Nfld. & Labrador

Marble Mountain needs 'one mother of a snowstorm' in order to open

Operations manager Richard Wells says Marble Mountain needs a big snowstorm and cold, dry conditions to open the slopes to skiers and snowboarders this winter.

It may be weeks, even months, before Steady Brook's ski hill is fit to ride

There is just a dusting of snow on Marble Mountain, with above-zero temperatures on the way in early January. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

As bits of grass poke through the little bit of snow on Marble Mountain, Richard Wells dreams of the ultimate weather conditions for snow on Newfoundland's west coast.

The operations manager of Marble Mountain Ski Resort knows exactly what it needs.

"One mother of a snowstorm right now, which is very possible in Newfoundland. Anything can happen," he told CBC News on Monday.

Richard Wells, operations manager of Marble Mountain Ski Resort, says the hill will not open Thursday as planned. The temperatures are too mild and there isn't enough snow to ski or ride safely. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

The hill was slated to open Thursday but because of mild temperatures during the end of December and the first week of January, it isn't safe to open the hill to skiers and snowboarders. 

"Sadly, Mother Nature did not co-operate with us this season."

Perfect weather conditions

Wells would like to see the resort open to the public in three weeks, but that would require perfect snow-making weather: consecutive cold days with little wind and low humidity, he said. 

Cold, calm dry winter weather is necessary to start up the snow guns, which Wells says costs thousands of dollars a day to operate. 

Marble Mountain has 17 snow guns, like this one, that require cold dry calm days in order to operate. Wells says it costs thousands of dollars a day to operate the snow-making machinery. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

"Exact cost ratio has a lot to do with hydroelectricity and the snowmaking intake and water content and the man-hours that go into it," he said, adding that boosting snow is hard on the aging equipment.

"We have 17 snow guns that are all older than myself. We got a lot of those from the 1980s." As of the first week of January, the snow guns had not been turned on.

While staff wait for the weather to co-operate, they are busy getting the lodge and hill ready for skiers and snowboarders, including physical distancing measures to comply with COVID-19 regulations.

About 900 ski passes have been sold, Wells said, only slightly down from past years. He said the resort is also about to launch a large social media campaign to drum up interest in this winter ski season, with the hopes of selling a few more ski passes before the hill opens to the public.

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