Toronto, it's time to strap on the skis. Main hill at Earl Bales to open Saturday

A winter storm that blanketed Toronto with snow this week has made it possible for the city to open a North York ski hill on Saturday at 9 a.m., officials say.

Jan. 28 is the latest the city-owned ski hill has ever opened, staffer says

A view of the chair lift at the Earl Bales Ski and Snowboard Centre. The main hill at the centre, near Bathurst Street and Sheppard Avenue West, will open at 9 a.m. for the season. (CBC)

A storm that blanketed Toronto with snow earlier this week was bad news for drivers and homeowners who had to pick up their shovels — but it's also a big boost for winter sports enthusiasts because it's enabled the city to finally open a North York ski hill on Saturday. 

The main hill at Earl Bales Ski and Snowboard Centre, near Bathurst Street and Sheppard Avenue West, will open at 9 a.m. for the season.

Coun. James Pasternak, who represents Ward 6, York Centre, said the main hill will be open for registered lessons and leisure skiing and snowboarding.

"After the snowstorm on Wednesday, crews worked through the night, grooming the main hill in preparation for opening this weekend," Pasternak told reporters at the centre on Friday.

"Crews are working as quickly as possible to get the beginner and race hills ready. Weather conditions are expected to remain cool, so staff are hopeful that these hills will also be ready next week."

Pasternak said the ski hill is a "precious city asset" that Toronto wants to maintain. He said many residents of the city have fond memories of the hill because it is where first they learned to ski. He said Centennial Park Ski and Snowboard Centre in Etobicoke is not operating this year.

"When it comes to wintertime, it's great to get out and enjoy the outdoors," he added. "Earl Bales is where the action is if you want to hit the slopes this season."

City staff expect more than 100 people to take part in the first block of lessons for adults and children. The centre has a beginner hill with a rope tow, a main hill with three runs that start at the top of the hill and a chairlift, as well as a race hill, washrooms and a ski chalet.

Dennis Dametto, a representative for the city's parks, forestry and recreation department, said Jan. 28 is the latest the city has ever opened the ski hill. He said park staff have been working around the clock to get the hill ready.

"We've been anxious. We've been looking to open up earlier than this, but unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate for us, but so be it, that's the past. Let's think about tomorrow, and having a great rest of the winter," he said.

Dametto said the city makes snow to cover the hill and idea conditions for snow-making occur when the temperature is – 5 C.

"Our challenge this January is that we couldn't reach those temperatures, not too often anyhow."

'Great little local' ski hill

Marvin Finkel, a Toronto resident, said he used to come to the ski hill when he was in his 20s and he learned how to ski there.

"It's a beautiful area. It's not just the ski hill. It's the walking trails, the natural forest, the storm water management pond. It's really a beautiful area to walk in," he said.

Rob Flichd, who also lives in the city, said he is pleased to learn the ski hill will open on Saturday. He said he also used to ski there as a child and he is looking forward to bringing his children.

He called it a "great little local" ski hill.

"I came by to walk my dog, and I was actually hoping that the lift would be running, and so now you say it is starting tomorrow, that's good news."