Private Ski Clubs on the Escarpment – Fair or Unfair?

The purpose of this post is to talk about a subject that is unmentionable in polite conversation in Collingwood, you never know if the person you are talking to is a member or just one of us regular folks.

I believe private ski clubs on the north-east face of Niagara Escarpment should be open to the public.

There you go private ski club member’s, I’ve said it out loud !!! Now clean up that coffee you just spat all over your computer screen, leave the pitchforks and torches alone for a second and hear me out.
As I have mentioned in this space many times before, I am a card-carrying conservative. More in line with the Margaret Thatcher brand of conservatism, rather than the neo-con rich gets richer and the poor be damned type. I do however have a few socialist fibres buried deep within my soul. So I find the whole idea of private ski (and golf) clubs distasteful. Even if I could afford to belong to one (I can’t), I would never join out of principle.
For those of you who read this blog that are not from the Collingwood/Blue Mountain area I will explain what private ski clubs are all about. The rest of you bear with me for a couple of sentences.

Most clubs were started on private land in the 1940’s to the west of Collingwood on a ridge where the Niagara Escarpment starts/finishes depending which way you look at it. Due to the phenomenon of lake effect snow‎, this ridge sets the scene for perfect skiing locales, the best in Ontario in fact. If you have skied other places in the world that doesn’t say much, but it’s all we have. The people whom originally started these clubs are called the founders, they cleared the land and basically built the skiing areas from nothing. That’s great and those pioneers and their families have very rightly had 70 years of exclusive unfettered access to this resource. But now in 2015, in my humble opinion, it’s time for you to share.
The Escarpment has four private not for profit ski clubs, Osler Bluff, Alpine, ‎Craigleith and Georgian Peaks, they are known colloquially as the “Big Four”. There’s also one public ski area Blue Mountain Resort.
South of Collingwood, there is another private club called Devils Glen. I have no problem with that club staying completely private. I put it in the same general category as places like Moonstone or Sun Valley with smaller hills and shorter runs.
Those Big Four represent 60 or 70% of the best skiing terraine in Ontario. They do not completely ban non-members. Here’s what you have to do to ski in any of the clubs: Be invited by a member who signs you in, you can then purchase a lift ticket. The clubs limit this activity to once or twice on a weekend per month for non-members. To join a club you have to pay an initiation fee, which I believe is (someone will correct me if I’m wrong please)somewhere in the region of $15,000 – $70,000‎ which varies by club. Then pay membership dues each year which are probably $3,000 – $7,000 depending on programs. As a non-member a visitor has to be accompanied by a member while skiing at all times. I used to do this occasionally, but I always felt like an outsider, everyone knows everyone else and they all know you are not a member. I found it all a little uncomfortable so I don’t bother doing it anymore.
I’m sure some of you from other places in the world are having the same reaction I had when I first heard about this some fifteen years ago: “THAT’S NOT FAIR”and “Why has someone not done anything about it?” The answer is quite simple; most of the movers and shakers of this province, and probably Canada are members of one of these clubs, so they’re quite happy keeping the status quo. Leaving the great unwashed to spend hours in lineups at Blue Mountain on winter weekends, leaving the well healed to ski in peace.

There is a model that works that is fair and equitable. The Toronto Ski Club. It owns all the land west from Happy Valley ski run in Blue Mountain Resort to Craigleith Ski Club. They lease the land back to Blue Mountain which enables us schleppers to ski at the North Base. I ski their often and TSC members seem quite happy with the set up.

I have a very easy remedy to this situation. The private clubs make skiing available to the general public through lift tickets. Just relax the sign in rule. Keep access to the lodge, club house, or any of its other facilities private by all means. This shares the skiing with the rest of us and is a fair and equitable usage of a finite resource.

Before you members get on the attack and tell me that the private ski club model is exactly the same as private golf clubs, I don’t consider this a good comparable. There are numerous none private golf opportunities for public play locally and all over Ontario. As far as skiing goes it’s the other way around more private than DECENT public skiing. How is that fair with the limited resource skiing is in Ontario?

I hear lots of people talking about how unjust the current situation is, but only in very hushed tones. I think it’s time this conversation was brought forward in the public domain.


26 thoughts on “Private Ski Clubs on the Escarpment – Fair or Unfair?

  1. Boring, boring and more boring! We used to belong to a private club and gave it up for financial reasons. We all miss the family atmosphere of generations growing up together, but most importantly is the safety factor that is no where to be seen in the public clubs. Private club are a fact of life, be it skiing, golf, boating or tennis. You need to find a serious subject like….world hunger, global warming, the economy, and most certainly the political climate of today. For interesting reading try ” The shack that fed a million children” I’ve bought 12 copies to hand out and start a movement hopefully.

  2. Opening to public Tuesday to Thursday might be a good idea, but If I were a member with $$$ invested, I’d like to ski in peace on weekends…

  3. I doubt you will ever see regular access to the public. I could see them opening up one day mid-week to the skiing public. This would bring in some much needed revenue but allow the elites of society 6 other days where they are spared the likes of us lower class individuals. Rather than waste money to ski at a private Ontario club, I travel to BC, Alberta, Quebec, Colorado and Europe each year. I get great, world class skiing in with my family and I save our social superiors from having to be on a third rate, vertically challenged slope with the likes of me.

  4. Day pass at BM is on par or more expensive than most of the resorts in the Alps…go East. Don’t waste you money or time skiing in Ontario.

  5. My question is how do these clubs qualify for nonprofit tax exemption under Revenue Canada?
    I think that is what needs to be reviewed.

  6. my only comment is how do these PRIVATE ski clubs qualify as NON PROFIT
    under revenue Canada
    Thats a stretch no matter how you look at it

  7. Colin, it will never happen, nor should it. If people are willing to shell out that kind cake for shitty skiing, then they have every right to stay private. My wife and I dabbled with a membership several years ago only because we were taking advantage the family discount program, eventually giving up our membership. The value just was’t there, not to mention the people at this club were generally intolerable.

    I think future economic pressures will eventually force some of these clubs to open to the public to some degree anyway. A vast majority of the 2nd and 3rd generation members paid a fraction of the initiation fee (like we did) so I’ve got to think that will create some financial pressures down the line.

    • Welcome aboard and good comment Robert. I agree with you in much of what you say. I skied this morning at the North end of Blue, that model seems to work quite well with the TSC members. No public facilities except small washroom and ticket hut but everyone seemed quite happy. I think my point is more that with such a finite resource as skiing is, it should be easier for the general public to ski at the private clubs. If it were easier, I would probably do it once a season, as I like the skiing at Osler Bluff.

  8. I’m guessing that the price of a ‘public lift ticket’ at any one of the ‘Big Four’ would be out of reach of us ‘local yokels’.

  9. I’m surprised that you Nobody, as a good Conservative, would come up with this. I really dont see your argument at all. And private ski clubs are certainly no different to private golf clubs. You can’t go around imposing your will on private individuals just becasue you are jealous that they have something you do not. Are you becoming a tax-the-rich socialist? This isnt the Soviet Union you know!
    And how do you reconcile this new-found socialism with your previously expressed views on private education? So, those with the money can have smaller class sizes and better facilities (even taxpayer subsidized), but damn them if they want to pay to ski privately!
    The rich are welcome to their private golf clubs as far as I am concerned. Dreadfull game, especially when played with a lawyer, accountant, Mr Bunkertoad or other such bore! I can’t think of anything worse, except perhaps cricket. I did once join a private tennis club (what a den of bed-hopping and extra-marital shenanigans that place turned out to be!). But I digress.
    These days I’ve discovered that most of lifes greatest pleasures are in fact cheap or free.

    • I agree with Bill, why would you waste your time on this topic as it makes you sound like a whining NDP’er…if you can’t afford the ticket then don’t bitch about those that can…the last time i looked it was a free country.

      • You probably dont ski Paul & Bill. Most of the people I know that ski have same opinion as Colin & Chris below. See Anonymous comment shows what they really think of us locals. The private clubs should allow more public skiing its only fair.

  10. The person who wrote this drivel is an idiot. How pray tell do you propose to force 4 privately owned entities to suddenly cede to the will of a few local yokel rebel rousers? If development and maintenance of skiing facilities in this area were left to the local populace, I suggest it would all still be agricultural land. .

    • Oh you are priceless!!! How about attaching a name to your above ignorant comments? In one sentence you just insulted around 40,000 people. So I suppose us “local yokels” are good enough to serve you your drinks, food, groceries, pump your gas, clear your snow, clean your cottage? But we are not good enough to ski with you? It’s ignorant assholes like you that the above post is directed at.

      • He/she is “Anonymous” because they are an ignorant coward. Their opinion is dog poop on my shoe. Let them move on and troll another blog.

  11. Very brave of you Nobody! I am NOT a private member myself, but seing the unregulated chaos on the slopes at Blue after the tour bus unloads, I can see why the Four stay private – and I can’t say I don’t blame them. From another angle, we are not talking about Healthcare (that’s a whole other blog) as skiing is not a “necessity” – they have every right to stay private. It would be nice to see the rules a bit more relaxed (a wee bit) giving more opportunities for non member skiing. But fully open to the public skiiing – even just the slopes- no. Let them be.

  12. My family has been skiing at one of the private clubs for three generations. We pay big money so that our kids can ski safely in a family friendly environment. I will agree to public skiing in my club when hell freezes over. Change the subject nobody it will never happen.

  13. Very good post and I agree.
    As far as golf goes, most of the clubs across the province are public or semi-private (allowing public play around member times). There are also numerous options for location to build a golf course. As far as the truly private golf clubs, if they had green fees, the price point would most likely be prohibitive to the casual golfer anyway.
    And as you have rightly pointed out, there is an abundance of golf choices but only a very limited quantity of decent slopes for skiing at all – with so many being, ‘private’.
    It isn’t right, but I don’t see things changing.
    Thanks for putting it out there though.

  14. That scenario in your area would last about 5 minutes over here in the Peoples Republic of BC. You people in Ontario really put up with some crap. The shitty skiing you have and you only get to use 1/3 of it unless you have some bucks to throw around, that’s pretty funny………..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s