Gear up on the hills, unwind at the spa

Collingwood offers adrenalin-inducing pursuits and a rustic outdoor spa

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Published in Hamilton Spectator in June 2014

My friend Melanie and I have always shared a sense of mischief. Once, in our 20s, we climbed the United Empire Loyalists statute in front of the courthouse in downtown Hamilton after a night on the town, whipped off our shirts and waved them at the honking cars passing by.

What can I say? We were young and carefree. Beer may have been involved.

More than 20 years later, with five teenage kids between us, we still like to get up to a bit of adventure now and then. That’s why we are hooked up to the Wind Rider zip line at the Blue Mountain resort in Collingwood. Delicately bouncing up and down on our tippy toes and strapped in a harness that feels like an adult Jolly Jumper, Melanie and I perch on the ledge of the platform and prepare to hurl through the air at 50 km/h.

Once, we lost our shirts together. Now I wonder if we’ve lost our heads.

Collingwood is known as the ski capital of southern Ontario, but it’s got plenty going on to entice summer visitors - especially at Blue Mountain, which has invested $6 million over the past five years creating adrenalin-inducing experiences such as the zip line, the Ridge Runner (Ontario’s first mountain coaster) and the Timber Challenge high ropes course, an aerial adventure with suspension bridges, ladders, and cargo nets 18 metres above the forest bed.

Later this summer it will introduce a massive free fall airbag onto which you can jump and plummet from a towering platform - a grown up bouncy castle for thrill-seekers. If you’re after something more sedate, you can take a Segway tour along the peak of the mountain brow.

Our guide, Peter Brisley, a 66-year-old retired teacher from Burlington, gives us a 15-minute lesson on how to manoeuvre the two-wheeled transportation device before taking us on an off-road trek at a clip of about 20 km/h, stopping periodically to marvel at the stunning views of the Georgian Bay area, where persistent patches of snow still cling to the hills in mid-May.

An open-air gondola takes us back down to the base of the mountain where we hop on a cart on the Ridge Runner coaster, an elevated track that’s constructed several metres off the ground. The ride is deceptively lulling as we are automatically tugged along uphill, but the 10-minute one-kilometre journey down has us whipping through corkscrew turns and zigzagging through the trees.

Drivers can control their own speed by using a manual brake, but we go full throttle at 40 km/h, hooting in delight as we fly down the mountain.

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