Ski hill staff rejoice as spring brings dump of snow to dry winter season

The snowfall is important for the final stretch of the season on the slopes, they say

Spring has arrived — with a big dump of snow in Calgary and surrounding areas.

After a dry winter, and in preparation for the final stretch of the season on the slopes, ski hill staff are welcoming the weather with open arms.

Kendra Scurfield, vice-president of brand communications with Banff Sunshine Village, said this winter brought in lower-than-average snowfall at the resort.

It's made for an important learning experience, she said.

"It has been a bit more challenging and has required some creative solutions and problem solving," said Scurfield.

"Our amazing mountain operations team … did everything they could to really collect and farm our snow and then spread it throughout the mountain to get the terrain open for skiers and snowboarders."

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Scurfield said the recent snowfall is important for Sunshine, and that she hopes to see droves of people enjoying the fresh powder before the season ends around late May.

March, she said, is typically the snowiest month of the year in Alberta's Rocky Mountains. She said so far this month, the resort has gotten roughly 50 centimeters of snow, which has been critical given the dry conditions in November and December.

Calgary WinSport - via CBC

After a "roller coaster" of a season, this week's snowfall made for the perfect ending at Calgary's WinSport. (Submitted by WinSport)

In Calgary, WinSport's senior communications manager Dale Oviatt said the snowfall is coming at the perfect time. As of Thursday, there are 11 days left of their season.

While the team started preparing for the season last summer — with El Nino in mind — he said he was getting worried about what snowpack would be left, considering the recent warmth.

"It's the perfect timing not only for the snow, but [for] the return of the cold temperatures. We're not going to lose any of that snow and we gain a little bit of momentum heading into the final bit of the season," said Oviatt.

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Meanwhile, in Kananaskis, the dump on Wednesday called for the Nakiska Ski Area team's celebratory "snow dances."

"March did come in like a lion. Look at this. It's roaring now," said Matt Mosteller, spokesperson for the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which owns Nakiska Ski Area.

Mosteller said Nakiska has had a snowy season, but that this week-long storm — hopefully paired with sunshine next week — will make for the perfect springtime skiing conditions.

"You'll get the best of both worlds in the Alberta Rockies for the Calgary skier to enjoy the fresh snow this week and sunshine next week," he said.

However, he's reminding people that it's important to stay within ski area boundaries at this time, considering Avalanche Canada's "considerable" danger ratings in the area.

REMINDER: Why avalanche risks heighten in March

Nakiska's slopes will be up and running until mid-April.

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All three ski hills say they're preparing for the possibility of more dry winters in the future.

Mosteller said there's always snow falling at Nakiska — either from the sky, or from machines.

Oviatt said 97 per cent of WinSport's snow is man made, so all they need is to take advantage of cold weather windows to make the snow that the hill needs.

In Banff, Scurfield said the Sunshine team is working closely with Parks Canada to improve their ability to store water and make or farm snow. They're also setting up more fences and relying on their trail crew to catch every flake and pack it down to make it last longer.

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This article, written by Karina Zapata, was originally published for CBC News.

Thumbnail image courtesy: Banff Sunshine Village