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Horseshoe Valley

2011 February 8
by rob

It was time for my biggest snowshoeing adventure yet!

Janet and I drove to Horseshoe Valley last Saturday afternoon, north of Barrie — about an hour and a half north of Toronto. We were visiting Janet’s friends Steph and Greg. Greg’s family had a cottage at Horseshoe Valley. We were able to skip the snowshoe rental fees by using our own snowshoes. We were able to skip the trail access fees by starting our trek in the driveway of the cottage and making a big U-turn into the wooded valley directly behind the cottage. Awesome!

The conditions were about as perfect as we could possibly ask for. The weather was just below freezing. There was ample fresh snowfall from the Snowpocalypse a few days before. There was no wind nor no more snow falling from the sky that day. A thin layer of clouds covered the sun so we weren’t blinded by the glare of reflected sunlight off of the fresh white snow.

The only thing that detracted from the perfection was the depth of the snow pack. Since most of the snow had fallen at one time (AKA Snowmageddon), it didn’t have the opportunity to get compressed and have more snow fall on top. As a result, when we took steps off of the trail we sunk in deeply. Sometimes we would be engulfed to our knees in the snow. We liked to venture off the trail to force our way through the fresh powder, but maintained a single line so that we could conserve our energy.

Greg was familiar with all the routes and took us up and over hills that he’s explored for years. We went up one hill that he called Bruiser. It was a mountain bike trail in the summer so the name made sense! My first guess was that the hill’s name was “Mount Fancypants”, but I was way off.

The hill was steep and it was a bit of work to get up. Here’s a photo of Steph and Janet making their way up the hill:

Climbing Bruiser

Climbing Bruiser

Greg had trekking poles made from bamboo. They had wide circle bits at the end (for extra balance? for extra snow-stabby-action?). When he pulled them out of the snow, they’d pull up large marshmallow-shaped cylinders of snow.

Greg Eats a Marshmallow!

Greg Eats a Marshmallow!

Getting down Bruiser was much more fun then going up. Greg was a pro and didn’t have any trouble. The rest of us fell a few times on the way down.

Oops!  Steph in the snow

Oops! Steph in the snow

My snowshoes had awesome crampons. I got to the bottom and went back up to the top, using the crampons to dig into the snow. I descended the hill a second time in a big icy flurry!

Action Packed!

Action Packed!

We continued on, climbing over small ridges and the little valleys between them. I found an old stump that made a great place to park my camera for a timed group shot.

Group Shot

Group Shot

The next hill was REALLY STEEP and very challenging. There were some parts where the snow was so deep I couldn’t get a grip and slid two feet back for every one foot I stepped forwards. Janet was right behind me and I think she was getting frustrated how I was ripping apart the trail rather than successfully stepping in the same places the people above me stepped in and packing it in further. It was really hard! Eventually, I figured out a better way to dig in with my crampons and was able to climb the hill more effectively.

By the end, we approached the remains of the old Pine Ridge Ski Club. As the trail exited the wooded area, we found ourselves behind an old barn and top of a retaining wall. It looked like a fine place to practice our jumps:

Steph Jumps!

Steph Jumps!


My Turn to Jump

My Turn to Jump

The jumping looks big and scary, but it was really easy since there was a big pile of snow at the bottom to cushion our landings. No worries!


Rob Sz
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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