Skiing is a winter sport as iconic to our Canadian identity as hockey, curling, ice fishing, and automotive slalom (a.k.a. the daily Tim Horton’s drive-thru pickup). It is one of those activities where you never forget your first time, and you never truly lose your ability, no matter how much time has passed. Downhill, or Alpine skiing is an exhilarating experience. Once it is in your blood, it is hard to get out. For an added bonus, it is a great activity for overall fitness.
Last winter, my family and I had the wonderful opportunity to go skiing at Dagmar Ski Resort in Uxbridge. Dagmar is one of those places that will always be close to my heart, since this is where my classmates and I went in junior high school for our annual ski trip. Today, more than twenty years later, my partner Peter and I navigate the world of blended families. Between us, we have two boys, aged twelve and thirteen, and a fifteen-going-on-thirty teenaged girl. For two of our brood, last year at Dagmar was their first time ever skiing. Since then, we have been downhill skiing as a family several more times, and we hear nothing but “When can we go again? Can we go? We have to go again! When, when, when?!”
I may be wrong, but… I think they like it.
For Peter and me, skiing is one of those family activities we can feel good about, because not only are we actively spending time as a family, we are spending time as a family being active. All three of our kids are heavily into sports. Baseball, soccer, indoor soccer, hockey, spring hockey, swimming lessons, volleyball… the list is never-ending. But as parents, our part in the deal is not particularly active as we ferry them from one place to the next. Skiing is different. It is something we can share together. And as parents, we can be proud that we are teaching our kids the benefit of combining fun and fitness in a way that we don’t even realize (until the next day, at least) that we had been exercising.
Brimacombe is another one of our wonderful ski hills in York Durham Headwaters. Affectionately called The Brim, this world-class facility in Orono has been rated “The Best in the Snow Business” by the Canadian Ski Council. Last year, it hosted the Alpine racing event for the ParaSport Games in Durham Region. At Brimacombe, you will find a 300-foot vertical, 23 runs and trails, 11 night skiing runs, two terrain parks, two chalets, the Slopeside retail store, and the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiers, among other great features.
Naturally, Brimacombe’s general manager Mark Rutherford knows a thing or two about skiing for fitness. If you have been downhill skiing, then you will know that it is a complete body workout. It takes significant core strength to be able to guide and control your path with a pair of waxed blades on your feet that are nearly as long as you are tall. “I think anybody who has come out and skied for the first time will remember how physical an activity it is two days later,” Mark says. “It’s sort of like swimming, because you use all of your body: your core; your legs; your arms and upper body. It is all part of the process of moving yourself and finding your way down the mountain.”
Let us not overlook the trek from the parking lot into the chalet, and the chalet out to the ski hill. The distance itself is practically nothing when you are doing it on foot. But in rigid ski boots and with skis on, planting poles to get yourself moving, or carrying your equipment from the car to the chalet? It will get your heart pumping, no doubt about that. “If you’re like me with three kids and you ski regularly, you’ve carried a lot of their equipment over the years, too,” Mark laughs.
But that is the beauty of skiing. If you have never skied before and you are reading the above scenario thinking, “That sounds like drudgery,” we don’t blame you. But drudgery it certainly is not. There’s a sheer joy that comes with being outside on a crisp winter day, with the anticipation of a run down those hills in your mind. When you are excited just to get out onto the mountain, we promise you will carry anything and walk in any awkward way to get your alpine on.
The best part is that downhill skiing is an any-age activity. Mark Rutherford’s daughter, who he tells us has just turned 16, has been skiing since she was nearly a year old. Many parents who are dedicated skiers will have their children begin the activity as early as two and three years of age. “We have lots of different harnesses and devices on the market to help parents teach their kids to ski,” Mark says. “It really depends upon the abilities of the parent or guardian.” Though the five- to six-year age range is more typical, it is not uncommon to see children as young as one or two years old in boots, shuffling around on their first pair of skis.
Mark adds, “People ski right up into their nineties. We had a gentleman with us last year that was 92 years old. It’s fantastic to see.”
It truly does not feel like a typical workout when you are skiing. That’s because it’s not. There is the fun factor, of course, that makes you forget you are doing your body good. But also, you have time on the chairlift in between runs where you can talk with your friends and even meet new people. All the while, you are in the fresh air and a picturesque setting.
Admittedly, this winter has been a little up and down. We have had cold snaps, thaws, snow dumps and freezing rain. Despite this, our YDH ski hills are still open. At Brimacombe, new snow is being made every day. Mark explains that they have been open since December 14th, and plan to run through to their regular end of season at the end of March. “There are lots of terrains open,” he says, “and lots of opportunities. Out here on the ski hill, it is a different world than it is in town, so don’t let the weather stop you from coming.”
Want to read about our blended family skiing adventures at Dagmar? Check out the article below
Brimacombe – 4098 Regional Rd. 9, Orono, (905) 983-5983
Story by Katherine Ryalen