Nakiska, Norquay race to make opening-date history

Skiers and snowboarders rejoice, some Calgary-area hills are open earlier than ever this season.

Heavy snowfall and cool temperatures left hills racing to open their runs to the public last week, with hills hoping to claim bragging rights for what just might be the earliest opening of any ski hill in Canadian history.

Representatives for the Kananaskis hill Nakiska announced last week that the hill would open on Saturday Oct. 27, noting that this would be the earliest on record to the best of anyone’s knowledge.

 However in the end it was Banff’s Mount Norquay that snagged the title, the hill opened its Cascade chair and portions of its terrain park on Thursday Oct. 25.

“The amount of snow we’ve had so far is amazing, it’s a great start,” said André The Cascade Chair was packed full on Thursday Oct. 25, with skiers and snowboarders eager to take advantage of Mount Norquay’s earliest opening ever.

Photo courtesy of Mount Norquay Quenneville, General Manager at Norquay. Quenneville said recent 10 and 20 cm snowfalls have helped the hill push forward the opening date.

“I’d love to say it’s an indicator for the season to come,” said Quenneville.

Representatives for both Norquay and Nakiska credit early openings to a combination of natural snowfall, man-made snow, and cool temperatures that enable snowfall to accumulate, rather than melting away.

“An unbelievable weather system has rolled through the rockies and dropped bountiful amounts of snow on Nakiska,” said Matt Mosteller, spokesperson for Nakiska.

“It’s an epic start to the new season,” said Mosteller, noting that while early openings don’t have a huge monetary impact on the hills, season ticket holders are presented with more opportunities to get their money’s worth.

Colder temperatures can also be thanked for COP’s weekend opening, said spokesperson Dale Oviatt.

“Ultimately it comes down to the weather. This year has been so much colder than usual, and it needs to be about minus five to make the snow, which it has been since Sunday night.”

But it’s arguably the folks hitting the slopes who are most excited for the upcoming season. Cassidy Martin was one of the first in line for Nakiska’s 10 a.m. opening on Saturday, and said there are endless benefits to an early season.

“We know the conditions aren’t going to be fabulous,” said Martin, “but the main benefit is conditioning, just getting the legs in shape for when the snow really starts to come.”

Snowboarder Blair Deault was also at Nakiska on Saturday, and agreed that a chance for early conditioning is a major bonus.

“You get your legs warmed up, get your cardio and your body ready for the harder aspects of the year, when the snow’s deep it’s a lot more work than it is riding a groomer. It’s a great way to get ready, ” said Deault.

“I’ve been waiting for this day since my last run of last season in May.”

Both Nakiska and Norquay opened on a weekend-only basis until the two hills began seven-day a week operations on Nov. 30. 

knorthey@cjournal.ca