Old dog; new tricks – Sir Sam’s Ski and Bike

Sir Sam’s downhill and X-country season opener slated for this Saturday – May 21

By Terrance Gavan

For over four decades Sir Sam’s Ski Area was a cottage country anomaly.

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Opening Day at Sir Sam's Ski and Bike. Photo by Terrance Gavan.

Cottage country, as we all know, specializes in summer fun.

The population of Haliburton County rises exponentially on Canada Day weekend and drops off again on Labor Day.

For 40 years Sir Sam’s Ski thrived as one of the few businesses that relied on brusque and surly Ol’ Man Winter for its own fiscal sustenance.

That set them apart from most of the other businesses in Cottage Country.

Well, about three or four years ago, the business paradigm at Sir Sam’s went through one of those tectonic shifts that come around, oh you know, once in a millennium.

The Bishop family management team – dad Bob Bishop and siblings Angela, JD and Chris Bishop – took stock and decided to embrace the future.

They looked around at places like Whistler-Blackcomb and other iconic ski resorts and realized that there was some hay to be made with an up and coming craze.

Downhill mountain biking, trail riding and X-Country MTB racing.

I was at Whistler for my birthday in July, 2001 and tried downhill biking off the Blackcomb Express – very brake-filled ride down a lowly green meandering run. I had someone at the Starbucks time my duration in line. I spent 45 minutes in the lift line for the Gondola and it struck me back then that ski hills could be used for something other than the schuss and carve.

Two years ago Sir Sam’s Ski Area became Sir Sam’s Ski and Summer Resort – also known as Sir Sam’s Ski and Bike!

Chris Bishop says that this year the Sir Sam’s mountain downhill bike experience has been enhanced.

The Italian made people carrier lift – a plexi-covered moving carpet that takes skiers, and now bikers to the top of Cash Register in twin stages – will carry five times the bikers in less than half the time it took the old quad chairlift to manage bike transfer.

Chris said that he, Ski School Director and summer mountain manager Dave Webb and brother JD Bishop tried the lift out last week and the system is efficient, quick and simple.

“Riders just walk their bikes up the ramp and onto the belt, place their front or rear brakes on and ride up,” says Chris. “The lift never stops, and the riders just walk off at the end of the ride.”

Webb is especially pumped about the user-friendly surface lift.

“We’re going to be able to keep a lot of downhill riders happy this year,” laughs Webb.

Chris says that Webb, JD and a lot of volunteers have been out on the trails during this wet, foreboding spring, ignoring the weather and hacking another seven kilometers of trail through the woods.

“The new trails run through the rock outcrops and rock ledges and the old forest,” says Chris. “We’ve added more variety to the trails and we’re up to 23 kilometers of trails and runs, catering both to the cross country and downhill riders.

“We’ve also got many novice trails for the people who want to try the sport out.”

The famous – or infamous – Python Run is still there of course, and Python’s been a hit with the younger crowd of local bikers, who are fast becoming hard-knock downhill MTB specialists.

Certainly this is just another bonus coincident with this encouraging venture undertaken by the management paradigm of Sir Sam’s Ski and Summer Resort.

Anyway, enough with the extolled virtues.

Let’s get down to business.

And the business of mountain biking or juking the vernacular? It’s MTB baby!

This weekend marks the opening of the season.

Sir Sam’s will be open all three days of this long weekend and will be open every weekend until Canada Day. After that the resort power slides into its summer regimen. They’ll be open Wednesday to Sunday during the summer.

All the info you’ll need is located on the comprehensive website located at www.sirsams.com.

No internet? Just give the hill a call at 705-754-2298 and ask to talk at the bike desk. Better yet ask for Dave Webb and he’ll pop the 411 about passes, rates and special packages.

Algonquin Outfitters (A/O) has a number of brochures, equipment and bikes for sale.

There are rental bikes available for beginner groups or singles.

As Bishop says, if you want to spend some time on your bike this weekend?

“Come on out and purchase your season pass & have your photo taken that day. If your bike needs a tune-up Conner Janeteas will be on hand to do on-site repairs.” Will Lougheed from A/O will also be on hand opening the new MTB pro shop.

“There is a $200 A/O voucher draw for all those that purchase there season passes on Saturday.”

And remember that first annual bike swap!

Need to upgrade? Looking to start?

C’mon down and check out the deals at the First Annual Swaperoo!

Get the Gav at gav@countyvoice.ca and take a gander at our County Voice Page at countyvoice.org. Twitter.com/terrancegavan.