Early Snow in Canada, Call for Submissions

Gerry FursethOctober 17, 2017
Some days, you just need to take pictures. (Courtesy photo)
Early season skiing at the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre on Oct. 14, 2017. (Courtesy photo)

When you think of skiing in Canada in October, Canmore’s Frozen Thunder is probably one of the first places that comes to mind. There are more options and some snowmaking that might surprise you.

This month, Canadians are skiing on natural snow, machine-made snow and farmed snow. We know skiers are already out and about in Alaska and other parts of the U.S. as well, which is why we want this year’s early season “Where The (Skiable) White Stuff Is” to compose of reader submissions. If you know where there’s November or even October skiing in the U.S. or Canada, please write us with details (When does it open or how long has it been open? How many groomed kilometers are there? Is there snowmaking? Any special events planned, like American Thanksgiving camps? Anything else we should know?) and original photos at info@fasterskier.com with the subject line: “Fall Skiing”. Deadline for submissions is Nov. 3.

To get the ball rolling, FasterSkier’s Gerry Furseth checked in with several nordic venues across Canada. They’ve already celebrated Thanksgiving, and full-on skiing is just around the corner.

Frozen Thunder

Canmore has started building Frozen Thunder for 2017. This is what it looks like with five days to go. (Courtesy photo)
Canmore has started building Frozen Thunder for 2017. This is what it looks like with five days to go. (Courtesy photo)

The action starts on Oct. 21 with some changes for the eighth season. There will be a bigger hill as requested by the national teams and a new emphasis on avoiding exposed south-facing slopes.

The Canmore Nordic Centre (in Canmore, Alberta) is an unusual venue, one of the select few that has machine-made snow, farmed snow and natural snow.

There is obviously an issue [with manmade snow] around warmer temperatures,” Area Manager Michael Roycroft told FasterSkier. “Last year is a good example where most of November was too warm to make snow, and that’s where Frozen Thunder comes in. That’s why we have our storage option, that allows us to essentially have snow no matter what.”

Frozen Thunder is funded mostly by national and provincial ski organizations and the focus is on providing training opportunities for high-level competitors. The snowmaking has a broader focus.

The natural snow is obviously helpful, and it covers the rest of our trail system that’s further to the west and higher up, but it wasn’t for machine-made snow in Canmore and the nordic centre, we simply would not be able to run as a nordic facility,” Roycroft said.

Machine-made snow covers 30 kilometers, leaving 40 k dependent on natural snow.

A big job requires big machinery. (Courtesy photo)
A big job requires big machinery. (Photo: Canmore Nordic Centre)


Whitehorse ski trails on October 15th, 2017. Another 5cm is need to set track. (Photo: Alain Masson)
Whitehorse ski trails on Oct. 15, 2017. Another 5 centimeters was needed to set track. (Photo: Alain Masson)

When you think of Whitehorse, you probably don’t think of snowmaking. But Cross Country Yukon’s Alain Masson does.

In the past, we often had snow available for skiing for our more advanced skiers, but it was not available to everyone,” Masson wrote in an email. “This year, our developing skiers will all have access to some early skiing in good man made snow conditions a month earlier than usual.”

Much of the early season skiing in Canada is not intermediate friendly. Thin snow, tripping hazards and travel to elevation create a barrier to less advanced or less committed skiers. The Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club is using snowmaking to make the early season more inclusive.

The new snowmaking equipment will be used for the first time on Oct. 22.

Testing the new gun in June, 2017. (Photo: Alain Masson)
Testing the new gun in June 2017. (Photo: Alain Masson)

Sovereign Lake

There is a difference of opinion on what season October 14th belongs to. The bikers probably would have chosen fat bikes over plus bikes if they had realized how much snow they would see on their trip from Vernon to Lumby. (Photo: Gerry Furseth)
There is a difference of opinion on what season Oct. 14 belongs to. The bikers might have chosen fat bikes over plus bikes if they had realized how much snow they would see on their epic ride from Vernon to Lumby, B.C. (Photo: Gerry Furseth)

The Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre (near Vernon, British Columbia) is well known for November skiing and NorAm races. The season is limited not by loss of snow, but by biking conditions in the valley below.

As soon as Sovereign gets snow in the fall we want to conserve as much as possible by rolling and track setting,” General Manager Troy Hudson wrote. “All of our early season grooming is done with Quads and snowmobiles to ensure a firm and supportive snowpack for the remainder of the season.  Our high elevation (1,680m) and typical higher humidity in late October provides unpredictable weather that can often result in snowstorms of 10-15cm at a time.”

With 20 centimeters of fresh snow, the club set about 5 k of classic track on Oct. 14. While certain trails are open for preseason skiing, the nordic centre officially opens Nov. 10 for pass holders and day ticket sales.

Menihek Nordic

Menihek is another former national-team favourite destination that has since been replaced by Frozen Thunder. Located near Labrador City, Newfoundland and Labrador, it is a less-visited gem. While the Menihek Nordic Ski Club hasn’t received much snow to date, it is a safe bet that by the end of October they will be setting upwards of several kilometers of track.

On October 12th, there wasn't much snow at the day lodge. This will change. (Photo: Gerry Rideout)
On Oct. 12, a dusting of snow was seen at the lodge. (Photo: Gerry Rideout)


Gerry Furseth

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