Sheila Maxwell and Mark Rich

Celebrating the presidents evening

On March 28, 2011, Resorts of Ontario held its annual general meeting and preferred supplier’s tradeshow at Nottawasaga Inn and Resort, located in Alliston, Ontario. Sheila Maxwell of the Briars Resort and Spa was elected as the new president of Resorts of Ontario.

Born in Scotland, Sheila grew up in Toronto where she attended York University. During her summers she worked at seasonal resorts in Haliburton and fell in love with the tourism industry. With an educational background from York, Sheila also graduated with honours from Hotel Management at George Brown College. Sheila has worked in the industry for 25 years and is currently the Director of Food and Beverage at the Briars Resorts and Spa.  

Sheila has served on the Board for Resorts of Ontario for the past 8 years. She succeeded Mark Rich – Director of Sales at Blue Mountain Resort who served as president from March 2009 – 2011. As outgoing president Mark will continue to serve the board of directors as chairman of the board.

As part of the evenings festivities, Resorts of Ontario also took the time to recognize the dedication and contribution of individuals from the industry who have facilitated the growth and progress of the Association.

The George Martin Award which shows outstanding contribution to the growth and success of Resorts of Ontario, was awarded to Anne Marshall of Elmhirst’s Resort. Anne has been involved with the association as a board member for 20 years. Anne is also a past president and represented the industry on the provincial and national level. Her passion, experience, leadership and dedication are greatly appreciated.

The second award given was for Outstanding Contribution. The recipient of this award went to Jamie Staring of Raesgo Advertising Graphics. For nearly 20 years, Jamie has made enormous contributions and has played a significant role in portraying our image. He understands the essence of “ resorting in Ontario “ , the culture of Resorts of Ontario, playing a key role in conveying our story in print, electronically, and to our key audiences.  

Congratulations to Sheila and thank you to Mark, Anne and Jamie for your contributions and dedication to Resorts of Ontario.

Voyageur Quest

Voyageur Quest

Algonquin Cottage Outpost/Voyageur Quest has been providing unique Algonquin experiences for years. This year they are proud to add to their list of experiences, the opportunity to stay on a private island in Algonquin Park. The Algonquin Island Retreat is a perfect place for you to indulge in a romantic escape for two.  

This incredible experience starts with a traditional 15 minute (1 km) canoe paddle from access point #1 at the Voyageur Quest Outpost on Kawawaymog Lake located at Algonquin’s

Voyageur Quest

Voyageur Quest

 Western boundary. As you arrive at the island, you’ll find a restored and comfortable ranger cabin. Since the renovation, the cabin now offers running hot water, solar power and of course the walk out deck from the second floor master bedroom. From the cabins two decks you are provided with a 360 degree view of water and stunning landscapes perfect for spending the day relaxing in peace and quiet. The comfortable accommodations mean you can enjoy all the sounds of nature without having to “rough it” in a tent. Also included with your stay is the opportunity to use the floating sauna which is an experience onto itself.

While this would be the perfect escape for a romantic week, artisans are also welcomed. When this cabin was still used as a ranger station it had many famous guests including famed “Group of Seven” artist Tom Thomson. There is plenty of inspiration that comes from Algonquin Park and this experience would be sure to provide some creative sparks. Stunning

Voyageur Quest

Voyageur Quest

sunrises/sunsets, the call of the loons or howl of a wolf, and nature unfolding…who wouldn’t find this artistically pleasing.

Voyageur Quest offers many other getaway experiences and excursions from photography workshops to hiking, romance to “stew and brew.” They have something for everyone and you can find out more about their unique Algonquin experiences by visiting them at http://www.voyageurquest.com/index.php.

This past weekend I had the great opportunity to stay at White Oaks Resort and Spa in Niagara on the Lake and was treated with outstanding customer service. As a gift for my in-laws, we had given them a free nights stay package so they could also stay at White Oaks. Unfortunately I forgot about this package and when I made their reservation, neglected to realize that I was supposed to mention the certificate before arriving for our stay. The women at the front desk pleasantly informed me of this but before I could even ask about making an exception, she went to see what could be done about excepting the certificate. Within a minute she was back to let us know that this would not be a problem. This may seem like a small request but you would be amazed at how many hotels would not be happy to help in similar situations. This is what makes the resort industry unique from other standard hotels. Owners and operators of resorts realize that they provide so much more than just a standard hotel room… they provide a vacation experience.

The excellent service continued from there when our bags were taken to our room. The bell hop actually gave us a tour of our room showing us where the light switches were, how to operate some of the electronics, etc. (White Oaks has small tv’s in their bathrooms.) Later this same young man, held open the car doors for my wife and mother in-law to get in. Again a small detail but not something most of us get to experience when staying at standard hotels.

At breakfast the next morning, the service again showed through, this time with our server (and in fact all the restaurant staff.) He was enthusiastic and courteous and always made sure our coffee was topped up. After giving us time to review the menu, he suggested that we go with the buffet since it had everything from the menu anyways. It was a great suggestion as the food was hot, very delicious and with the option of the buffet we were all completely satisfied.

Good customer service is not something that we as consumers always get so it was great to be treated in such a fantastic way. In fact White Oaks does so much to ensure a positive guest experience that even the garbage cans and ashtrays were cleaned – not just emptied but actually wiped down, throughout the day. The gardens were also kept well maintained and looked ready for spring flowers despite the fact that we are still in March and could easily get more snow.

My only regret about this stay was not having more time to enjoy the use of their facilities which include the pool, spa services and a state of the art fitness club. And of course would have liked to have visited some of the local wineries.

A view of the topWith out a doubt, Ontario has some of fantastic hiking opportunities. No matter where you hike, you likely do it for the feeling you get. Sometimes that feeling is one of peace and relaxation, sometimes it is spiritual and sometimes it is a feeling of utter exhaustion and of course there might be the occasional time when you think to yourself “what was I thinking when I started this trail!?!” My personal love of hiking has been filled with all of those feels and often all of those feelings rolled into one.

This past summer I had the opportunity to hike to the top of “Silver Peaks” in Killarney Provincial Park with a couple of close friends. To give you an idea of the type of hike Silver Peaks

The path to Silver Peaks

Explorers Steve Kostecki and Mike Rowe

 offers, it was once one of the highest mountain peaks in all of Canada. Over time and because of Ice Ages, the landscape and mountain side has eroded. In the present day, you can see as far off as Sudbury in one direction and Manitoulin Island in the other direction. Not to mention the vast open waters of Georgian Bay.

A hike up Silver Peaks is deceiving. Once you access the trail, (there are several access points,) you have a feeling of “What? Is this it? I thought I was hiking up a mountain.” The first half of the trail is a fairly easy hike. The path is wide and you are treated to wonderful views of small lakes, bogs and beautiful trees. The trail is well-marked with very few spots to get turned around at. If you start out fairly early in the morning you will also find the trail less busy which is important if you are looking for peace and quiet as well as possible animal sightings. (This is bear country so take appropriate precautions.)

At roughly the half way point the trail up takes on a very dramatic change. You start heading uphill and at first it doesn’t seem too bad but then the trail changes and becomes littered with rocks and roots, it narrows in spots and there are sections where you are grasping for small trees and limbs to hang onto and use as leverage to pull yourself up. The rocks are loose and it is very easy to sprain an ankle. The hike up seems to take forever and I find that after about every 20 minutes of climbing that I am thinking that I must be insane for doing this. I didn’t know what to expect with this trip and while we had brought enough food, it would have been wise to bring more water (especially for hiking this trail on a hot summer’s day like we did.) I would suggest using a Camelback® to keep properly hydrated.

Continuing the trek just gets more and more difficult. The loose rocks continue to be a hazard and wearing shoes or hiking boots with good traction is a must at this point. The trail again deceives as it seems to open up to the sky. You feel like you are getting close and the trees below you seem to have topped out their growth. However when you look around you notice that there are still more trees growing higher. It is hard to imagine that trees are able to grow on such rocky terrain but they manage quite well. It’s at this point that you are about ¾ of the way to the top.

You will know when you are getting closer to the top when you start to notice small blueberry bushes popping up through the granite. If you are hiking at the right time of year (Early August,) these will be full of the most delicious blueberries you will ever try. A few more painful feet and the trees disperse as the ground changes to a smooth white granite rock face. This section is still a little tricky because the granite provides no traction at all. (It would be very treacherous on a rainy day as you can see water stains on the rock face where water has frequently rushed down the hill.) However with one final burst of energy you reach what is roughly the summit. (Silver Peak is part of La Cloche Mountains so there are several different peaks.)

Once at the top you are treated to stunning views in every direction. The landscape at the top is beautiful. There are blueberry bushes everywhere and these berries combined with the view make the hike one of the most rewarding experiences I have had. You literally feel like you have earned the experience. My friends and I take the time to sit and enjoy a lunch (and more blueberries for dessert.) It is just the 3 of us sitting at the top of one of the highest points in Ontario. After spending roughly an hour at the top relaxing we embark back down the trail.

Going down is always faster than going up but it is important to be mindful of your footing on this trail. The rocks and roots are even more hazardous. This hike will be physically exhausting but the memories will well worth it and you might even find yourself thinking about doing this hike again in the months and years that pass. Although on the day you finish you might swear off hiking for a while.

If you are looking for a place to rest your head after doing this hike, I would suggest Killarney Mountain Lodge located at the doorsteps of Killarney Provincial Park. If you want to combine this hiking trip with fishing, the French River is a short drive away as well as Georgian Bay, both known for their incredible fishing opportunities and you can spend some time at Sand Beach Lodge or Pleasant Cove Resort.

While today might be Valentines Day, I for one believe that romance shouldn’t be reserved for one specific day out of the year. Sure today is the traditional day of men showering their loved ones with flowers, chocolates, and/or jewelry, but what about the rest of the year. The gestures tend to be more memorable when unprovoked by a commercial holiday  and what is more memorable than a romantic escape for two.  The benefit of Ontario is that there are countless possibilities for you to take your loved one to a place that is new and something that you will both surely enjoy.

Nothing sets the mood quite like a great meal and a good bottle of wine.  The Niagara Region certainly offers plenty in the way of romantic sites and plenty of wine tasting opportunities and exquisite culinary. If you have never toured this wine region, we suggest a stay with White Oaks Resort and Spa, Pillar and Post or Inn on the Twenty; each conveniently located to several wineries and offering superior luxury. In Prince Edward County, you can stay at the Claramount Inn and Spa overlooking picturesque Picton Bay, partake in the culinary classes offered at The Waring House Inn or enjoy the private beach offered at Isaiah Tubbs Resort.

If your romantic getaway needs to be something a little more intimate, then how does a private cottage or a room that includes a fireplace and maybe even a personal hot tub sound? Your loved one would be so pleased to stay at a place like Couples Resort which offers fantastic dining, private hot tubs (in most rooms,) scenic surroundings and a wide array of activities. Beauview Cottage Resort is another fantastic option that offers the peace and solitude of the country. When you stay at Beauview, you wake up to the sounds of the birds chirping unlike the typical big city noise.

If you are into history, consider staying at one of our resorts that has been in operation for over 100 years. The Gananoque Inn and Spa main building was once a carriage factory. Throughout the summer months, you can take in a cruise of the beautiful 1000 islands, take in a show at the theater or visit some of the mueseums. Westover Inn began as a limestone Victorian Mansion in 1867 and throughout the years has expanded to now offer 19 acres including private cottages located on the Thames River.

For the true “Northern Feel” Northridge Inn & Resort is one resort that would be a sure fit for your romantic escape. A stay at Northridge Inn is animated throughout the seasons with an array of activities, and serenity of wilderness calls all night long.  Also with the northern feel is Trillium Resort and Spa which is nestled in amongst 86 acres of forest. Trillium offers waterfall viewing, a private lake and a truly indulgent experience through its 5,000 sq. ft. spa facility.

Ontario offers so much to experience and the resorts mentioned above are just a sampling of the romantic escapes that await. For a complete list of resorts catering to romance visit us online.

Despite what our brand name implies, Resorts of Ontario is more than just resorts. We also partner with some attractions and adventure outfitters. You might be asking yourself “Why would be partner with non resorts?” The reason is because we believe in promoting the experience, the dream or vision, the goal or bucket list item. You’ll also find that our resorts members partner with the same companies to add to your resort experience. At the end of the day we want you to have a memorable vacation whether it be with friends, family or your spouse/partner.

Visiting an Ontario Resort is in part about experiencing the outdoors, going off on an adventure, seeing some sites. With out a doubt, one of the most popular destinations in Ontario for this is Algonquin Park and we have many resorts located in and around this beautiful area. To help ensure you have the right gear for the right outing, Algonquin Outfitters and the Portage Store should be on your must visit list. Their friendly and knowledgeable staff will ensure that you get the information and supplies/gear you need to have a safe and enjoyable time out. Whether it be hiking, canoeing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or nature viewing. Stop in and say hi to the friendly folks at Algonquin Outfitters and the Portage Store.

Sometimes while staying at a resort, kids get a little antsy and need some increased stimulation. That is why we also partner with Santa’s Village in Bracebridge. This family entertainment park let’s kids “Be an elf for the day,” while providing the fun of rollercoaster ride and train rides, a sports land and for the adventurous person, Eaglecrest Aerial Park.

For the winter enthusiast, we have also partnered with Snow Valley in Barrie. Named as “the best Ontario hill for kids,” by Ski Canada Magazine, they have a strong focus on ensuring a day spent here is fun for the whole family. Snow Valley offers 19 trails of varying difficulties and tubing park with 9 chutes and over 600 tubes! Check out a video of their snow tubing here http://www.skisnowvalley.com/barrie-ski-area/snow-tubing/videos.aspx.

Niagara Falls is certainly a major tourist destination with no shortage of activities and attractions and while you could see the power of the Niagara River the traditional ways, we would suggest something a little less traditional. Through Niagara Helicopters, you can view the Horseshoe and American Falls from high above as you soar around the region in a Helicopter giving you unique vantage points for those special photographs and more importantly, memories that will last a lifetime. Take a look at the flight plan to get a sense of what this experience is all about.  Want to experience that awesome power of the raging Niagara River? Then we would suggest a ride up the river provided by Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours. Experience the rush in either a wet or dry boat as it speeds up the mighty Niagara. Rider beware though, if you choose the wet adventure, you will get “absolutely soaked,” but to have that memory, I think a little/LOT of water is completely worth it.

After tackling whitewater in a jet boat, why not head up to Canada’s “rafting capital” in Ottawa, for some real white water adventure. We also partner with Wilderness Tours and River Run Rafting both operating on sections of the Ottawa River. Wilderness tours has been in operation since 1975 and River Run Rafting since 1980. At Wilderness Tours guests can also enjoy mountain biking and bungee jumping. River Run Rafting gives guests the option of staying on site at the London House Inn and Spa. Guests can enjoy the private pool and hot tub after a day out on the water and of course a nice cold beverage at the Riverrunners Pub. To get a sense of what white water rafting is all about check out this video from River Run Rafting.

Come on up to our place and experience true adventure and create lasting memories.

A look at some of the downhill ski runs at HorseshoeSkiing/Snowboarding in resort country is a fantastic way to escape the winter blahs and feel the rush of setting off down hill through groomed trails and fresh powder. Being a fairly new snowboarder, I have certainly been excited with the early and massive accumulations of fresh snow this winter at the different  Ontario ski resorts. Depending on the area you are looking to travel to there are many options to get out and try this activity.

For central Ontario, Blue Mountain Resort near Collingwood is an excellent choice for those looking to get that Ski Village feel offered out west. The village offers a variety of restaurants and nightlife opportunities to keep your energy pumping long after you have left the hills for the day. The resort offers an outdoor heated pool which is always fun on a winter’s day. Horseshoe Resort outside of Barrie and Orillia has been working hard at updating their Terrain Park and is a great place with options of staying at Horseshoe or Carriage Ridge Resort. Further down the road is Mount. St. Louis Moonstone which is just a quick drive from Christie’s Mill Inn and Spa and Muskey’s Landing.

 

In the Haliburton Region Sir Sam’s Skiing offers 12 trails of great fun and with Sir Sam’s Inn and WaterSpa located near the base of the hill, you can stay in comfort and give your muscles some much-needed relaxation through hydro therapy. Also nearby is Pinestone Resort, Sandy Lane Resort, Bonnie View Inn and Halimar Resort all offering their own comfortable accommodations and winter fun activities.

 

For those visiting the Ottawa area Calabogie Peaks Resort offers the convenience of 23 runs at the resort. For those looking to take in the Capital, you can also book ski packages through Brookstreet Hotel and have the best of skiing and history while staying at a great hotel.

 

Muskoka is often thought of as a summer destination for the pristine lakes but those that have visited the area in winter know that Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area is a great place to get out an enjoy some downhill fun. With it’s longest run being 580 meters (1902 ft.) there is a great opportunity to explore and have fun on the slopes for a day. There are many resorts to stay at in Muskoka that are just a short drive to the ski hill including Deerhurst Resort, Beauview Cottages, Cedar Grove Lodge, Bondi Cottage Resort plus many others.

 

If you are in the Greater Toronto Area and don’t want to venture far, Hockley Valley Resort is just a quick 45 minute drive north. With 15 runs, both an upper and lower level terrain park and state of the art snow making, there is a long season ahead for those looking to take advantage of the convenience Hockley Valley offers.

 

Regardless of which part of Ontario you are looking to visit, skiing and snowboarding gives you a great way to get out and experience an adrenaline packed sport that is fun for first timers and lifetime skiers. While you might be intimidated to try this out, each of the ski areas mentioned offers lessons to help you get the hang of it, which at the end of the day makes the hills that much more enjoyable. Come on up to our place for great skiing.

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