Skiing and Ontario aren’t usually thought of together — that is, the pairing isn’t well thought of. Quebec and B.C. boast the country’s best skiing, but even the former is a destination too far to facilitate making a weekend trip. Still, Ontarians shred, even when winter itself refuses to participate, as has been the case this year. Despite the fact that consistent subpar conditions have led to many runs keeping irregular hours (read: periodic closures), ski and snowboard season is still clinging by its wax. Here, five destinations both within and beyond city bounds. To the former, never has the need to call ahead been so crucial; as well, check City of Toronto Parks and Recreation’s ski hub. To the latter, this is indeed the year to look north; remember that while urban conditions lean drizzly if not entirely dry, a mere two- to three-hour drive up the 400 guarantees a wonderland of outdoor options.
IN THE GTA
Located just west of Toronto in Etobicoke, Centennial Park is a tiny hill admittedly better suited to the beginner; nonetheless, if you’ve only a few hours available, it can offer some small-t thrills. (How small? Cross country runners scale it uphill, daily.) Maintained by Toronto Parks and Recreation, Centennial features three slopes: beginner and intermediate (nice try), and snowboard-specific. It only has one conveyor lift and one t-bar, but doesn’t tend to develop Wonderland-level lineups. Day pass: $30. 256 Centennial Park Road, 416-394-8753.
North York Ski Centre/Earl Bales
With four runs and one small terrain park (two boxes and a rail), North York Ski Centre — more commonly known as Earl Bales — is also beginner- and easygoer-suited. By comparison to Centennial: Don’t expect a view even approaching picturesque, here, as it’s located on Bathurst Street, just south of Sheppard Avenue. Also run by Toronto Parks and Recreation, Earl Bales does offer both conveyor and chairlifts, and the city recently approved plans to construct a new four-person chairlift. Day pass: $30. 4169 Bathurst Street, 416-395-7931.
BEYOND THE GTA
Lakeridge Ski Resort
Nestled in the Oak Ridges Moraine in the township of Uxbridge, Lakeridge Ski Resort is a decent solution for frustrated GTA skiers, given that drive outside the city falls just under one hour. Lakeridge can provide a day of fun, barely, and certainly no more. It features two chairlifts and 23 runs, from green (beginner) to black diamond (expert), plus a mogul run. There is admittedly a decent mix of ranges, as the resort offers three terrain parks — mini, small, large — as well as a half-pipe, and one hill for snow tubing. Day and night pass: $60. 790 Chalk Lake Road, 905-686-3607
Mount St. Louis Moonstone
About two hours outside of Toronto, Mount St. Louis Moonstone is one of Ontario’s most famous ski resorts and, yes, it’s actually on a mountain. It has 40 runs, nine chairlifts and three carpets; only 14 of those runs are for beginners. The mountain has two terrain parks: the Junkyard, and the famed Outback. Probably the best park in Eastern Canada, the Outback includes a 100 ft. rail and huge jumps that draw skiers from all over the country. The mountain is divided by run difficulty, isolating different skill-level groups. Day pass: $60 (NB: no night skiing). 24 Mount St. Louis Road, R. R. 4 Coldwater, 1-877-835-2112.
Blue Mountain [pictured]
About three hours from Toronto, Blue Mountain is the perfect Ontario ski resort for a weekend getaway. With 36 runs open during the day and 25 at night, it is a very versatile resort (note: it’s also a four-season resort). Blue Mountain offers three terrain parks, including one advanced park that sports a super-pipe. There are 15 lifts, and no shortage of backyard trails. More than 25 stores, restaurants and bars in the Mountain’s very own village provide visitors with plenty to do when breaking from the slopes. (Three words: outdoor hot tubs.) Day and night pass: $70. 108 Jozo Weider Blvd, 705-445-0231
Image courtesy of Derek Purdy.