BANFF – Get out the wax and sharpen those edges, the ski season is here.
Banff’s Mount Norquay Ski Resort is preparing to open the mountain on Saturday (Oct.24), the earliest date in its 95th year of operation.
Norquay will be the first ski hill to open in the country this season, and is typically one of the first resorts to open for the ski season.
“We’ve received over 30 centimetres of snow with great overnight temperatures that allowed us to make a lot of snow,” said general manager Andre Quenneville.
“We have also made some improvements to our snowmaking system since last winter, which has increased our efficiency. Having overnight temperatures hovering around -9, -10 is what has really allowed us to open up so early.”
Previously the earliest opening day at Norquay was Oct. 25 for the 2012-13 season.
Having enjoyed a busy summer at the Norquay via ferrata, which recently closed on Oct.12, Quenneville is optimistic for the winter season and feels that skiing will allow people to enjoy outdoor recreation, just as people enjoyed biking and golf this summer.
“The general public has shown us that they want to ski – people are buying ski equipment, they are buying ski passes and wanting to be outdoors," he said. "I think skiing will offer people a similar experience like golf where you can recreate socially distanced and we can control the elements to make it safe.”
Due to COVID-19, the ski season will be unprecedented, but Mt. Norquay is responding accordingly and adapting what the ski experience will look like this year.
The hill is able to open thanks to consultations with health authorities and working with official guidelines to ensure everyone is as safe as possible with this season’s protocols in place.
“We didn’t have these great resources in March when we had to close last season" Quenneville said. "Now we have had seven months to prepare and we are set up to open.”
Quenneville said this season will feel different in terms of the social setting. He said this is not the year for leisurely time spent in the lodge and feels people will be more eager to be on the slopes.
“It’s quite fitting that for our 95th season, we can make the best of it by simply embracing the more traditional, no-frills, ski day … we’re expecting tailgate lunches and packed snacks in backpacks, as an alternative to a lodge refuel," he said. "We think our guests will just enjoy putting on the ski boots and getting to the runs.”
For opening day, Mt. Norquay will be operating the Cascade Chair, with the Cascade Lodge accessible to guests. The Sundance Carpet learning terrain will also be open.
The resort will be limiting the capacity for the opening weekend through day ticket sales online.
"We are limiting the capacity so that we know what our numbers are like, at the end of the day we want to create a safe environment for our guests," Quenneville said.
To follow, will be the opening of the Spirit Chair, Mystic Express Chair, North American Chair, and the tube park, as soon as conditions allow.
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