When you imagine Canadian ski resorts you’ll no doubt picture the classic triangular peaks, the powder snow of the Rockies, and the buzzing ski villages of Whistler and Banff. But what’s often forgotten is it’s not just western Canada which offers world-class skiing.
Ontario is home to dozens of ski resorts with much cheaper lift tickets, many of them close to Canada’s largest and most interesting cities, such as Toronto and Ottawa, offering travellers a convenient, diverse and inexpensive Canadian ski vacation. If Ontario is home then these could be perfect for a weekend road trip. We took a look at the five best ski resorts in Ontario.
Blue Mountain Resort
Blue Mountain is Ontario’s answer to British Columbia and Alberta’s super ski-resorts like Whistler and Fernie (it’s Canada’s third most popular ski resort).It’s the biggest resort in Ontario and it’s only a two hour drive from Toronto so it’s great for weekend trips for Torontonians.
Its pedestrian-only village looks more European than anything North American – there’s live music most afternoons and evenings through winter in lively après bars. The village has plenty of shopping options for those who crave more than downhill thrills on ski holidays. Blue Mountain Resort paved the way for skiing in Ontario – this year they’re celebrating 76 years of business. The mountain offers beautiful views out over the Niagara Escarpment and great off-piste skiing in perfectly gladed sections of the mountain. But beginners are also catered for here better than any other resort in Ontario. In fact, Blue Mountain has been ranked one of the most family-friendly ski resorts in all of Canada. There are plenty of thrills for more experienced skiers – 46 percent of the mountain is rated advanced terrain, and there are freestyle parks with a super-pipe (that even has its own lift). Off the slope there are many things to do – activities like snowshoe tours, skating, tubing and day spas. You’ll also find the best on-mountain restaurants in Ontario and hotels, such as the four-diamond resort, The Westin Trillium House.
Horseshoe Resort is easy to get to – it’s just an hour’s drive north from Toronto, part of what’s referred to as Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe region. First established by a local builder in 1962, Horseshoe Resort is now one of Ontario’s best ski options starting in December there’s a new four million dollar six-seat chairlift set to start operation. This ski resort has 29 runs in total and a terrain park with Ontario’s best ski-cross course – though everyone from beginners to experts are catered for. It’s actually the 45 kilometers of cross-country ski trails that run through the pretty woodlands around the resort that have made it famous in Ontario. Lift tickets are less than a half of what you’ll pay at Whistler so it’s much more budget friendly. Buy you won’t miss out on gourmet experiences, there’s a high-end steakhouse at the resort featuring Dylan Tulloch, one of eastern Canada’s best chefs who trained at Whistler’s best restaurants. If you prefer to stick to a budget experience, there’s also cheap-and-cheery sports grills and bars. Horseshoe Resort has a long ski season and it also offers plenty of off-piste activities for those who like to do more than just ski, like snowshoeing, fat biking and snowmobiling.
Searchmont Resort is one of eastern Canada’s prettiest ski mountains. It’s located in northern Ontario along the mountains of the great Canadian Shield and is home to some of the Earth’s oldest rock formations, which you’ll get to ski on.
The best thing about skiing at Searchmont Resort is that although there is only 18 ski runs, each run is entirely unique and feels different to all the others. The terrain park is worth the visit to – it has one of the best parks in all of Ontario.
Located 40 kilometers north of the town of Sault Ste. Marie, it’s not as conveniently located to Toronto and Ottawa but it’s ideal for those wanting to visit the Great Lakes or the US which is just across St Mary’s River. It’s your classic ‘old-skool’ remote Canadian ski mountain that gives you the chance to experience true mountain hospitality. You can meet locals at rustic après ski bars where the beers are cheap and plentiful.
Seachmont is family friendly as well. The resort has ski schools and beginner slopes in addition to the off-piste pursuits. On top of it all, Searchmont has cheap lift tickets – $60CAD for adults and $21CAD for kids under 10. Night skiing is available if you don’t want to get off the slopes and can handle the cold.
Calabogie Peaks Resort
Calabogie Peaks Ski Resort is located just 50 kilometers out of Canada’s capital, Ottawa, in eastern Ontario. But its proximity to the city doesn’t mean it’s simply a ‘city hill’. This is the resort with the highest vertical descent in all of Ontario. There are 29 runs on the mountain including the longest green beginner trail in Ontario, and there’s four terrain parks. There’s 11 lifts on the mountain so although the resort can get crowded because of its proximity to Ottawa, it has very few lift lines even in the busiest months of winter. For a small mountain, Calabogie Peaks offers a lot of variety in both its ski options and its off-piste pursuits. Lively après bar with regular music festivals through winter make Calabogie a fun ski trip destination. There are plenty of family-friendly bistro options and also one of regional Ontario’s best fine dining restaurant. You can also stay in sprawling suites with outdoor hot tubs and spas – and if you like, you can take a helicopter scenic flight from Ottawa into the resort.
Mount St Louis Moonstone Resort
Also located within Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe region just outside Toronto, Mount St Louis Moonstone is the largest family-owned ski resort in Ontario. Many would say its also home the best ski slopes in Ontario. It has Canada’s most advanced snow-making system so the snow is always dependable. Mount St Louis Moonstone Resort has been around since the mid-1960s but these days it’s a pretty slick operation, home to 12 chairlifts, 36 ski runs and five of the province’s best terrain parks. While there’s no accommodation and few après options on the mountain, you’ll find one of Ontario’s best cultural hot-spots, Barrie, just a few minutes drive away. Barrie’s historic downtown is located in a valley surrounded by a lake and is full of fashion boutiques, restaurants, local art shops, theatres and bars – it also hosts popular local annual winter festivals throughout the winter months.