In the era of leather boots, ‘bear-trap’ bindings, wood skis and rope tows, a group of ardent skiers at the High Park YMCA held their first meeting in 1950.
Club ski trips were word-of-mouth excursions in car pools to local hills.
In December 1951, the members proposed the election of a president and a board. Herb Houston became the first president. School buses picked up members along Yonge St. Annual membership was $3, $2 of which went to the YMCA.
The first trip to Collingwood cost $5.25 for the bus and two tickets. In February 1952, members went on the first overnight trip to Sundridge.
The Skier’s Delight Dance in January 1952 was the club’s first social event.
High Park was the first club in Canada to bring in Warren Miller to show one of his now-legendary films as part of a gala fundraiser.
In the winter of 1952-53, one of the most important steps in club history was taken -- ski school was born. The club arranged a fund to allow one of the club’s best skiers to attend a course given by the Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance (CSIA). Club racing also began in the same season.
The club’s first three CSIA-trained instructors were Ray Morito, Frank Hatanaka and Don Bell. Don remained active with the club into the early 1980s.
Late in the decade, a group of Nordic skiers began helping blaze trails at Medonte.
1960s: The Club takes shape
Membership reached 400 in 1963.
The club left High Park. The clubhouse was shifted north to the Westwood YMCA on Robina Ave. in 1965. Meetings were held at the Maple Leaf Ballroom on St. Clair W.
Long trips began taking root. The first New Year’s Eve trip went to Mt. Tremblant in 1966-67. The next season, the first charter trip went to Europe.
In 1969, the club took the shape it still has today. The first by-laws were drawn up, and High Park was incorporated as a not-for-profit adult ski club.
The club went on the move again. Meetings and social gatherings were held at the Masonic Temple.
1970s: The Swinging Ski Club
The club rented chalets at Sutton, Tremblant and Blue Mountain.
Membership grew so rapidly that the club mandated a cap of 3,000 members. There were long lineups when the October deadline to join approached.
Nordic skiers made up about 30% of the members. Marlene Bradley and Bob Radford organized High Park Ski Club’s first Nordic Ski School in 1974.
By this point, the club had so many members and brought in so much money, the auditors warned it could lead to a Revenue Canada investigation and the loss of our not-for-profit status. So the club brought in famous DJ “Wolfman Jack” from California and threw a party at the St. Lawrence Market.
People had lots of fun, on and off the slopes. It was the ‘70s. (Nudge, wink)
1980s: Back to the Basics
Faced with big growth in social memberships, the club decided to put the emphasis back on skiing -- just as ski technology evolved to see brakes begin replacing binding straps. Discounts for social memberships were ended.
All ski instructors now had to be CSIA certified. Dave Fraser organized the first two-day ski school clinic at Mont Tremblant.
High Park hit its 3,000-member limit and many had to be turned away.
Enough cross-country skiers joined the club that Nordic got its own director, Bill Davidson.
1990s: Recession and Rebuilding
The club responded to recession-era drop in membership to under 1,500 by forming the marketing committee to lure back former members and recruit new ones.
Smoking was banned on all HPSC buses.
Ron Dean taught the club’s first snowboarding classes in 1994. He was soon joined by Herb Hoff, who introduced protective padding for beginners.
The club migrated again – leaving behind Masonic Temple, first for Estonian House, then Lithuanian Hall in 1997. The office moved to the 1669 Bloor St. West storefront.
Don Yeaman’s annual Valentine’s Day trip to Kissing Bridge southeast of Buffalo regularly filled six or seven buses—the record was 10!
The first High Park Ski Club web site came to life in 1998-99 and so did the first e-mail newsletter, SnoBytes.
By decade’s end, membership rebounded back to almost 2,000.
The 21st Century: Today’s High Park Ski Club
Membership holds steady around 1,100 for the past 10 years.
The ski schools developed more advanced training programs for instructors and learning skiers alike. The Barrie Platinum and Advanced programs were introduced for alpine skiers. Nordic brought in the Novice, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels.
Online registration became the standard for day trips.
Snobiz, the online newsletter, now keeps members connected and informed.
The clubhouse moved to its current home at 1600 Bloor St. West.
Ski Fit and Brunch gets members moving in the fall.
Snowshoeing joined the ranks of club activities.
Social events still draw people together over a mutual love of winter.
The club continues to offer great long trips, including 17 in its 65th season.