Sunday, October 20th 2019, 6:28 pm - Ski season will be getting off to an early start in parts of the west.
It's not even Halloween, but winter sports fans in Alberta will be able to dust off the skis by late this week as at least one ski resort opens for the season.
Nakiska Ski Area, near Kananaskis, will open for the earliest preview weekend in its 31-year history on October 26. Nakiska general manager Jan Sekerak told CBC News the resort is making the most of the prolonged period of cold weather that's marked much of Alberta's fall, using the colder temperatures to make snow.
"Manmade snow is now alpha and omega of skiing in this area," Sekerak told CBC.
Pushing around some snow getting the upload ramps ready for next weekend 🙌❄️ #skiclose #earliestopeningever #skibeforehalloween #nakiska 📹 @Washed_Up https://t.co/rKDQlq2JOWNakiska Ski Area on Twitter
The snow season got off to a banner start in southern Alberta, with more than 30 cm of snow falling in September in Calgary -- about ten times the monthly average. And those impressive numbers in the city translated to some much heftier amounts higher in the foothills and Rockies.
Lingering colder-than-average temperatures are also a boon both for keeping that snow on the ground and adding to it with the help of snowmaking equipment. The map below shows the temperature anomaly so far this month, with blues and greens indicating below-average temperatures. Much of southern B.C. and the southern Prairies have been running about 5 degrees below average.
While Nakiska is out ahead of the pack, dates published by other Alberta ski resorts show they won't be far behind, with projected openings in early November.
West of the Continental Divide, it takes a bit longer to get the ski season going, with most resorts looking at late November or early December openings.
There are a variety of factors involved here, but the influence of the ocean does play a role. It takes a while for those mountain snow levels to come down through the fall as the cold tries to unseat mild, Pacific air. Alberta gets flooded by bouts of Arctic, continental air dropping down east of the Rockies as we transition into fall, paving the way for bursts of colder weather sooner in the season.