National Post, by Shari Kulha, December 22, 2014 — “Blue is a great place for an extended family to meet up,” says Jennifer Wootton, realtor and sales representative for MacPherson Builders, “especially for those who are scattered all over Ontario.”
It’s a great place, she says, because it’s got good access from many locations (buyers come from as far as London, Kitchener/Waterloo, Orangeville, Barrie and the full range of the GTA from east to west) and there’s something for all age groups in all seasons.
The destination colloquially referred to as “Collingwood” takes in a 35-km-long stretch from the town of Collingwood west along the southern shore of Georgian Bay to the town of Meaford. Each town is a walkable entity unto itself, but a car is a must to get to the public hills at Blue Mountain.
Blue has average natural snowfall of 109 inches over its 720-foot vertical; it has 16 lifts serving 42 trails, with the popular Village at Blue at its base offering outdoor entertainment, skating and BeaverTails. Night skiing is popular, as is ski racing and snowboarding. The private clubs along the Escarpment, such as Osler and Alpine, do not have public hours but members’ guests are welcome.
Both Ellicottville and Blue have terrain parks, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and tubing, if not on site then within a few minutes’ drive — and both sport a mountain coaster for yet another way to get down a hill. Blue (bluemountain.ca) is a two-hour drive from the GTA. (See the Ellicottville story here.)
Like Ellicottville, Southern Georgian Bay’s four-seasons activity list is long. Cycling (60 km of trails in Collingwood alone!) is very popular, as is golfing, boating, fishing, hiking, apple-picking, antiquing, shopping, dining and theatre. Plus, there’s the chill-factor destination that has no comparison: Le Scandinave sauna spa, where alternating hot and cold immersion will knock you out if a day on the slopes hasn’t.
The two ski areas are in very different landscapes. A quaint village nestled in hilly landscape, Ellicottville gives visitors a great sense of containment and escape into the past. The Ontario landscape along Highway 26 is wide open, with horizon views from the Escarpment stretching over Georgian Bay, miles of flat farmland and the town of Collingwood.
Many Ontarians grew up skiing Blue, and maybe it’s that familiarity that has young families moving here. They come to raise their children in its small-town atmosphere. Some have cashed in their high-price Toronto houses, purchased for less in Southern Georgian Bay, and use the extra funds to stay in the GTA a couple of nights a week when they don’t telecommute. The town of Collingwood boasts Ontario’s “strongest entrepreneurial activity” (and 7th of 10 in Canada), according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, with a high number of tech-focused firms.
The retail scene in the towns along Hwy. 26 has grown from offering just the necessities to include elegant clothing and decor shops and mouthwatering foodie stops. In Collingwood (collingwood.ca; the first downtown heritage district in Canada), check out the unique Lëuk decor shop, Dags & Willow gourmet food shop, and, a little bit west, the new and very good Northwinds brew pub. There are many chain stores, from Skiis & Biikes to Sporting Life to Winners and many fast food options, but a range of local shops, such as Lëuk and the Tree Green Team that upcycles fallen trees into flooring and furniture, are gaining fast.
The real estate market throughout the area is active at all levels. Big brick century homes along the “tree streets” in Collingwood proper, a five-minute walk to the main commercial stretch along Hurontario Street, list from $400,000 to $1.4-million; post-war homes can be had for less, while an ultra-modern new-build on a 60×82-ft. lot is offered at $499,000. Farm properties are also popular as weekend/ski retreats.
Older fixer-upper townhouses developed in the area’s 1980s resort push can be purchased at less than $200,000; for most current pricing on new two-bedroom townhomes at MacPherson’s Blue Fairway golf community in Collingwood , please contact the sales office. (macphersonbuilders.com).
MacPhersons’ Windrose Estates 37-lot development two minutes’ drive from Osler features stunning architecturally controlled homes on one or two acres, in the million-dollar range. [For most current pricing, please contact the sales office.]
At MacPherson’s most successful development, the Orchard at Craigleith, where 70% of buyers belong to Craigleith ski club, there was a $200,000 premium to back on to the hills. Indicative of its place as a second-home community is the fact that only 10% of its 300 homes are occupied full-time (the Orchard is completed and available through resale only).
“The biggest selling feature at all our locations,” Ms. Wootton says, “is having a main-floor master bedroom. Buyers are looking ahead to their retirement years — they’re the transitional retirees — but also want to have extra space upstairs for family and friends.” Or, given their healthy, active dispositions, maybe they’ll put the lazy adult kids on the main floor and effortlessly bound up and down the stairs themselves.