Blue skies and warm weather are great conditions for getting the rakes out early. But for boarders and skiers, the mild climate is leading the way to a rocky end for the local alpine season.
So far, this winter’s extremely mild conditions forced one local ski hill to shut down for the year.
After a late start to the season due to rain over snow, the volunteer-run Salmo Ski Hill opened season Jan. 6 and closed just six weeks later on Feb. 12.
Red Mountain Resort is holding on by making snow for the lower areas, says the hill’s general manager Don Thompson, and on Monday things remained good while staff continued to monitor the very early spring-like conditions.
“This year is an anomaly,” he said. “Conditions are quite variable and can change dramatically during the day when the snow softens,” he explained.
“(Skiers) enjoy groomed runs in the morning and by afternoon when the snow softens up it’s good again on the top peaks.”
All lifts remained open Monday until 3:30 p.m., though the Sally’s Alley and Lower War Eagle runs on Red were closed, as was White Riot on Grey.
Thompson said typically this time of year, the ski hill has well over two metres of snow, but currently the snow pack is sitting at about 1.6 metres.
“We are definitely looking forward to more precipitation by the end of February and through March,” he added. “But we are fortunate we are open, all the lifts are turning and everyone is having a good time.”
Red’s historical weather data dates back to 1905. Thompson noted there has been a few years on record with such a low snow pack in February, but none in recent memory.
The hill faced tough times over a decade ago, when a lack of snow and warm temperatures led to a two-day operational shut down in 2001.
According to a Jan. 24, 2001 Trail Times edition, Red’s snow base was 90 centimetres at the top of Granite Mountain, and reported only 150 skiers were showing up during the week.
After fresh snowfall and backlash for skiers and businesses, the resort shortened a plan week-long shutdown to just two days.
The current alpine base is 155 cm, though there’s been no snowfall in the last seven days. However, 94 per cent of its runs are open.
Whitewater Ski Resort reports a settle snowpack of 212 cm, and all lifts and 90 per cent of its runs are open.
Things are even bleaker in the East Kootenay according to the Canadian Press ski report.
Webcam shots at the Fernie Alpine Resort show patches or brown dirt and the resort is reporting a base of 138 cm and only 32 per cent of its runs are open.
At Kimberley, the ski resort has a 98 cm base and 68 per cent of its runs opened.
In Revelstoke, the resport is reporting only 63 per cent of its runs are open.