Lack-of-Winter Woes

A look at the future of ski resorts during this period of climate change.

Are ski hills going to become a thing of the past?

If this weekend is any indication, probably not. Even in a season of less than ideal conditions, Golden was filled to the brim with Albertans seeking out the snow during their Family Day long weekend. Proof that people are willing to pay for whatever they can get.

Ski hills all over North America are experiencing dismal winter seasons. Some have had to shut down, which I suppose is better than those who couldn’t even open this year.

Mount Washington on Vancouver Island called it quits early this winter, and Mount Seymour in the Lower Mainland not yet managed to open.

If you look at some of the resorts in California it’s almost comical.

All things considering, Golden and Kicking Horse are actually quite fortunate… this year at least.

If the winter seasons are only going to get shorter in the future, what does that mean for Canada’s ski resort industry a few decades down the road?

A lot of resorts are taking steps in strengthen their winter operations. Kicking Horse Mountain Resort has extended the length of its daily operations, and has added a new highlight to its summer activities.

A secured climbing route called a Via Ferrata is being constructed on Terminator Peak. It is scheduled to open on Canada Day this year.

Diversifying these resorts will certainly help the viability of the business as a whole, but the winters are going to remain a challenge.

Skiers and snowboarders are going to be taking advantage of the shorter season as much as they can, making the hills even more congested during peak season. Winter workers will be hired for a shorter period of time, making it harder to attract staff.

And resort towns like Golden may feel the pinch as the tough shoulder seasons become longer.

Many people won’t want to hear this, but as prime skiing becomes more scarce, destinations like Jumbo Resort (which plans to offer year round skiing on the glacier) will start looking more and more attractive.

This is all of course far into the future. As of now one difficult season isn’t going to derail a thriving industry. But enjoy it while you can, one day you may have to explain to your grand children what that mystical machine called a chair lift was.