Warm weather makes for slow start for Maritime ski hills

New Brunswick's Crabbe Mountain has faced challenges to the start of its skiing season. Silas Brown / Global News

After double-digit temperatures and a rainfall warning on Christmas Day, New Brunswick’s Crabbe Mountain ski hill had to start from the beginning again.

“Just like all of the East Coast experienced on Christmas, we got hit by a monsoon and had to start all over again,” said Crabbe Mountain general manager Jordan Cheney.

The hill was open for just a handful of days before losing almost all its snow.

But it’s a different story on Wednesday, with negative temperatures and large mounds of snow accumulating under snowmakers dotting the hill.

Other hills have had a slow start to the season as well. Poley Mountain had to close for a couple of days after the warm temperatures on Christmas, but is open with limited runs. Sugarloaf in the Campbellton area has not been able to open as much of the mountain as it had hoped.

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Ski Martock in Nova Scotia has yet to open. According to operations manager Andrew MacLean, they’re hoping to get the season going this weekend, but as always, that depends on if the weather co-operates.

“We know that the temperature is going to climb (over the next few days). It’s been a pretty short window of snowmaking — we just started up again yesterday,” MacLean said.

“It’s going to come down to how much snow we’ve made or can make in that period of time.”

The holiday period after Christmas is an important one for ski hills, when lessons begin and those who got skis from Santa are itching to hit the slopes.

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Cheney says starting over has a financial impact, but can also suck some of the momentum out of the fresh season.

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“It’s tough to get started again, especially during the holidays, during Christmas break. It’s a big part of our season that represents 15 per cent of our business,” he said.

MacLean says he tries not to worry about how the season starts. In his experience, the snow always arrives eventually.

“The beginning of the season doesn’t indicate the kind of season that you’re going to have most times. Winter always comes — it’s come every one of my 36 winters here,” he said.

Once Crabbe opens back up this weekend, Cheney says they’re expecting a busy season.

Read more: COVID-19 drives up snowmobile sales in New Brunswick

When the mountain shut down for the year in March they got right to work on COVID-19 protocols, even building a greenhouse to expand the space for visitors looking to take a break.

“We’ve seen it all summer, with increased demand in outdoor recreation and there’s only a few things you can do in the winter for that type of recreation,” Cheney said.

“It’s a great opportunity for families to enjoy outdoor activities together from the moment you wake up until the moment you get home and go to bed.”