From Beach Bum to Snow Bunny: How I Learned to Love Winter
I’ll admit it. I am not a winter person. I would much rather hibernate until the first tulip blooms. So when I was given the opportunity to test out Horseshoe Resort’s moonlight ski, I was hesitant. How many layers would I need to pack? Do I have proper ski gear? Can I even ski? The inquiries from friends who know me well didn’t help much either: “You’re going where? Do you even ski?” After one night, I am happy to say I’ve gained a new appreciation for what I used to think of as a horrible time of
year. The experience just over an hour away from my home turned out to be a wonderful escape that helped me discover a new hobby.
DEPARTURE 2 P.M.: After overpacking piles of socks, mitts and hats, we’re off on a 90-minute drive from Toronto to Barrie (surprisingly, no traffic!). We’re there so early our room isn’t ready. A complimentary mug of hot apple cider and a welcoming fire in the lobby helps the time fly.
CHECK IN 4 P.M.: The bedrooms at the resort have been recently renovated with a upscale, clean design, complete with a flat-screen television and glass shower. With wooden shutters over the windows and a wooden headboard, it still has a rustic warmth.
DINNER 5:30 P.M: A moonlight ski means an early dinner. At Silks, one the resort’s six restaurants, we start with a Normandy Onion Soup with thyme scenting the sweetness of the vidalia onions, Ontario apple cider and cream – and in the middle, a brie and apple parcel. The smooth velvety texture was enough to cure a season’s worth of winter blues. Next up, Surf and Turf, presented like a piece of art. I almost hesitate to cut into it. But the aroma of bacon-wrapped beef tenderloins topped with jumbo tiger prawns and smothered in a rich pablano pepper cream sauce makes it hard to resist. When I am not digging into my meal, I’m glancing around at my neighbours’ meals. A Cajun spiced rubbed New York steak with a roast garlic aoli to my left , and pasta topped with grilled Portobello mushrooms drowning in a smoked tomato broth across from me. Chef Dylan Tullock’s menu is beautifully presented. At this point I think “Forget skiing! This trip is worth it for the meal alone.”
MOONLIT SKI 7 P.M.: After layering on our socks, sweaters and mitts, we’re almost ready to ski. The resort provides insulated ski boots (turns out I don’t need the extra layer of socks after all!) as well as skis and poles. Special Olympics coach Kathy MacCarroll gives our group a quick intro to the techniques used in cross-country skiing (keep your poles behind you) and explains how to get up if (when) we fall. Then we’re off, following the trail blazers with lanterns to light the pitch-black trail. At first, I feel like a deer on ice, getting excited at my progress, speeding up and then falling almost immediately. About 25 minutes in, we’re skiing at a good pace, and I’m regretting my multiple layers of clothing. Our first stop: a bonfire pit equipped with hot apple cider and marshmallows to roast. Then back on the trail.
When they said “moonlit,” they meant it We can’t get over how brightly the moon lights our path on the way back. My partner who was worried he would end up in pain because of his knee problems found cross-country skiing fairly easy on the joints.
APRES SKI 9 P.M.: Steaming hot coffee and a selection of desserts – phyllo-wrapped baked apples, Calvados crème brûlée and apple rum cake with vanilla vodka frosting – accompanied by live music and a blazing fire at the Fireside Lounge is a great way to reward ourselves for our hard work.
BREAKFAST 9 A.M: You can’t go wrong with buffet when it comes to breakfast. Silks has plenty of options from fruit and cereal to scrambled eggs and mini Belgian waffles (fruit coulis and whip cream, to boot!).
TUBING 11 A.M: Guests of all ages climb the escalator with big smiles on their faces, anxiously awaiting another ride down the steep, icy hills. For $20 for two hours, tubing is a load of fun and a great activity if you happen to have the kids or grandkids with you. You’ll be screaming like a kid again, too!
HOME 1:30 P.M.: The car ride is spent saying things like, “We can’t fight winter! We have to embrace it!” Who am I? Less than 24 hours at the Horseshoe Resort has converted me. I am officially a snow bunny.
THINGS I’D GO BACK FOR:
Horseshoe is also home to the Shizen spa. There’s no better way to ease post-ski hamstrings than with a relaxing massage.
The Crazy Horse: They had me at poutine! This casual spot is located on the grounds and you can indulge in your favourite pub food before you hit the slopes.
Maze: Yes, there is a maze that you can lose yourself in. Or step up on the observation deck and watch others find their way.