Warm, wet winter changing plans and budgets in eastern Ontario

Businesses and groups who planned for a typically cold and snowy Canadian winter are making adjustments to their schedules and bottom lines this season.

Resorts are branching out and fundraisers are being called off with higher than normal temperatures

Michael Strauss, general manager of Calabogie Peaks Resort, says the resort changed to be more of a four-season venue in the early 2000s so it could be more versatile and less ski-dependent. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Businesses and groups who planned for a typically cold and snowy Canadian winter are making adjustments to their schedules and bottom lines this season.

Despite this past weekend's cold snap it's been a warm, wet season in eastern Ontario.

The general manager of Calabogie Peaks Resort said he's glad they decided to be more of a four-seasons venue in the early 2000s by bringing in activities such as music festivals, weddings and hiking trails along with their ski hills.

"With the weather these days and the different weather patterns and how things are changing, resorts need to think about how they can diversify their seasons so they can generate revenues and keep their employees," said Michael Strauss in an interview on Sunday.

The lack of snow in December hurt the resort's bottom line, but they focused on their trails and organized movie and board game nights to make up for it, Strauss said.

"The funniest thing that happened to us was for the first time ever on Boxing Day we actually offered both skiing and golf in the same day," he said.

The month-and-a-half since Christmas has been good and Strauss said he's pretty sure the company will just about break even for the winter.

Ice not thick enough

Sunday was supposed to be the 29th annual Wolf Howl Ice Fishing Derby on Wolfe Lake in Westport, about 120 kilometres southwest of downtown Ottawa, but it was cancelled because of thin ice.

"It may be a good thing because police are telling us to keep people off the lakes, then [what if] we have it with not enough ice and somebody [drowns] or something like that," said Reg Norris, president of the Westport Area Outdoor Association, who helps organize the derby.

The ice on the lake is about 10 centimetres thick, much less than the 45 to 50 centimetres Norris said he'd like to bring people and vehicles more than a kilometre out onto the ice.

"I don't know how long it's been since I've seen the ice this thin," he said.

Norris said his association will have to make up the approximately $2,000 it usually makes from the derby.

Bait shop less busy

The community's store that sells ice fishing equipment said while last winter was a good one because of the temperature, this one has been the opposite thanks to the lack of ice to fish on.

"[Business is down] probably 60 per cent less than last year, 60 to 70 per cent," said Jeff Norris, who helps run Norris Live Bait and Tackle.

"Last year on a Saturday we'd have 30 to 40 people in buying minnows and this year you might have five."

Norris said they're hoping to make up for the lost business this summer, when the low Canadian dollar may attract Americans to come to the Westport area to fish and stay in cottages.