First Manitoba slopes open for shredding season, others stuck waiting for colder weather

Some skiers and snowboarders gearing to hit the slopes are off to an early start this shredding season on the Prairies.

Stony Mountain Ski Area opened for 53rd season on Saturday

Stony Mountain Ski Area opened for the first day of the season on Saturday. (Stony Mountain Ski Area/Facebook)

Some skiers and snowboarders gearing to hit the slopes are off to an early start this shredding season on the Prairies.

Stony Mountain Ski Area became the first ski area in the province to open to the public for the season this Saturday.

"Our customers are thrilled to be back on the snow," said Heather Campbell-Dewar, one of Stony Mountain's owners. "[There are] a lot of little guys who are saving up their babysitting money and their grass-cutting money to buy their season passes."

The ski area officially cracked its 53rd season at 10 a.m. on Saturday, and Campbell-Dewar said more than 100 skiers and snowboarders came out.

"For a small hill, that was great, it was fabulous," she said. "We're usually fairly busy because it's the diehards who are out, it's their first chance on snow. Some of them have competitions coming up, some are just kids who've been driving their parents crazy inside and wanting to get away from screens."

So far, two runs are open, and the rope tow is the only lift running — so they're looking forward to colder days so they can make enough snow to open the whole area.

"We just need -9 C or colder, and then we'll start up our snow makers and and get going," she said. 

Campbell-Dewar said it usually takes about 500 hours of snow making to cover the hill. Right now, they're only at about 120 hours — 100 hours short of where they were last year at this time, she said.

Campbell-Dewar said she's hoping to have everything up and running by the weekend of Dec. 13.

Fall storm brought challenges

Stony Mountain isn't the only hill behind schedule because of the weather this season.

Brayden Sosinkalo, one of the owners of Springhill Winter Sports Park, said they were already open this time last year — but it will probably still be another week or two before they can make enough snow to start opening their hills.

"Typically, this is the normal time of the year where we're either just about open or opening," he said. "[It] all depends on the weather for us."

Sosinkalo said the unusual fall storm that hit Manitoba last month took a toll on Springhill because it's located just off the Red River Floodway, which was opened during the fall for the first time ever.

"The challenge for us this year was the actual flooding in the floodway. Typically, at this time of year, there is no water or ice in the floodway," he said. "That put some challenges up for us, that's for sure."

Campbell-Dewar said she's looking forward to colder days so staff can make enough snow to open the whole area. (Stony Mountain Ski Area/Facebook)

Sosinkalo said Springhill had some help from the province clearing the ice from the storm, but there's still the matter of cranking out enough snow when the temperature is low enough.

"It takes us about a month of 24/7 snowmaking to have everything up and running," he said. "Lately, it's been too warm for it."

But he said with the storm cleanup is behind them, things are looking up.

"Now that we've got past that and all those hurdles have been jumped, we're a little more comfortable," he said. 

"It's definitely a satisfying feeling once you get everything up and running and you start getting people coming to the doors. It's a good feeling. But as of right now, it's just plugging away and getting things ready to go."

With files from Dana Hatherly and Caitlyn Gowriluk


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