Ski facilities suffer fluctuating temperatures

 In Business, News

Local cross-country ski facilities are looking ahead to maple syrup season, turning their attention from a frustrating winter.

The changing weather patterns have made things tricky for those who rely on weather for their business.

“We had barely four weeks of skiing,” said Ken Mikoliew, of Mansfield Outdoor Centre. “Every time we opened it rained or the wind blew eight degrees. The snow evaporated in front of our eyes. We couldn’t predict three days in advance to tell a school that had booked a day trip whether they’d be skiing or not. This was probably even worse than last year in terms of frustration simply because you just didn’t know, whereas last year there was just no snow. This year it would come and go.”

That’s why they have diversified, expanding the camp and renting out the facility.

A group of students packing up Wednesday after a two-night stay in Mansfield didn’t get to go skiing this week but they had fun hiking, doing obstacles and campfires at night.

The skiing now represents about 10 per cent or less of the revenue, when 20 years ago, it would have made up about 20-30 per cent of the overall revenue, said Mikoliew.

“It’s just very disappointing because you gear up for it, you invest in grooming equipment and skis and staff and it fizzled out,” he said. “In the 1980s, when I got the place, we could have 1,200 people per weekend and now we can barely get 300 per weekend, in fact this year it averaged 200 per weekend.”

On Tuesday Highlands Nordic had seven kilometres of trail open but with rain in the forecast, the future is uncertain.

There is still a lot of snow in the bush at the higher elevation. Snowshoeing is still an option but the lower areas are hurting for snow.

That elevation has resulted in excellent conditions throughout the season, said Dionne, even through the freeze-thaw cycle.

Highlands is still hosting 100 students each day for skiing and snowshoeing school programs.

“Certainly not the nicest of ways to end the winter, that’s for sure,” said Chanse Dionne.

He said it’s a gamble as to whether or not they’ll be open for the weekend and a biathalon scheduled for later this month may not happen.

“I don’t think winter’s over with though I just think we’re going to get another thaw and then it’s back into seasonal conditions but once you lose your base it’s hard to regain that because you really on a lot of lake effect snow and this time of year, we don’t get too much north wind.

Already switching gears to other outdoor education programming. Both facilities are offering March Break programming.


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