Family Focused Blue Mountain Just Gets Bigger
By Lori Knowles
It's already Ontario's largest ski resort, and every year it just gets bigger.
Blue Mountain, situated 90 minutes north of Toronto on the Niagara Escarpment, has long been family-focused. From the 1940s, Jozo Weider and his family established the area as a hotspot for their friends and relatives. A place where kids could learn to ski, snowboard, race, freeride . . . you name it, and where adults could dine, play tennis, ski and party. There was always been a lot going on for everyone at Blue Mountain.
Although Jozo has since passed away and Intrawest has become a significant partner in Blue's operations, the Weider family is still involved, and Blue Mountain remains a super destination for skiing families. Intrawest is famed for their base village developments at places like Whistler/Blackcomb, Mt. Tremblant and Copper Mountain. Now Blue's condos, village squares, bars and restaurants are springing up nearly every week, and soon Blue Mountain should be on par with Tremblant, the gem that's consistently ranked among the top eastern North America family vacation destinations.
Among the most recent improvements: a 5,000-square-foot Childcare Center at Blue's South Base Lodge. Opened last season, the center is the hub of all family programs and activity. The Childcare Center includes a daycare, with play areas, kitchens, sleeping sections and outdoor play facilities. The Childcare Center is the ideal place for beginners, with access to rentals, green circle slopes, magic carpets and easy-to-ride lifts. It's also the spot where many of Blue's Adventure Snow School programs meet -- especially those for first-time skiers and kids.
Blue's Adventure Snow School offers packages for kids aged three to 19.
Ages three to six start out in eight-week programs that either include full-day childcare coupled with ski lessons, two-hour lessons only, or childcare only with no on-slope time. The program can also be purchased for single full days, and daycare services are available by the hour.
The Childcare Center is not limited to kids aged three and over. Its staff accepts babies from four months and up, giving new moms and dads a chance to put in some ski time together.
Older kids and teens will be stoked to hear news of Blue's two new superpipes. These Olympic-standard halfpipes -- featuring 18-foot walls -- have been newly excavated into Blue's Badlands terrain park for the launch during the 2002/03 season. Blue Mountain is now a player in the big leagues -- Whistler/Blackcomb and Tremblant are the only two other Canadian ski resorts to feature superpipes. A special pass is required to enter Badlands, as are completion of a twenty-minute orientation session and the signing of special waivers.
There are more programs for kids in the six to 19 age categories. Kids aged 6-12 can join Blue's Kids Camp. It runs seven days a week and the camp includes classes for all levels. The program features two hours of lessons in the morning and afternoon, plus lunch and guidance from a full-time instructor. And, eight-week programs are offered for ages
6-12, as well, that meets on Saturdays or Sundays for a full day of instruction, plus a supervised, bring-your-own lunch. There's also a six-week, Wednesday-night, 90-minute program for 6-12 year olds.
Freeski programs are making their debut at Blue this winter. Adventure Freeski sessions for 12-19 year-olds will run over an eight-week cycle, training in the parks and moguls. A similar Adventure program is open for snowboarders ages 9-17.
Information on all of these programs is available at Blue Mountain's Activity Center -- a new addition to its Village Base. Or families can stop into Blue's South Base Lodge, where the kids' snow school and learning center is located.
Off the slopes, the new pedestrian-only village is filling up fast with shops, cafés, bars and restaurants. An Indian Motorcycle Café opened earlier this year, as did a new Columbia shop, FUNK Inc., Starbucks, a wine store and an ice cream stand. All of it is featured in Blue's old-Ontario style, with lots of brick, ponds, a mill and a clock tower.
It's pulled together by a central square, which has a built-in, jumbo, outdoor movie screen new for this coming season. Family movies are screened regularly--kids and their parents can catch a flick at dusk while sipping hot chocolate.
Special events? Yes. The Pepsi March Break Family Week features coloring contests, snowpainting, and the ever-popular kids' lip sync contest, an annual hit at Blue Mountain. Sleigh rides will run during holidays from the Blue Mountain Inn to the Village Base and back again. And the Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, February 15, 2003, is an annual parents-versus-kids ski race, hula-hoop fest and Mountain Dew chugging contest.
While a work in process, there are still some concerns for families. It's a long way from the Village Base, home to most of the shops, restaurants and accommodations, to the South Base, where beginners and kids programs are located. But the on-demand shuttle should help.
And the future does look rosy for Blue Mountain. It's developing quickly, and time has proven Intrawest knows how to make ski resorts into family spectacles.
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