Southern Ontario ski resorts wait patiently for colder temperatures

'We're just waiting for that temperature to change and drop down,' Snow Valley Ski Resort's GM says

Paul Rogers says that as someone who enjoys skiing, the current weather situation in southern Ontario is painful to watch.

"I would be lying if I said it wasn't hurting a bit. I feel it," Rogers, who lives in Collingwood, told CBC News.

Rogers is also president of the Ontario Track3 Adaptive Sports Association, which pairs volunteers who teach children with disabilities how to ski. The association, which has been around for 50 years, operates out of various ski hills in the province, including in Milton, Huntsville, North York in suburban Toronto and Collingwood.

He said the group will train volunteers over the next two weekends at Craigleith Ski Club, just west of Collingwood, and he hopes the weather co-operates. While the ski club has snow and is open, Rogers said a lack of snow elsewhere can sometimes dampen the mood of volunteers.

"For people that are on the fence, it's amazing how much snow helps," he said.

"If they've skied with us before, they're inspired by the kids. If they haven't skied with us or talked with us before, then they may be inspired a bit by by the weather and snow, and getting out in the fresh air."

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Rogers said everyone with Track3 is eagerly anticipating colder weather for later this month when they start working with the young people eager to learn how to ski.

"We have a little bit of time, and so we're watching the forecast carefully and we know that everyone in the industry is doing everything they can to get things going," he said.

"As much as I'm optimistic about two weeks from now ... I don't know if the ground is frozen even in some spots. So it's concerning for sure. I have to be optimistic, but I am concerned."

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Some hills 'look like a golf course'

While resorts in eastern and northern Ontario have been able to make snow to keep skiers and snowboarders happy, mild temperatures and rainy weather have hindered the ability of alpine ski hills across southern Ontario to make and keep snow on the slopes.

Chicopee in Kitchener hasn't opened yet this season, but chief executive officer Bill Creighton hopes to see people out on their skis and snowboards soon — if the weather co-operates.

"We do have some snow pack and a decent base on our main runs. The outer runs look like a golf course," he told Jackie Sharkey, guest host of CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition, on Tuesday.

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He said staff got excited when a storm was predicted to dump snow on the region just before schools went on winter break last month.

"Kitchener-Waterloo really missed a lot of that. It kind of went south and north of us and we didn't get the snow volume that a lot of the surrounding areas did," Chicopee said, noting a heavy snowfall isn't always enough to be able to open.

"Even as you get that snow from above, if you get six to 12 inches [152 to 304 mm] on your front lawn, it looks like, 'Wow, Chicopee should be open.' We put a 2,000-pound [907-kg] groomer over that and it gives us about half an inch [nearly 13 mm] or so on the surface."

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At some of the other Ontario ski hills as of Wednesday:

  • Blue Mountain in Collingwood has 14 trails open out of 42.

  • Horseshoe Resort in Barrie has 11 trails open out of 28.

  • Hockley Valley Resort in Mono has five runs open out of 16, and is not offering night skiing until at least Saturday.

  • Batawa Ski Hill in Quinte West had four of 12 trails open.

  • Dagmar Ski Resort in Uxbridge had five trails open out of 18.

  • Antoine Mountain in Mattawa was closed.

  • Brimacombe in Orono was closed.

  • Boler Mountain in London, the most southern ski hill in the province, had 14 of 15 trails open, and said on its website it was thanks to snow-making machines.

  • Mount St. Louis Moonstone north of Barrie has 36 open runs and two of four parks open.

'Mother Nature is definitely in charge'

John Ball, general manager of Snow Valley Ski Resort in Minesing just northwest of Barrie, said using snowmaking machines has allowed them to open at 50 per cent capacity.

"We're just waiting for that temperature to change and drop down a little bit so we can resume our snowmaking," Ball told Ontario Morning host Ramraajh Sharvendiran on Tuesday.

"We're looking at right around the freezing mark for the next couple of days and then it drops down over the weekend, which will enable us to make a lot more snow to get things ready to go for our peak January-February season."

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CBC: Glen Eden, a ski and snowboard resort in Milton, Ont., posted this photo to Instagram on Wednesday. The ski hill had to close Monday due to mild temperatures and rain, which made it impossible to maintain snow. (Glen Eden/Instagram)

Glen Eden, a ski and snowboard resort in Milton, Ont., posted this photo to Instagram on Wednesday. The ski hill had to close Monday due to mild temperatures and rain, which made it impossible to maintain snow. (Glen Eden/Instagram via CBC News)

AJ Leeming, senior manager of programs and services with Conservation Halton, which operates Glen Eden in Milton, said they're "playing the hand we're dealt with, but Mother Nature is definitely in charge."

The ski hill had initially hoped to open Dec. 23, but the winter storm knocked out power for a few days, so it opened on Dec. 27. Then, Glen Eden had to close on Monday, and Leeming says it may be the weekend before they can reopen.

The Environment Canada forecast says temperatures in much of southern Ontario are supposed to dip in the coming days, and where there has been rain, it will instead become a chance of flurries as of Friday.

Camps, lessons cancelled

Leeming said they were disappointed to have to cancel their winter camps this week for students who are still out of school and on winter breaks. These types of camps are important for smaller resorts like Glen Eden and Chicopee, which are considered "feeder hills," where they help train young skiers and snowboarders.

"We introduce people to the sport, we get them hooked, we give them their foundation and get them started," he said.

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A delayed season also means fewer lessons for new skiers and snowboarders, and that could have a lasting impact on the sport, said Daniel Scott, an environmental management professor at the University of Waterloo. He's also the university research chair of climate and society, and executive director of the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change at the school.


Scott studied the impact climate change is having on the ski industry in Ontario, Quebec and the northeastern United States. He said there are two climate scenarios that could affect the industry by 2050, and they have "fundamentally different outcomes."

If people don't lower their emissions and work to prevent a changing climate, ski hills in southern Ontario won't be viable because they'd be unable to "physically produce the product or reliable product year over year."

It would mean people who ski in southern Ontario may need to go to Blue Mountain in Collingwood to hit the slopes, and eventually, climate change would mean having to travel even farther, such as to Quebec and Mont Tremblant Ski Resort, or to hills in the northeastern U.S. where they're at a higher elevation.

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"Eventually our kids certainly, but even us depending on how old you are, are going to have to make different decisions," he said.

"My kids wouldn't have learned to ski, they wouldn't have got ski lessons, if I had to take them up to Blue [Mountain]," he added. "They only learned to ski because Chicopee's here and so, if you lose Chicopee, what becomes of the next generation of skiers?"

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Rogers said he also hopes ski hills across Ontario can have a good season, even if the weather isn't always the best. Since 2020, many have suffered financially due to COVID-19 restrictions, he said, but remain supportive of the Track3 program.

"They really are doing everything they can," he said, adding that with advances in snow-making technology, "they're making miracles happen."

"I was just at Hockley ... and they had a few runs going, but they had a lot of people out there smiling in the rain," he said. "We'll get there. It'll come. I'd say get out now and get it going, and it'll get better. I just know it'll get better."

This article, written by Kate Bueckert, was originally published for CBC News.