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Ski Hills Bracing For An El Nino Hit To Business

Fraser Valley/Vancouver (Global) – The B.C. ski hills are readying for an upcoming season that may be similar to last year due to an El Niño event.

Matt MacDonald, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said this winter the weather will be about 10 per cent drier than normal and warmer than normal by about two to three degrees.

Temperatures across the province were above average last winter, resulting in a lower than normal snowpack on many mountains across B.C. Hemlock ski resort did not even open for the season. Manning Park had a decent season, but their climate and elevation were conducive to surviving last years weather.

And experts say it’s a question of when, not if, we will see an end to a regular ski season on our coastal mountains.

So many mountains are getting ready early to make sure they will be able to open and operate for residents and tourists.

At Whistler Blackcomb they are conducting a new snowmaking pilot project aimed at preserving the Horstman Glacier on Blackcomb. The project will involve the testing of four low-energy consumption snowmaking guns in the Horstman Hut area to determine if a full-scale snowmaking system is an option to prevent further recession of the Glacier. This system could improve the early season access to glacier skiing and snowboarding during the winter and preserve the summer glacier experience for guests in the future.

The resort also has 270 snow guns, which convert between 180 and 200 million gallons of water into snow. The snowmaking team can turn 10,000 gallons of water per minute into snow on Whistler Mountain. In the early season, the snowmaking team’s focus is to work with the natural snowfall to create a “ski out” as quickly as possible for the guests.

Snow did fall at the peak of Whistler Blackcomb in mid-August and early September.

Brett Williams, the owner and manager of North Shore Ski and Board, said the last two ski seasons were “not great”, but this year they are expecting the best.

“There has been some negativity that we’ve heard out there, on the streets and things and customers coming in after last season, but I think this season it’s going to be like good old 98/99 when we had epic snowfalls in the El Niño season.”

98/99 was a record-breaking snowfall year for many locations on the west coast.

Williams said a lot of people are coming in and buying new equipment in anticipation of the ski season.

At Grouse Mountain, they are getting ready by upgrading their snowmaking equipment to 33 guns and seven tower mounts.

“We are putting half-a-million into snowmaking,” said Grant Wahl, mountain operations manger. “What’s that going to mean is top to bottom snowmaking for us – that’s going to be the top of the peak to the bottom of the cut.”

He said, in good conditions, that means they will be able to open in three days of starting snowmaking operations.

“We also have carriage guns, snow guns, that we can move all over the mountain.”

Wahl said they can operate with just snowmaking, but they are confident they are going to get a lot of snow fall this year.

“As we’ve seen in the past couple of years, we can depend on [the snow guns] if we need to, obviously we want the big dumps of snow,” he added.



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