Ont. ski hills battle rain, warmth as El Nino persists

An unseasonably warm winter has created poor skiing conditions across Ontario as many ski resorts struggle to keep snow on the slopes.

See Full Article

Several Ontario hills have set new records this year for the latest opening dates on record. If the weather conditions persist, 2015-2016 could be a historically short ski season in the region.

The relatively balmy conditions have been attributed to El Nino, a weather system caused by a flow of warmer-than-usual surface waters from the Pacific Ocean. The phenomenon typically occurs every two to seven years and brings about warmer winds, rain and a generally shorter winter.

For Ontario skiiers and snowboarders, it means less powder and more slush on the region’s downhill trails so far this year.

Record-setting season

The slopes weren’t ready at Laurentian Ski Hill in North Bay, Ont., until Jan. 2 the latest opening date on record, surpassing the former record of Dec. 30 in 2006.

Plus-zero temperatures and a lack of snowfall pushed opening day past the holidays, a traditionally busy period that the resort relies on for business.

“The Christmas period is key for every ski hill, and we had no money coming in at all,” said general manager Trish Pecore.

It was a similar story 300 kilometres south at the Blue Mountain Ski Resort, where a mini-putt course, zip-lining trail and other summer activities were re-opened before Christmas. The resort’s snow-making team waited for frigid temperatures to arrive before firing up their snow-making machines.

When it finally opened on Dec. 30, it was Blue Mountain’s latest opening day on record, surpassing the former record of Dec. 26 set in 2001.

One of the earliest opening dates in Ontario was Dec. 5, at Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area in Huntsville, Ont., where a temporary blast of wintery weather helped keep man-made snow on the trails.

However, warm conditions and rain quickly followed, keeping the trails closed for more than three weeks afterwards.

It was a drastic change from last season, when Hidden Valley opened on Nov. 29 and remained operational during the Christmas holidays.

“Our numbers have been lower for sure,” said Courtney Payne, communications and event manager for Hidden Valley.

She added that attendance has been doing “quite well” since the slopes re-opened on Dec. 28, with an estimated 300 to 400 skiers and snowboarders on the hill last weekend. As of Thursday, three of its 11 trails were open.

Closer to Ottawa, Calabogie Peaks opened on Dec. 26, which was “certainly later than usual in the last six years,” according to marketing director Liz Murphy.

However, Murphy said that the resort offered snow-shoeing, hiking and several all-season activities before opening day, adding that the resort’s hotel “has not been affected” by the temperate weather.

Fluctuating temperatures

Many hills prepare for opening day by stockpiling snow in large drifts, sometimes called “whales,” that are kept at the ready to blanket the slopes once optimal conditions arrive.

But fluctuating conditions can make it difficult to build the snow reserves. This week in the Muskoka region, temperatures jumped from -30 on a Tuesday to 0 Thursday.

“We don’t get as much natural snow as we used to,” said Payne. “If we don’t have the consistent weather, we can’t make the quality and quantity of snow that we want.”

East-West reversal

From a nation-wide perspective, ski conditions in the east and west appear to have flip-flopped from last year.

Castle Mountain, a resort in the Rockies near Pincher Creek, Alta., was forced to close in mid-February last year due to a lack of snow. In B.C., Mount Washington on Vancouver Island and Hemlock Valley Resort, about 120 kilometres east of Vancouver, also closed early.

But the current season has seen plenty of fresh powder across the west, with big-ticket resorts such as Lake Louise and Sunshine Village opening in November.

On the flip side, Ontario’s deep chill last winter meant good snow-making conditions throughout the season.

Most Ontario ski resorts post their trail conditions online, with regular updates on how many are open and estimates of snow base depth. For now, skiers and snowboarders in the region can simply look to the sky and cross their fingers.

“Hopefully everyone can do snow dances for us and the cold weather will come,” said Payne.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • 'Just a baby': Vigil mourns 14-year-old Indigenous girl found dead in Vancouver

    Canada News CTV News
    A vigil was held on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside Tuesday for an Indigenous girl whose body was found there a year after she went missing. Noelle O'Soup was one of two people whose remains were in a room at a single-room-occupancy building on May 1, Vancouver police have confirmed. Source
  • 'I just pray that they are going to be fine': Witnesses recall violent shooting at B.C. bank

    Canada News CTV News
    Fabien Cousineau had just stepped outside after buying some bicycle parts Tuesday morning when a police officer came and told him not to move. Unable to get to his truck, Cousineau stayed where he was. Source
  • It may be summer, but people are still skiing in Canada

    Canada News CTV News
    Large amounts of snow this past winter, combined with a late melt, has carved a path for summer skiing in Alberta. Skiing resort, Banff Sunshine Village opened for the summer last week and hopes to welcome skiers from across the country until Sunday. Source
  • Cassidy Hutchinson, Trump White House aide, now in spotlight

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON - A year and a half after the deadly U.S. Capitol insurrection, the most memorable recounting of former president Donald Trump's behaviour that day came from a young woman who had graduated from college just a few years earlier. Source
  • Biden team strains to flex muscles in abortion fight

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden's top health official said Tuesday that "every option is on the table" when it comes to helping women access abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Source
  • Colombia needs drug policy changes to end internal violence, truth commission says

    World News CBC News
    Colombian leaders must recognize how drug trafficking has penetrated the country's culture, economy and politics and how the global war on drugs is driving its internal armed conflict, Colombia's truth commission said on Tuesday in a long-awaited report. Source
  • Ukraine's president says Putin has become 'a terrorist'

    World News CTV News
    UNITED NATIONS - Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday of becoming "a terrorist" leading a "terrorist state" and urged Russia's expulsion from the United Nations. In a virtual address to the UN Security Council, Zelenskyy urged the UN to establish an international tribunal to investigate "the actions of Russian occupiers on Ukrainian soil" and to hold the country accountable. Source
  • Canadians who want a Nexus card will have to travel to U.S. to get it

    Canada News CTV News
    A Nexus card is supposed to help put low-risk Canadians on the fast track when crossing the U.S. border, but at least 330,000 Canadians aren’t sure when their applications will be processed. "It's been a major disappointment, because it's taking so long," said Toronto resident Margaret Cassidy, who applied for a Nexus card in 2019. Source
  • Police: Carbon monoxide killed 3 tourists at Bahamas resort

    World News CTV News
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Carbon monoxide poisoning killed three U.S. tourists found dead at a resort in the Bahamas in May, police announced Tuesday. Authorities did not provide further details, saying the deaths were still under investigation. Source
  • New study examines cannabis use and emergency room visits

    Canada News CTV News
    Emergency room visits and hospitalizations are 22 per cent higher among Canadians who use cannabis than among those who don't, according to a new study. The study, led by researchers at Unity Health Toronto, compared data from almost 4,800 people who reported cannabis use in the preceding 12 months with data from more than 10,000 people who reported never having used cannabis. Source