available, but proof of vaccination will be required to enter any cabin… As Horseshoe General Manager Jonathan Reid says : “We have always managed risk, it’s natural for us and part of our industry. … Kudos to AJ Leeming, General Manager of Glen Eden in Milton, for working with Canadian Tire Jumpstart charities, Conservation Halton and Scotiabank to promote skiing and windsurfing. First Tracks is a new two-day pilot program experience, for new Canadians. It’s so popular, already sold out for this season, but something to watch out for next season… And here’s a tip, get to the ski slopes early as the crowds don’t start until 10 or 11 so early risers get the perfect conditions and first descents… This weekend, it’s Blue Mountain.

Glenn Crouter is a ski / lifestyle reporter for Newstalk 1010 and a local ambassador for the Canadian Ski Council.

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