April 12, 2016 at 3:11 pm #810064
While doing some research recently I stumbled across an article that provided a brief history of skiing in Toronto ( http://www.blogto.com/city/2013/02/a_brief_history_of_skiing_in_the_don_valley/ ). Being an import to Toronto I had no idea that there used to be a ‘resort’ in the Don – however, I am sure this is not news to many member here. I am familiar though with Centennial and Earl Bales which are two City run hills that are still in operation. My kids (and my wife many years ago) actually learned to ski at Centennial, it was close to home and the hills were accessible for beginners. I myself learned to ski at a City run hill in Hamilton, Chedoke Ski Hill, or Mount. St. Chedoke as we affectionately referred to it ( http://thespec-stories.com/2015/01/30/flashback-chedoke-winter-sports-park/ ). Again, it was close to home and the terrain offered something for everyone. I could also take the bus to the hill which was a huge bonus especially in the days before I could drive.
So how does all this relate to trails? Well, similar to our civic ski hills local trails have provided a close to home opportunity for people to ‘get into the sport’ without a huge buy in – like an hour plus drive somewhere. On the first few outings with my kids skiing, it probably took longer to get them suited up then we spent on the actual hill. Add to that the potential of a hour or more of driving and most people will likely just opt out. Similarly, I would argue that if we work towards formalizing our urban trail systems, adding wayfinding and signage it would offer people a much more accessible ‘in’ to trail riding, especially those with kids. If people can make their way to the closest ravine by bike, transit or car within minutes from their door the barrier to entry is reduced to a point where they are much more likely to give it a try. Another key part of that experience though would be providing trails that are signed and maintained well enough to again provide a positive experience. As an experienced rider it is frustrating enough to arrive at a new trail system without any knowledge of the trail length, best routes or level of difficulty. This lack of information for a novice rider, or perhaps someone with younger riders, would likely be a non-starter.
To take this a step further I would argue that local Toronto trails would (already) greatly benefit trail systems outside of the City as well. I will use my skiing example again to illustrate my point. While my kids learned to ski at Centennial, and we still ski there nights during the week, we have graduated to lessons at a larger resort North of the City, Horseshoe. Why? Well, because the terrain offered there provides for more progression. Plus, it made for an amazing family day every weekend this past Winter. It offered something for everyone 3 – 36yrs old. We also took the opportunity on our non-lesson days to ski at some other out of town destinations this winter. This March Break was likely our last ‘hot holiday’ since we will opt for ski related destinations in the future now that everyone is on skis and loving it. We will be spending our money in communities outside of our own but still likely skiing at our ‘local’ hill during the week as well.
Again, I would argue that trails work the same way, mountain bikers, like skiers, love to travel to different destinations – but often ride their home trails/ hill mid-week. I for one don’t have time to drive for a hour (plus) mid-week to ride so I ride, and work on, my local trails. On the weekends, I am happy to hop in the car and sample a variety of trails around the GTA/ Southern Ontario. These are often day trips that involve a stop at local food spots, bike shops and of course the local brewery – leaving money in the local community. These trips (bike and ski) all started because a few decades ago I was introduced to riding and skiing (thought neither of my parents skied or rode) and had the opportunity to do both at venues close to home.
So while the draw to premier riding and skiing destinations is obvious, we would be remiss to turn the cheek on local – especially urban, trails and hills. I would argue that these trails and hills have introduced more people to our sport that any other due to their proximity to large populations. It might even be said that these premier destinations would not exist, or certainly be as prosperous, if it weren’t for local venues which serve as breeding grounds for new generations of rider and skiers. Add to that the fact that the fact that mental health, physical fitness and carbon emissions are all front burner topics, costing governments BILLIONS of dollars a year – shouldn’t we be investing in infrastructure, like trails, that have been proven to combat all of these issues?
Fun Facts: Steve Podborski, most successful male downhill skier in Canada to date, got his start skiing in the Don. Brad Martin, 3 time Olympic snowboarder, got his start at Chedoke in Hamilton. Remember Stevie Smith’s mom shuttling him on his local track back in Seasons? Have you seen Brett Rheeder’s backyard? Think local doesn’t matter?April 12, 2016 at 10:07 pm #810071
This is something that has certainly occurred to me, particularly with respect to kids getting started. My kids are skiers only because of Earl Bales. I don’t (yet) have the skiing interest level in the family to warrant a half to a full day outing north of the city, but a 17 minute drive to bales works every time.
Compared to bales, the don trails have a similar, though perhaps not fully realized, potential. What I’ve found to be rideable for a kid is a bit hit and miss, a mix of good stuff and some surprising challenges. Lower boo trail for example is great, lightly used and no safety issues. The flats is a highly visible trail for beginners, but is confounded by more traffic including some people riding at very high speed, and some concerning blind corners where the visibility is sketchy. Occasionally, there’s exposure on the very edge of the river bank. On the other hand, every kid we know just loves the dirt jumps. But then the jump up in skill required from the flats to say crothers/ridge, is a bit of a stretch.
Lots of kids probably learned to ride in the don over the years, but could it be better in that regard? should it? definitely some good questions to think about.April 19, 2016 at 4:38 pm #810203
Actually the Don Valley helped in the development of two kids who became part of the Crazy Canucks. Ken Read learned to ski there as well.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.