March 3rd, 2024

Unseasonable weather proving a challenge for local ski resorts

By Lethbridge Herald on January 2, 2024.

A skier carves a turn while heading down one of Castle Mountain Resort’s groomed runs this Christmas Eve. Photo courtesy Castle Mountain Resort


Local-area ski hills are feeling the pinch to start the season due to above-average temperatures that are being experienced all over the region.

“It’s been a slow start to the season for sure,” said Cole Fawcett, Castle Mountain Resort sales and marketing manager, on Tuesday.

“It hasn’t been winter as we normally know it here in Alberta so far this winter. But nonetheless, we’ve still been open for more than 30 days here at Castle Mountain Resort. We achieved our targeted opening day of Dec. 1 and we’ve been open since then, despite kind of I guess what would best be described as temperamental weather.”

A season like this year does not come without its challenges.

“For anyone that visits our snow report on our website, they would see that we’re currently open and operating with all of our lifts but with limited terrain being available right now,” said Fawcett.

“It has been hard on our business so far this season. . . . we’re (a) pretty transparent organization, we put it right out there on the single-most visited page on our website each and every day what we expect conditions to be like and what we expect to have open and available for the skiing public.”

The resort has been noting that people are not coming out as they would in the past.

“So that in of itself is a challenge for the business but we’re hoping for things to change and move in a more favourable direction snowfall wise,” he said.

Fawcett said attendance hasn’t been great.

“We’re well off of where we would be at this time normally, well behind our projections and certainly that’s not great for business,” he said.

Fawcett anticipated the ski hill is down 50 per cent in attendance from this time last year.

Fawcett doesn’t think the hill would be open if it weren’t for machine-made snow.

Thirty-five of 95 marked trails are presently open, which is a fraction of what the resort would like to see.

Castle’s total snowfall is 185 centimetres for the season, with a current snow base of 40 cm.

On Sunday Castle announced it has reached an agreement in principle to acquire the Angel Express Quad Chairlift from Sunshine Village Ski Resort.

Castle has yet to determine the timeline and location for reinstallation of what would be the resort’s first high-speed, detachable chairlift.

As for Pass Powderkeg in Blairmore, management felt the ski hill was off to a good start thanks to snow-making capabilities.

“Our snow conditions have been on the favourable side,” said Natalie Rix, Pass Powderkeg’s snow school supervisor.

“We’ve been able to make a great deal of snow since the middle of November to open up our lower mountain.”

Three lower runs that are currently open at Powderkeg.

Rix thinks Powderkeg  has really good conditions for hills in the area.

“There’s been struggles across southern Alberta for hills, for snow conditions and snow pack,” said Rix. “So, we’ve had really good luck.

“We’ve actually seen some really good numbers, lots of families, especially over the Christmas break,” said Rix.

Rix said lesson uptake has been nice and steady,

“Lots of new lessons as well with some beginner levels,” she said.

“But we have seen an increase in private lessons which is excellent.”

Recent challenges faced by Powderkeg include having less than ideal conditions to open the upper mountain and  warmer temperatures which hampers snow-making.

The hope is to open upper mountain very soon.

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