Ski hills and other recreational facilities throughout B.C. are closing or limiting services due to extremely cold temperatures.
Environment Canada issued Arctic outflow warnings for most of British Columbia’s coast from Thursday to Saturday, saying strong winds could make temperatures feel as low as –30 C in some areas.
Christian Theberge, general manager at Shames Mountain, a ski area near Terrace, B.C., says the decision was made to close the ski hill for the day on Thursday.
“When we have temperatures here that are going to be below -25 C with the wind chill, it’s simply not safe for us to put people on our chairlift,” he said.
“We start being worried about frostbite [and] hypothermia … our guests are simply not equipped and dressed to be exposed to this weather.”
Shames Mountain hasn’t been the only B.C. ski hill to close. Lex Rei-Jones, general manager at Hudson Bay Mountain Resort in Smithers, B.C., says in addition to today’s closure, the hill might also be closed Friday and Saturday, depending on the forecast.
“It’s all in the interest of safety for our guests and our staff working outside in those temperatures … skiing in those temperatures is not a lot of fun,” she said.
Theberge, Rei-Jones and staff at other ski hills across the province say they’re monitoring weather conditions and hope to fully re-open as soon as they can.
“Dealing with cold and and crazy weather, it’s really familiar territory for a ski resort and we just need to plan accordingly, adjust our operations and make sure again that we’re operating [safely],” said Rei-Jones.
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Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden, B.C., Apex Mountain Resort in Penticton, B.C, Whitewater Ski Resort in Nelson, B.C., and Panorama Ski Resort in Panorama, B.C., will be closed Friday due to forecast temperatures below –30 C with windchill.
Kimberley Alpine Resort near Kimberley, B.C., will have delayed openings on Friday and Saturday morning, but has closed night skiing from Thursday to Saturday.
Popular Okanagan resorts like SilverStar and Big White, while not closed, are facing some changes in service due to cold temperatures and strong winds.
SilverStar, near Vernon, B.C., has closed its Putnam Creek trails for three days and will not be operating the gondola for night skiing on Friday and Saturday.
Meanwhile Big White — which was closed until mid-December because of poor conditions — closed its Bullet Express chair Thursday. Night skiing and evening lessons are cancelled when temperatures drop below -15 C.
At Whistler Blackcomb and Fernie Alpine Resort in Fernie, B.C., several lifts are not in operation.
Whistler Blackcomb’s website warns skiers to be cautious of snow immersion suffocation due to the fresh snowfall.
Aside from ski hills, the Kamloops Soccer Dome will also close because of the cold.
While the dome is an indoor facility, technical director Ciaran McMahon says the dome is not fully insulated or safe for players during winter conditions.
“When we get these extreme times, which happen typically about once a year, we kind of take some precautions,” he said.
“It’s a big challenge and so we do know the air temperature in there gets to be a challenge for players.”
Poor start to the season
Following an unusually warm December, many ski resorts across B.C. have struggled with a season of late openings and unplanned closures due to poor conditions.
Theberge says while Shames Mountain had a great start to the season with one of the largest snow bases in the province, rain and declining snow conditions forced them to close later on.
“It’s been a bit of a tough goal for us … We fought to stay open through the rain,” he said.
Rei-Jones says they’ve managed to stay open due to “some decent snow,” but are excited to open up again soon.
“Everybody’s looking forward to a great rest of the season. The snow is coming and it’s going to be great when it gets here.”