The cross-county ski trails in Calgary are going from bad to worse. The lack of snow and the unusually warm weather have left the two inner city ski locations with grass patches instead of snow-covered conditions.
“It’s one of the two worst years I have seen in 15 years,” said Alasdair Fergusson, the track-setting coordinator with the Calgary Ski Club that operates out of Shaganappi Golf Course. “We tried to set tracks, but even in December there wasn’t quite enough snow to set good tracks.”
Groups that hold lessons at Confederation Park Golf Course are trying to make the best of it. They have moved some lessons over to Canmore Park across 19 Street N.W. and moved snow to allow training to continue.
“We have shovels and we have an army of volunteers and it’s called snow farming,” said Colin Norman, president of the Foothills Nordic Ski Club.
“Our programs are still going. Kudos to all the volunteers and the hard work of our operations team keeping things going. Without their support this would be a really tough season.”
Ski clubs that use both Shaganappi and Confederation said what’s needed is snowmaking and they have the equipment, thanks to donations.
“The citizens of Calgary would just love to have guaranteed snow,” Fergusson said. “We have a huge investment in equipment and water pumps. We have three sets of snow guns and water pumps and they have been sitting in storage for two and a half years since they arrived.”
So why aren’t they making snow at either golf course this year? For starters, it’s been too warm in Calgary. Plus, it takes plenty of skilled volunteers to operate the equipment and then move the snow from the water source to where they actually need the snow.
“We have money in the bank from all the fundraising. All I need is labour,” Fergusson said.
Norman said having a grassroots place to train is vital for the development of cross-country skiing.
“Without the snowmaking, it’s really tough to run programs for more than just the bunnies and the jackrabbits,” he said. “We just haven’t got the volunteer base to put in that effort for the snowmaking.”
The group is looking to the city for help with snowmaking and trail building, pointing to figures that show 30,000 users took advantage of the trails at Confederation Park Golf Course last year. Currently, the trails are maintained and funded by a volunteer group called Calgary Nordic Alliance.
“We have demonstrated that there is a public demand for such a facility and we’d love to see some help from the city,” Norman said.
The Foothills Nordic Club lost its home base at WinSport two years ago when the hill installed a tube park through the cross-country ski trails. Despite all the challenges, Foothills will be sending six athletes to the Canada Winter Games and the World Juniors in Finland this year.