El Niño? No Problem.

Hill Shot

Last season WinSport started the season off with incredibly cold temperatures for a number of weeks. 

This allowed WinSport to activate our automated snowmaking system continuously for several weeks prior to opening the hill and then continue to make snow the first few weeks of our operational season.  

This year things are a little different.  

With the emergence of El Niño, conditions to begin this season are a little drier and the wind in the air is a little bit warmer.  

So far this November, Calgary has seen just shy of five centimeters of snow and our average temperatures have ranged from double-digit highs, to just barely surpassing minus 10.  

But that hasn’t stopped WinSport from being able to get our hill ready for opening day, which is slated for Friday, Nov. 24.  

“We had a good snowmaking window towards the end of October that we took advantage of,” explained Mike Tanner, Director of Outside Operations at WinSport. “It was a good five, six days of operations which we normally need to get the main hill up and running.  

“So, we've got enough snow to do that.” 

Despite your front yard probably being dry and no snow in sight, WinSport’s hill is ready to welcome guests back for what will be an incredible 2023/24 winter season.  

And it’s all thanks in part to the technology WinSport has the capability to use.  

“We are super lucky to have our automated snowmaking system which produces an amazing early season quality of snow,” said Ian Newcombe, WinSport’s Manager of Venues. “The warm temps are softening things up, the cooler temps at night allow the groomers to maintain a nice grade and snow depths which will be ideal for opening day.” 

For opening day, WinSport will open the Legacy chairlift, which provides access to the main section of the hill between the two chairlifts, along with two magic carpets in the beginner park. Several rails and boxes will also be set up to work on those early season tricks. 

The snowmaking operations will continue over the next several weeks, with a goal to wrap up snowmaking for the season by the holiday season. This schedule follows the traditional snowmaking schedule. 

WinSport’s beginner area is also ready to welcome skiers and snowboarders once again. Snow on that side of the park is all packed in and ready to go for the first weekend of winter lessons!  

All-in-all, the spring-like conditions we get to start the winter season off with are unique, and Newcombe says Calgarians should enjoy it while it lasts.  

“It’s not the California surf and ski in the same day experience, but close for Calgary standards,” he explained.  

“The worst part of skiing or snowboarding for people is the cold, and with weather like this it allows Calgarians too ease into the season worrying only about what t-shirt to wear and not where are they going to get frost bite.” 

Despite the warm temperatures melting snow across the city, WinSport will only lose a little bit of snow on warmer days thanks to the direction the winter hill faces.  

“Manmade snow crystal, once it's driven on and compacted, it's much more durable than natural snow,” explained Tanner. “So, I mean, it withstands these temperature changes. Really, up to plus 10 at this time of year, we don't see a lot of melting.” 

Tanner says over the course of the next few weeks, WinSport will take advantage of the few hours of negative temperatures to turn on the snow guns and pack on some more snow.