Some hills, rinks haven’t opened for the season yet
It’s not unheard of for Mission Ridge Winter Park — located about 75 kilometres east of Regina — to open in mid December.
But the park’s business manager, Anders Svenson, says this has been one of the more challenging years to make snow.
“It’s less about getting snow and more about getting the temperatures,” said Svenson.
Ideal snow making conditions, he says, usually require temperatures below -10 C. It takes about 400 hours of those conditions to get the park fully covered.
So far, Svenson said, only about 100 hours have been completed.
That means Mission Ridge will only partially open Saturday. Other runs will be open once enough snow is made.
Svenson estimates between 10 and 15 million gallons of water have been used for the resort’s 20 snow guns, which take pressurized water to create snow.
WATCH | Mission Ridge Winter Park scrambles to make snow when temperatures dip:
Mission Ridge Winter Park scrambles to make snow when temperatures dip
The Mission Ridge Winter Park at Fort Qu’Appelle describes the race to make snow when temperatures drop to about -10 C. It takes about 400 hours of those conditions to get the park fully covered.
Lawrence Blouin, general manager of Table Mountain Regional Park near North Battleford, said he’s facing similar conditions.
The park hasn’t been able to open yet.
“We usually try to open for the first Saturday in December,” said Blouin. “We’re hoping to open before Christmas.”
He echoed that temperatures below -10 C during the day are best for making snow. That has yet to happen this fall at the park.
It isn’t the first time Blouin has dealt with a late start to the season. He recalls similar December warmth in 2008 and 2009.
Some getting by, despite the weather
Optimist Hill in Saskatoon has now fully opened, after a partial opening earlier this month.
General manager Maxine Tebbe said she also recalls similar late starts in 2016 and 2018.
She said this year’s opening weekend was very busy, a good thing for the hill, which relies on grants and fundraising outside of ticket sales.
More than $30,000 has been spent on making snow for the hill this season so far.
“We’re not a city-run facility, we are a non-profit organization,” she said. “We pay for that water, we pay for the power.”
Finances are top of mind for Svenson as well, who said making snow is a big part of Mission Ridge’s budget.
“We rely on our season pass sales,” said Svenson. “And virtually every cent of that gets used for snowmaking.”
- Freestyle ski club hoping to build a year-round facility at Optimist Hill in Saskatoon
- Historic drought means there’s almost no snow for ski hills in B.C.’s Interior
Blouin said that although making snow is expensive, December only accounts for between 10 and 15 per cent of his seasonal revenue, so he’s hoping for better weather in the new year.
“February [and] March are our biggest months,” he said.
“That’s when we do our big school programs. Right now we’re booking 300 school kids a day … four days a week.”
Outdoor rinks slowly opening across province
A few outdoor rinks are now open in Sakatoon, including sites in Briarwood, Lakeridge and Willowgrove.
None of Regina’s 60 outdoor rinks are open yet.
Ray Morgan, manager of parks, maintenance and cemeteries for the City of Regina, said he hopes they’ll be open by Christmas.
Morgan said warm temperatures aren’t helping, but neither is the lack of snow.
“It prevents the water from running off [the rink] when we pack it against the boards,” he said. “It helps us build a white base underneath the ice and that really reduces the melting effect.”
Even though the rinks aren’t ready, Morgan said the weather has kept the city’s pathways and sidewalks in good shape.
“You can still bike on them, you can rollerblade on them, you can even skateboard on them in some cases.”