Inner-city Calgary golf course begins snowmaking for the first time

Click to play video: 'Snowmaking starts for the first time at Confederation Park Golf Course this week'
Snowmaking starts for the first time at Confederation Park Golf Course this week
WATCH ABOVE: Snowmaking on the cross country ski trails starts this week at Confederation Park Golf Course. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, it's already attracting a lot of interest in inner city skiing – Jan 23, 2017

There are new pieces of equipment sitting on the driving range at Confederation Park Golf Course in northwest Calgary and they don’t have anything to do with golf.

The Foothills Nordic Ski Club recently purchased the snowmaking equipment after it raised over $85,000 through a crowdfunding campaign last year.

“The reality is, in Calgary with our chinooks, we definitely need snowmaking,” Michelle Deacon, a coach with Foothills Nordic Ski Club, said.

The ski club was forced to move last year when Winsport created a tube park where the cross-country ski trails were at Canada Olympic Park. Late last year, the group reached an agreement with the city to make snow at Confederation Park Golf Course and move their programs to the inner-city location.

READ MORE: New Calgary tube park set to open at WinSport on Dec. 17

Watch below: On Aug. 30, 2016, Tony Tighe filed this reporter after Foothills Nordic lost half its cross-country ski trails at Canada Olympic Park.

Click to play video: 'Calgary cross country ski club gets new lease on life'
Calgary cross country ski club gets new lease on life

“I am so pleased by the success we’ve had with this project and the most important element is this is not a Foothills Nordic Ski Club project. The benefits of what we’ve done at Canmore Park and Confederation Park are for all nordic clubs in Calgary and for all citizens,” Deacon said.

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The move to Confederation Park saved hundreds of kids who were taking lessons at COP from having to leave the city limits to continue the program. The upgraded trails are getting the thumbs up from people who are coming to the location from all over the city.

Carolyn Kury de Castillo/ Global News

“I don’t think anybody here would be out skiing this morning if it wasn’t for having great tracks,” Sharon Hogg, who was out enjoying the trails on Monday, said.

“The problem with COP is the terrain wasn’t very good and they only had two kilometres. And it was icy and it was either up or down, not a lot of flat. And this age group for sure wants flat skiing,” Gail Niinimaa, who was skiing with the Foothills Nordic 55+ group, said.

“This is unbelievable to have good snow here because otherwise we would have to go to Banff or Canmore to ski,” she said.

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Members of the Foothills Nordic Ski Club say they are prepared for the increased crowds at the new location. Evening parking is available at the golf course parking lot to deal with residents’ concerns.

“I did a lot of community engagement before we had approval from the city just because we wanted to be respectful of residents,” Deacon said. “Overall, we’ve been overwhelmed with support by surrounding community members. There’s a very small pocket of people that have some concerns but the real concerns, we think we have been able to address and mitigate.”

Students from St. Margaret School across the street were among the first school kids to check out the newly enhanced trails Monday. This week’s lessons mark the first time many of the Grade 3 and 4 students have been on cross-country skis.

“It’s actually pretty easy, just like walking,” Grade 3 student Joaquin Jamett said. “I’d give it a nine-and-a-half out of 10!”

Longtime skiers are thrilled to have a place inside the city that will be guaranteed to have snow even after the chinook takes it away.

“I think it’s something that has been missing and it is something that Calgary can really use because of our desert climate,” Hogg said. “It lets us just get out right away and ski without the drive to the mountains.”

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The grooming and snowmaking is all done by volunteers who hope this pilot project will pave the way for snowmaking at Shaganappi Golf Course in the future.

Foothills Nordic Ski Club also announced it has been awarded a $15,000 grant from MEC for nordic skiing in Calgary. The grant will help the ski club work towards its goal of enhancing the cross-country skiing experience at Confederation Park Golf Course.

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