Early season skiing is always tough. A lucky few end up on glaciers or live in locations that benefit from early snowfalls, but the majority must make do on rollerskis.
However, Canmore, the epicenter of Canadian cross country skiing, has hit on a new way to get on snow early.
Beginning this weekend, staff at the Canmore Nordic Center (CNC) in Alberta will roll snow into a loop in an operation nicknamed ‘Frozen Thunder.’ The loop, which will be roughly one kilometer long, will even go through the biathlon range.
In an e-mail to FasterSkier, Magi Scallion, the CNC director of events, said that the CNC managed to store enough snow at the end of last season to cover roughly three kilometers of trails, but by October, the amount had been reduced to just enough to cover a kilometer to a kilometer-and-a-half.
To spread the white stuff, the CNC will be using large trucks, a back hoe and Pisten Bullys. “We’re essentially trucking it onto the trail we’ll be skiing on, and then pushing it out with our Piston Bullys,” said Scallion.
As Canmore is the base for the Canadian National Cross Country Ski Team, as well as the Canadian National Biathlon Team, both will be heavy users of the loop. According to Scallion, the national teams have limited their early season travel in order to take full advantage of the on-snow training opportunities at home in Canmore.
In addition to the Canadians, the U.S. National Biathlon Team is also planning on using the snow, as their World Cup selection races are slated for the CNC in mid-November.
At the local level, five or six clubs based in the area will be skiing on the loop, with several out-of-town clubs also expected to make the trip. In total, Scallion said she hopes for upwards of 100 users per day.
Despite unseasonably warm temperatures thus far in October in Canmore, Scallion’s hope is that ‘Frozen Thunder’ will be the start of winter at the CNC. “We fully expect this snow to last until we can produce snow with our snow making machines,” she said. “This is the beginning of the ski season for us.”
The cost? Scallion pegged the total for the project at roughly $6,000. The cost of the snow itself, because it was produced last winter as part of the CNC’s snowmaking program, was very little. About $2,000 has been allocated for the use of heavy machinery to move the snow, while the largest expenditure was for sawdust, which covered the snow during the summer to reduce melting. Some four loads of sawdust – at $1,000 bucks a pop – were used.
As for next year, plans are already underway to increase the amount of snow available to create early-season skiing. The CNC is investing another $10,000 this fall to renovate a section of earth to improve snow storage and reduce sawdust costs for next year, and its goal is to be able provide roughly five kilometers of “groomed snowfarm snow trail” at some point in the future.