Nakiska ski resort owes earliest open ever to massive early snowfall

The residents of Southern Alberta are still digging themselves out from the winter storm that passed through the area Monday night and Tuesday, but the people at the Nakiska Mountain Resort couldn't be happier about the weather, because the combination of cold temperatures, abundant natural snow and their own snow has allowed them to open up the ski hill unusually early.

"In fact it's never happened before in Canada," said Matt Mosteler, a spokesman for the resort. "It's the earliest opening of a ski resort in Canada ever."

"I was standing up on the mountain just a little bit ago and it's mid-winter like," he added. "It's incredibly amazing because it feels like January. You look around and the surrounding mountains are all white, the trees are loaded with snow — it's just really cool."

This is the second season in a row that Nakiska has been able to open its ski runs for the Halloween weekend, and the second year in a row that it was the first resort in Canada to open. This year's announcement beat last year's by just one day.

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The heavy snow was due to a low pressure system pushing into the area from Montana on Monday evening. According to a 'Significant Weather Statement' issued by Environment Canada's Prairie And Arctic Storm Prediction Centre on Monday morning, the system originated in Oregon and California, bringing quite a bit of moisture with it as it was carried to the northeast by "a rather impressive jet streak". A 'jet streak' is a region of particularly strong winds inside the persistent current of already-strong winds that forms the 'jet stream', and most storms form underneath a jet streak so they act as 'red flags' for meteorologists when they search for significant weather events.

The weather in Alberta was already cold from an arctic ridge that had set up over the area on the weekend, so when they spotted this system on the move, Environment Canada forecasters started issuing snowfall warnings as early as Monday morning.

The people of Southern Alberta are still feeling the consequences of the meeting of those two air-masses: 12 cm of snow reported at Calgary airport, between 5 and 15 cm of snow across all of Southern Alberta, with some areas seeing locally higher accumulations, around 20-25 cm.

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Calgary's snow and ice control program is reporting all 'Priority One' streets have been plowed, with plowing in progress of 'Priority Two' routes. Their system map does not report on side-roads, but hopefully those will be cleared soon as well, so that everyone can get out and actually enjoy some of the early snowfall.

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