Keith Danielsen, owner of Mount Kirby Skis and Boards, has a great poker face. I discovered this last winter in Vegas while reminiscing about the Oshawa Kirby Ski Club. I spent 60 days each winter of my childhood at the semi-private, club-run operation in Orono, ON. Over king crab and Coronas, Keith, who has been involved with the club for over three decades, makes the comment that, “one of the keys to Kirby’s success is its north-facing slopes.”
Knowing that Keith is usually good for a laugh, I searched his face for some indication of sarcasm or bullshitting while trying desperately to contain my laughter and prevent the beer from streaming out my nose. As Keith showed no expression, I realized he was serious.
In hindsight, I appreciate there may be some truth in Keith’s statement. Although Kirby does have an ability to maintain a snow base in seasons when other southern Ontario resorts can not, my recollection of Ontario skiing is that the slopes face the sky more than they do north, or any other direction. Let’s face it, southern Ontario is virtually flat. That said, Kirby is a testament to the fact that the size of the peak does not determine the quality of the skiing experience.
Even by Ontario’s diminutive standards Kirby isn’t big. Yet, I would argue Kirby provides one of the best ski experiences in the region. In addition to its proximity to Toronto and its reasonably priced season passes, Kirby has a wide variety of natural terrain available on this otherwise small peak. Most Ontario resorts offer numerous well-groomed boulevards of varying pitch and parallel fall lines. In contrast, Kirby offers everything from moderately steep and narrow corridors on runs like Richards’ Landing and Rutherford’s Cut, to a convex bowl filled with side hills and undulations of varying aspects. It even sports a natural table top at the bottom of Ben’s Bump–a feature that was utilized by the Kirby youth long before terrain parks were developed.
Until the late ’90s, Kirby boasted a Nordic ski jump, which produced three-time Olympian and Canadian Ski Hall of Fame inductee Ron Richards. When not in use, the jump and landing hill also provided an intriguing terrain feature for sneaky youngsters to explore.
Formed in 1936 by a group of skiers from Oshawa and the surrounding area, the club was incorporated as the Oshawa Ski Club in 1961. Although the club first operated in Raglan, ON, where Trillium Trails lies today, the club moved to its current location on the pastured slopes of Brimacombe’s Hill in 1954. The first of eight rope tows were installed in 1955. In the years that followed, these very tows inspired a young Nancy Greene to reflect on her visit to Kirby in the late ’60s, commenting, “Oshawa was the only ski area in the world where you went up the hill faster than you could come down.” Similarly, former director of trails, one-time ski shop owner, and long-time ski-school director Norm Short recalls that after a long day of skiing and riding the steep and fast rope tows at Kirby, your arms were so long, “you could scratch the bottom of your feet without bending over.”
Today the rope tows have given way to T-bars and quad chairs and the natural terrain has been supplemented by the creation of a terrain park, but at its core the Kirby experience is much the same as it has been for decades. Less than an hour from Toronto, Kirby continues to be as good as anything in Barrie and lacks the exclusive aspect of the private clubs. Furthermore, because the slopes fall away from Ganaraska Road, Kirby is likely the only north-facing peak in the world where you can drive your car to the top. And that’s no bullshit.
Elevation: 305 m
Vertical: 91 m
Terrain: 20 trails (11 for night skiing)
Snowfall: Natural snow supplemented by 100 per cent snowmaking coverage
Lifts: Three quads, seven T-bars, one magic carpet
Adult ticket: $46