Out in the Blue

Veena Venugopal | Updated on March 10, 2018

Shades of pretty: Blue Mountain, the alpine ski resort, was born in 1941, when the eyes of one Jodo Weizer fell on it.   -  Shutterstock

You don’t always need speed and skills to enjoy a ski resort. A lazy river will do just as well

Ekarenniondi is an unusually shaped hulk of a rock. The Indians, who occupied the land before anyone else, considered the large column of black stone to be the gatekeeper to the village of souls, or the afterlife. Just before you come up to the rock was a cabin, where the man called Oscotarach lived. He was the piercer of skulls. His job was to drain the dead of their brain, so they left all their memory behind before heading off to the afterlife. Memory has uses in the present life. It perhaps is a burden in the next. Still, the idea of letting the brain drip out all its contents sounded more gruesome than practical. Even on a warm late summer day, this legend at the Scenic Caves in Blue Mountain, sends a shiver through the spines.

We had hiked up the mountain in the morning to reach this vantage spot. It wasn’t surprising that the Ekarenniondi is the source of several legends. It is massive in size and impressive in its many contours. Depending on where you are looking at it from, and where the light is falling, the rock shifts shape — it’s a sleepy bear, no it’s a tired old man, could it be a watchful owl? Despite the safety barriers and the clank of a zipline nearby, it is easy to imagine these woods and rocks as they may have been some 400 years ago. Once you have descended on the other side of Ekarenniondi and squeezed yourself through ‘Fat Man’s misery’ a gap through two sets of rocks that is so tiny that even a thin man is likely to feel miserable, and emerged near the suspension bridge, modernity is all that’s around you.

Blue Mountain seems at once to be Canada’s most popular weekend destination as well as its best-kept secret. Before my visit, even Google seemed uncertain that I’d be searching for Blue Mountain in Canada, suggesting instead that I might be looking for it in Wales or Sydney. Friends who have lived in Toronto for years hadn’t heard of it either. When we arrived at the beautiful Westin Trillium hotel though, it seemed to be crawling with holidaymakers — families with small kids, surly teenagers, a bunch of executives from a multinational company — the works. The centre of Blue Mountain — the village — is a short walk across a meadow and over a wooden bridge. The small horseshoe-shaped area is crammed with restaurants, bars, sweet stores and quaint little craft and toy stores. The central plaza hosts a stage and through the long evening and well into the night, some kind of performance or the other - musical, magical - goes on. It seems like the town planners sat down, made a list of everything one could want in a little holiday town and constructed just that. The outdoor fun per square yard in Blue Mountain is perhaps the most optimal in the world.

From Toronto airport, Blue Mountain is a couple of hours’ drive. Collingwood, the large town just before the mountain, was once a major shipbuilding and repair hub. Unlike most once-prosperous towns, Collingwood retains a certain classic charm. It is hard to spot too many people on the streets, but I was told that the annual Elvis Presley Festival draws over 30,000 people. Hotels are booked a year ahead and for Elvis enthusiasts, Collingwood constitutes a prominent item to be ticked off their bucket lists.

The littoral beauty of Collingwood is impeccably framed by the not-too distant Blue Mountain. It is a perfectly contained medley of blue and green. Blue Mountain is the result of one man’s vision. In 1941, Jodo Weizer spotted the area and thought it’d make a perfect ski destination. He built a lodge there. A few years later, several new ski lifts were opened and the skiable area of the mountain expanded.

Today, on an average Blue Mountain sells about 7,50,000 lift tickets per year. The development of summer activities and the village itself were subsequently added.

In summer the gondolas still operate. They are crammed with cyclists and their riding equipment, as well as families and picnic baskets. After our morning of scampering around scenic caves and squeezing through Fat Man’s Misery, we head riverside. As if filling in the perfect little detailing in a children’s book, Beaver river winds its way around the village. At the Free Spirit Tours riverside office, we loaded canoes, paddles and safety jackets on to a small pickup and drove upriver. Andy instructed us on how to paddle — confusing motions of clockwise and anti-clockwise thrusts of the arms to go forward and backward. Once the scrum of the canoes dissipated as each person found their own pace, Beaver was a perfect sanctuary. Quiet and placid, birdsong provided the background score and occasionally paddling around a fallen tree or spotting an actual beaver was the only excitement. Even as the sun browned the skin and despite the periodic panic that I was perhaps lost, that hour in the Beaver river was, by a large margin, the most peaceful one I had experienced all year. When it’s my time to meet the Oscotarach, I hope he leaves this bit in my brain. As memories go, this one is well worth taking to the next life.

Travel log

Getting there

Blue Mountain is less than a three hour drive from Toronto.


The Westin Trillium House is a beautiful property with a view that makes waking up fully worth it.


There are some interesting restaurants in the Village. Tholos Restaurant serves authentic Greek food. Also try Copper Blues.


The Scandinave Spa has appointments booked months in advance. But the steaming hot, freezing cold treatment they have is open to walk-ins.


Book ahead and enjoy a picnic lunch under the apple trees at the Georgian Hills Vineyard.

(The writer visited Ontario on invitation from Tourism Ontario issued by Destination Canada)

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Published on April 21, 2017
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