For the last five years or so, a small group of Hinterlandian skiers has made a tradition of skiing our local bump, Hidden Valley, at least once after the lifts close for the season. Most years, the Muskoka Tele Band has enjoyed lovely spring conditions and full coverage, leaving us wondering why they shut the place down. Eventually, it seems, most people just lose interest in skiing. Not everyone, though!
Last weekend, after the resort hosted the traditional pancake breakfast, dress-up day and puddle jump, the plug was pulled on local lift-served. There was no snow anywhere else in the area. For obvious reasons, we knew that this year's Tour de Valley would have to happen sooner than later. I can see the hill on my drive home from work and had been observing that conditions were deteriorating quickly in the heat. When we learned that our newest member, The Peelstickah, was back from an epic bike tour in South America and in the neighbourhood, I knew that this weekend was the time. We arranged to meet at the usual spot this morning, though were missing one die-hard, as Hondo had jetted off to Haiti to work with an aid project earlier in the week.
Our main destination for the day: The Face and The Back Trail. But we couldn't park here due to stealth reasons.
So, with Telemark Dave, SBR, The Peelstickah, Jeff the Man and his faithful Samoyed, PowPow, booting up in the mud on a gloomy Saturday, the 2012 Tour de Valley was on (well, actually, the dog didn't have to boot up). Later, we all confessed having serious doubts about the sanity of the project and really only showed up due to peer pressure. In the end, we had a great time. We were skiing, how could we not have a great time?
Hiking up from the stealth parking spot. Note the camoflaged dog on the left.
Conditions were, uhh, not so great. After baking in the sun for a week, what snow that remained was sun-cupped, cracked, broken and with the recent drop in temperature, fairly firm. Scrapey, you might say. I was glad I selected my Sick Birds for the tour, as opposed to the lighter skis that others had.
After hiking up, we had to hike down to put skis on. Note the camoflaged dog on the right.
First run down The Flying Dutchman was a bit sketchy, so we quickly headed over to the other side.
But not before Jeff and PowPow checked out the puddle jump. Looks deep.
Woo hoo, on top of the world and skiing! Is Telemark Dave trying to crush my head? Oh, no!
The Face was interesting. Steep, well baked, then frozen.
The Peelstickah, our token Alpine Tourist, makes a nice jump turn over the crust.
We made the young guy with the cyclist legs and AT boots kick steps.
Then it was time for refreshments! When the squirrel starts barking, you have to listen.
Freshly refreshed, TD skis down to the lake. Note the "black ice" ready to disappear.
The blue square Back Trail had the best snow of the day.
All good things come to an end and we had to hike back the the cars. This is a ski trail we are walking on.
I'm the oldest skier on the mountain and keeping up with these whippersnappers is tiring me out!
Aaah, spring skiing!
A stone's throw from the ski hill, the golf course is looking pretty green. What a winter!
Pick whichever thumbnail looks the clearest, wait for it to load, then scroll around. When the image loads, your monitor will show the upper left part of the area, which is usually north of Thunder Bay, so scroll down and to the right to see central Ontario and some of northwestern NY.
It is true colour, so if it looks like snow and ice, it is snow and ice. I check this image in the fall too, you can see the progress of the fall colours. Pretty cool. Also scroll down and see the wild patterns in Lake Erie. If you click on "download jpg file" you get a better resolution.