Alberta and B.C. ski hills hope to return to profit
El Nino latest challenge for ski industry trying to recover after devastating year
Skiers and snowboarders expect Mother Nature to serve up a down year every now and again, but last season was exceptionally brutal in many parts of Alberta and British Columbia and there is anxiety about what this winter will bring.
Hemlock GM Kevin Bourdin described it as a zero snow year as the dreaded Pineapple Express brought wet and mild weather from the West Coast.
While it's rare to be shutdown for an entire winter, Bourdin said, the ski hill is still feeling the effects as potential staff members are nervous it might happen again.
"We have quite a few temporary foreign workers that we've sent off our letters to and accepted. They're hearing the weather story about El Nino this year and the potential for no snow," Bourdin said, "so we're finding they are dropping out now and choosing to go elsewhere — Utah, Colorado and places like that."
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- B.C. cracks high temperature records with Pineapple Express
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El Nino is the latest threat to ski areas, a cruel development for an industry needing a bounce-back year. While the numbers are not yet final, it's believed more than half of all ski resorts in Alberta and B.C. lost money last season.
"The disappointing part is the focus on El Nino. We've had two substantial El Nino events in 97/98 and 09/10," Bourdin said. "We still got open prior to Christmas and had a really solid year."
That's why some resorts aren't overly concerned about the type of weather to expect this winter. Even if an El Nino hits, it still shouldn't be as bad as last winter on the slopes.
It's expected an El Nino could result in temperatures about one or two degrees higher than long-term averages.
This week the World Meteorological Organization said El Nino was already "strong and mature" and the biggest in more than 15 years.
Ski resorts can take out insurance against bad weather years, but few if any do because of the high premiums, Lynn said.