Nova Scotia ski hills making snow, hoping for cold temperatures

Darcy MacDonald, director of business operations for Ski Ben Eoin just west of Sydney, N.S., says the hill needs a steady stretch of cold weather to lay down a base of snow. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)
Darcy MacDonald, director of business operations for Ski Ben Eoin just west of Sydney, N.S., says the hill needs a steady stretch of cold weather to lay down a base of snow. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia did not get a white Christmas, and ski hills have had their work cut out for them trying to make up for it.

Destination Cape Smokey in Victoria County had a metre-and-a-half of snow down earlier this winter, but rain wiped that out.

With colder temperatures this week, the hill has been making snow and CEO Martin Kejval said by Saturday, Cape Smokey should be the first to open for the season.

But only the beginner's slope will be available.

"It's a good way to start the season. You know, get the snow under your feet. Most people didn't ski since March last year," he said.

The hill is planning a New Year's Eve bash to go along with the manmade snow, including live music and night skiing.

Tom Ayers/CBC
Tom Ayers/CBC

At Ski Ben Eoin, just west of Sydney, the snow cannons have been blasting away to get some white onto the green hills.

One run could be open by late next week, as long as the weather stays cold, Darcy MacDonald, director of business operations, said on Wednesday.

"The goal obviously would be to get open as soon as possible. And ultimately we'd like to be open by now, but we just work with the conditions that are given to us and we make the best of it," he said

The temperature had warmed up by Thursday and the snowmaking machines were shut down, but MacDonald said the hill doesn't need much fresh snow. Just a little helping hand from Mother Nature.

Tom Ayers/CBC
Tom Ayers/CBC

"We'd rather have cold weather than an actual snow storm at this point in time, so we can get a good base down and then once we get open, let it snow," he said.

The hill at Ben Eoin opened on Jan. 14 last year, so it could be an earlier opening this year. But that all depends on the weather.

Impact of changing climate

In previous years, skiers have been able to hit the slopes over the Christmas holidays, but climate change is having an effect, MacDonald said.

"When we get some snow throughout the season, it just adds to the snow that we have. But for the most part we've been skiing on manmade snow for the last number of years now," he said.

No one was available to comment this week at Ski Wentworth in Cumberland County or at Ski Martock in Hants.

But neither listed an opening date on their websites and their webcams showed snow being made.

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