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

  • Indiana family plans to sue over tot's fatal fall from cruise ship

    World News CBC News
    There are "a million things" the cruise company could have done to prevent the death of an 18-month-old Indiana girl who fell to her death from an open window on a cruise ship in Puerto Rico, the toddler's mother said in an interview broadcast Monday. Source
  • U.S. police officer suggests Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should be shot

    World News CTV News
    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., walks out of a House of Representatives office building, Tuesday, July 16, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Source
  • Trump expands fast-track deportation authority across U.S.

    World News CTV News
    SAN DIEGO - The Trump administration is expanding the authority of immigration officers to deport migrants without requiring them to appear before judges ahead of deportation. The Homeland Security Department said Monday that fast-track deportations will apply to anyone in the country illegally less than two years. Source
  • Huawei hit with security questions as it unveils high-speed rural internet project

    Canada News CBC News
    Huawei Canada was hounded by questions about national security concerns and its ties to the Chinese government today as it announced that it will bring high-speed internet to a number of northern and rural communities. With tensions between China and Canada still running high over the arrest of Huawei's chief financial officer in Vancouver, the Chinese telecommunications company announced Monday that it has federal approval to partner with two companies, Ice Wireless and Iristel, to connect 70…
  • Saskatchewan farmers convert old grain bins into unlikely tourist cabins

    Canada News CBC News
    Nothing says "Saskatchewan" quite like spending a night inside an old grain bin. In recent years two families in the province have converted decommissioned round metal grain bins into unlikely accommodations, and opened their yards for visitors to stay. Source
  • Police search for witnesses after man found dead, ejected from his car

    Canada News CTV News
    GEORGINA, Ont. -- York Regional Police are appealing to the public for witnesses following a fatal collision in south-central Ontario on the weekend. Police say they responded to a call in Georgina, Ont. Source
  • Titanic survivor's light-up cane goes for US$62,500 at auction

    World News CTV News
    PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A Titanic survivor's walking stick with an electric light she used to signal for help from a lifeboat has sold for US$62,500 at an auction of maritime items in Rhode Island. Guernsey's auction house held the auction in Newport on Friday and Saturday. Source
  • O'Regan visits Attawapiskat, assures community in water crisis: 'We are not satisfied'

    Canada News CTV News
    Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O'Regan said Ottawa will bring medical teams to Attawapiskat First Nation this week, after he visited the reserve in northern Ontario on Sunday, at the request of the community's chief. Source
  • N.L. fishing guide among dead in Labrador plane crash, four still missing

    Canada News CTV News
    ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- A funeral for an experienced fishing guide and father of three is to be held in Deer Lake, N.L., today, one week after a float plane that he and six others were on board crashed into a lake in Labrador. Source
  • Iran's supreme leader vows not to give up on Palestinians

    World News CTV News
    TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's supreme leader was quoted Monday as saying during a meeting with a delegation from the Palestinian militant group Hamas that his country won't give up its stance in support of the Palestinians. Source