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Okanagan ski hills mark the end of a challenging season: ‘Wasn’t our best year’

Ski season at Apex Mountain Resort officially came to an end on Monday, following one of the most challenging seasons yet for local ski hills.

Ski hills across British Columbia first battled little to no snow on the ground. Then, they faced extreme weather conditions.

“It was a really challenging season, to be honest with you — very slow start in the beginning, which is not what we’d like to set things up for the Christmas vacation period,” said Apex Mountain Resort general manager James Shalman.

“Then we got into some extreme cold weather and within a couple of weeks we got into some extreme warm weather. And it’s really been like that cycle all the way through the season.”

The same was felt at Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna, B.C.

“If you look at how the season’s gone from late November until now, it’s been everything,” said Big White Ski Resort’s vice-president, Michael J. Ballingall.

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“Mother Nature has thrown every curveball she possibly could at us and on some days, we hit it out of the park, and on other days we just had to absorb it.”

As a result, traffic at Apex Mountain was down this year compared to years prior.

“Weekends were strong and steady. Compared to last year we’re definitely down because last year was a phenomenal snow year. We started a week earlier than we’d originally planned and … that continued right through,” said Shalman.

“We have had some years that are a little bit less than others and we’re kind of on par with those, if not up. It was definitely a challenging snow year, but our numbers were fairly good but definitely wasn’t our best year ever, that’s for sure.”

While Apex Mountain is closed for the season, Silverstar Mountain Resort near Vernon has limited runs open until Sunday.

And Big White announced it will be staying open an extra week this winter, closing down on April 14th.

“Our biggest base is the Central Okanagan and we just felt that we owed it to our consumer base, our greatest customers, our most loyal customers to stay open that week later,” said Ballingall.

“Well, now we’re in competition with the soccer fields, the baseball diamonds, the golf courses, even the lake but we made that promise so we’re going to go till April the 14th and we have a 60-year celebration.”

Despite all of the challenges that Mother Nature  threw at local ski hills this year, there is hope for next season.

“What’s happening (is) we’re in an El Nino phase right now, which is maybe not the best snow year and that El Nino is phasing out,” said Shalman.

“As we work our way through summer and next fall, La Nina is phasing in and La Nina is a good snow year. So, the forecast for next season is actually fantastic.”

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