Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Deep Freeze Stalls Ski Hill Operations across Canada after Promising Start

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Deep Freeze Stalls Ski Hill Operations across Canada after Promising Start

Article excerpt

Deep freeze stalls promising ski season

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CALGARY - Bitter cold enveloping much of Canada has reduced the number of skiers on the slopes during the key Christmas holiday season, blunting industry optimism boosted by good early snow conditions and strong foreign visitor interest due to the weak Canadian dollar.

As Environment Canada issued extreme cold alerts for parts of B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, the Mont Orford ski area east of Montreal announced it would close for the day on Thursday to ensure guest safety. The cold snap is expected to last all weekend.

At Mont Tremblant to the north of Montreal, the slopes were active with vacation package buyers, many from the United States, according to Annique Aird, vice-president of sales and marketing.

"It turned cold here the last few days which is making it more challenging but people are dressing well and still skiing. The upside is the really blue sky days," she said.

She conceded the resort is seeing fewer day visitors because of the low temperatures.

The picture was less optimistic at Mount St. Louis Moonstone, about 145 kilometres north of Toronto, which has no onsite accommodation and relies on day skiers to fill its slopes, with about 30 per cent of its annual visits during the Christmas season.

"The 27th, 28th and 29th should be the busiest days of the Christmas holidays and our attendance so far has been about half of what we normally have," said general manager Robert Huter. He added the cold means skiers are missing out on "unbelievable snow conditions for this time of year."

In most ski regions in the West, temperatures were also in the minus 20s C.

Some hills were changing the way they offer services such as ski lessons, with more frequent breaks to warm up, because of the cold but Christopher Nicolson, CEO of the Canada West Ski Areas Association, said he hadn't heard of any closings.

He said people who pre-booked their vacations for the holidays will come anyway but the cold will discourage local skiers.

"I think overall the industry is quite optimistic we're going to have a good year," he said, pointing out the low value of the Canadian dollar versus the U. …

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