By Terrance Gavan
It starts with a schuss and ends with a sploosh.
Sir Sam’s Spring Splash is a seasonal sally that used to signal cessation of operations at the family run resort.
Once upon a time, the resort’s annual Spring Splash meant sayonara Sir Sam’s until Thanksgiving Day weekend.
No longer. Sirs Sam’s ski area is now Sir Sam’s Ski and Bike Resort, a four season destination that for the past three summers has been at the center of a burgeoning new cottage country industry.
Mountain biking, cross country riding and extreme downhill events – in conjunction with a state of the art surface lift that accommodates both alpine and mountain bike clientele – has literally transformed the resort into a four season destination. Over the last decade, ski resorts from Whistler to Vail toJayPeakand Tremblant have been transforming ski runs to downhill trails and the summer bike phenomenon has literally upped the fiscal ante for ski resorts, especially for smaller venues like Sir Sam’s.
These days, the annual spring splash is just a harbinger of transition for the staff and owners at Sir Sam’s.
On Saturday, the unusually mild weather curtailed the usual camaraderie surrounding the annual splashdown into a frigid pool of water. Usually this annual closing day at Sir Sam’s comes replete with a day of spring skiing.
But last weekend, the hills at Sir Sam’s, ravaged by a week of summer sun and high temperatures, were not available for the final day of skiing. So skiers and boarders, in full spring splash regalia – costumes mandatory – were greeted only by one lowlt thin white line, surrounded by pastures of green.
The Cash Register run consisted of a lot of spring grass and one sparse 16 foot wide corridor of white leading to that frozen man-made pond.
JD Bishop, who emcees the annual event from the safety of a catbird seat on the chalet balcony, told skiers and boarders last Saturday that they would get only one run down that narrow chute of snow that had to be shape-shifted by some wizards at the controls of the Sir Sam’s snow groomers on Friday night.
No fear. The narrow glistening deck generated enough speed to aid and abet some very interesting entrances and splashdowns into the icy pool located at the bottom of the lodge.
This year’s post splash party featured entertainment by the Ya Baby’s, a dance, and a pulled pork dinner. And the annual Rubber Ducky race prize of $230 was won by Claudette O’Neil. Another O’Neil, Mikayla made a splash on the front page of the Highlander this week. Half of the proceeds of the Duck Race go to Sir Sam’s Ski Patrol.
The hills are darn near bereft of snow and that’s unusual for this time of year.
Indeed, the hills look almost good enough and bare enough to ride. Some die hard skiers including ski school director and summer ride coordinator Dave Webb were already looking forward to switching gears from metal edge to rubber knobs.
Co-owner and manager Chris Bishop says that hill staff will take a few weeks off before gearing up for the mountain bike season.
“It’s our fourth summer of mountain biking coming up,” says Bishop. “We started mountain biking in 2009 and it’s grown every year.”
In spite of a winter that had other Ontario resorts begging for snow, Sir Sam’s, which can cover over 90 percent of its runs with man made snow, was blessed with some January powder dumps that gave Sir Sam’s some of the best riding conditions in the province.
“We had a good year in spite of everything,” says Bishop. “We were down a bit, but we didn’t do badly in spite of a warm spring break.”
He says that the spring summer fall biking season gears up on May 19 long weekend. He adds that hiking trails are available along with the myriad downhill and cross country bike runs.
That means jobs for current Sir Sam’s staffers who used to have to look at other options during the summer. Until school is out the bike resort will operate only on weekends. But come the end of June, Sir Sam’s will open Wednesday to Sunday for cross, country, hiking and special events.
“The chalet is always available for wedding and private parties and we hold our annual summer dinner and dance,” says Bishop. “Over the last three summers – when we started the mountain biking – the chalet has been used more than ever before. We’ll be open officially on May 19 but, dependant on the weather, there may be some cross country trails available for riding before then.” Bishop stresses that any riding done on those trails is done at riders’ risk and strict adherence to the honor system [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][following riding rules and helmet designations] is stressed for people who might want to do some cross country riding.
This year Sir Sam’s is offering a special beginner course on Sundays between 1 and 3 pm. “We’re offering a Learn to Mountain Bike special that’s $25 for bike rental, lift pass, trail pass and instruction.”
That’s 50 percent off the regular price, and because of the interest in the new package, Bishop says that people who want to take the introductory course will be asked to phone ahead to reserve the rental bike.
They will also be offering a kids summer bike camp and if you head to the Sir Sam’s website (sirsams.com) you will find a full slate of competitions and special promotions posted in the upcoming month.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]