Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 26, 2021
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Golden Horseshoe

Cross-country skiers luck out at
this ski resort north of Toronto

Moonlight sweeps over the treetops and around wind-sculpted snowbanks. Overhead, stars snuggle in the still sky. It's a perfect evening to step out for a glide across the snowy trails. Just one hour from Toronto, Horseshoe Valley Resort offers the ideal opportunity.

For a few days from January through March, around the full moon, Horseshoe hosts a Moonlit Ski Night for cross-country skiers. Lanterns cast shadows on the snow along a seven-kilometre loop, as skiers slide from one light to another, fading like spirits into the deep shadows.

After crossing a creek -- a third of the way over the ski course -- night skiers reach a bonfire where a kettle of hot apple cider is waiting. There are guests warming their hands over the open flames and families singing together, while a few others just lean back and watch the sparks rising into the night sky. Follow the loop back to the chalet where warm drinks and a crackling fire await you. The cost is $10, while children under six ski for free.

Cross-country edge
The Horseshoe Valley offers 35 kilometres of ski trails leading through rugged hills, woodlands and open plains around the Copeland Forest near Barrie, Ontario. It's one of the few ski centres that devotes a large section of its property to cross-country skiing.

From the chalet, the trail leads through a low area bordered by cedars, then cuts through a pine forest and passes the relics of a 19th-century farm partially buried in the snow.

The south trails are groomed for skate skiing, the north trails are double-track for classic skiing, while the west trails vary between classic and skate skiing. The cross-country ski centre -- complete with a fireplace-equipped cafeteria and equipment rentals -- also offers a "Learn to Slide" program for beginners. A trail pass, rentals and one hour of instruction costs $29.

Beginners will enjoy the picturesque, 3.8-kilometre West Trail that winds through pine and hardwood forest and crosses a small brook. Look for flocks of snow buntings (plectrophenax nivalis) -- sparrow-sized black and white birds that fly in from the Arctic to winter in Ontario. You may also spot red fox tracks, usually in a straight line with the hind foot overprinting the forefoot track.

Skiers taking the north trails may prefer to keep their eyes on the steep hills rather than on the animal tracks. Designated for experts, the 12-kilometre advanced trail takes you down steep hills named The Bowl, Achey Breaky and Terry's Terrorizer -- the latter has a 60 percent pitch. If you're up for the challenge, you can also enter the Horseshoe Classic Loppet.

Steep stuff
If you want steeper hills, head to the downhill slopes for skiing and snowboarding. There are 22 runs in total, with names like Nightmare Ride, Stampede and The Wave. Fourteen of them are lit until 10pm every night, including the Pinto, Roundup and Steeplechase. There is also a wide variety of children's programs for skiers and snowboarders aged 4 to 12. The Kids Korral has programs during March Break too.

After a long day of skiing, treat yourself to the spa at Horseshoe. You can enjoy a sports massage or a sea salt massage, followed by a warm shower. Alternative treatments such as reiki, shiatsu and reflexology are also offered. Facial treatments are customized for men and women, with an initial skin analysis consultation. The spa also offers manicures, pedicures and waxing.

Even if you come for a day's skiing, do stay later for the moonlight cross-country circuit, when screech owls hoot in the forest, coyotes howl from hilltops and deer forage on acorns and apples in the brush. In late January and February, the red fox's mating season starts and you might hear their nocturnal barking. In the evening, the surroundings seem to close in on you. The eerie night calls. A block of trees is silhouetted against the night sky and the moon sweeps over the treetops, casting shadows on the snow.


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