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

  • Scrap 'dangerous' hospital policy allowing workers with COVID-19 back on the job, unions tell Ontario

    Canada News CBC News
    Unions are calling for the Ontario government to reverse a pandemic policy that allows hospital workers to return to work while infected with COVID-19 if a facility's staffing situation becomes dire. "We believe that this whole concept is a dangerous threat to the well-being of hospital patients and to those hospital staff who are healthy," Michael Hurley with the Canadian Union of Public Employees said at a news conference on Thursday. Source
  • 'My absolute dream job': Unique program brings physicians to housebound seniors

    Canada News CBC News
    An animation gif shows physicians Eugenie Phan and Christa Sinclair Mills, and occupational therapist Leslie Coulter, visiting patients of House Calls in Toronto on Jan. 21. (Evan Mitsui/CBC, Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images) Patients of family physician Eugenie Phan don't go to her office. Source
  • Star releasing huge bursts of energy may be 1st of its kind ever discovered

    World News CBC News
    Scientists have detected what appears to be an incredibly dense star behaving unlike anything else ever seen — and suspect it might be a type of exotic astrophysical object whose existence has until now been only hypothesized. Source
  • Children who are severely immunocompromised should get 3rd dose of COVID vaccine, NACI says

    Canada News CBC News
    Children age five to 11 who are moderately to severely immunocompromised should get a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said on Friday. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) issued the updated recommendation on Tuesday, but Tam highlighted it in a COVID-19 briefing on Friday. Source
  • Ontario reports 68 more COVID-19 deaths as hospitalizations drop to 3,535

    Canada News CTV News
    Ontario health officials reported 68 additional deaths related to COVID-19 while hospitalizations dropped again on Friday. Of the deaths logged on Friday, 67 took place over the past 13 days – 36 of which occurred this week – according to the spokesperson for Ontario’s Health Minister. Source
  • B.C. spending scandal: More details unveiled on controversial purchase of wood splitter

    Canada News CTV News
    A surprise disclosure temporarily delayed proceedings at the B.C. Supreme Court trial of the former clerk of the legislature Thursday, while a key witness shed light on the controversial purchase of a wood splitter “for emergencies” that was stored at the clerk's home. Source
  • 'In a very dangerous place': Why one expert says the Russia-Ukraine crisis won't be a traditional war

    World News CTV News
    As western governments and intelligence services attempt to figure out what comes next amid growing tensions between Russia and Ukraine, whatever escalation materializes is unlikely to be a traditional war, says one Canadian expert. While diplomatic channels are flowing back and forth to prevent what the U.S. Source
  • More than 300 charges laid in investigation into auto theft ring, $11.1M worth of cars recovered

    Canada News CTV News
    Two dozen people are facing more than 300 charges combined in connection with an investigation into what police are calling a “prolific auto theft ring” in the Greater Toronto Area. According to Peel police, the investigation—dubbed “Project High 5”—spanned multiple jurisdictions over a six-month period. Source
  • NYC gives final salute to slain NYPD officer

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Police arrived by the thousands in their finest dress blues on Friday, as a light snow drifted under an overcast sky, to honour a fallen brother -- during the first of two funerals that again brought sorrow to the New York Police Department. Source
  • Prince Andrew gives up membership of prestigious golf club

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- Prince Andrew has given up his honorary membership of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, one of the world's most prestigious golf clubs, as he fights allegations of sexual abuse that have forced him to retreat from public life. Source