INGONISH, NS — High winds, hot temperatures and heavy rains are generally not conducive to winter activities in a maritime climate.
But Cape Breton Island’s outdoor recreation operators are not only surviving this winter’s adverse weather cycle, but they are implementing collective plans to thrive and transform the region into a year-round destination. .
Last week parts of the island were pounded by a deluge of rain which engulfed much of the snow like a hot knife through butter. The Ben Eoin and Cape Smokey ski hills, as well as a number of cross-country ski trails, lost some of the base they had built up throughout the winter.
Yet despite less than desirable rainfall and warm temperatures, all was not lost. Far from there.
In Ingonish, ski industry veteran Andy Wolff stops at the edge of a Destination Ski Cape Smokey downhill run.
“I’m standing here on the side of the hill next to a fire hydrant which was completely buried last week and is now exposed so I guess we’ve lost about a meter of snow,” said Wolff, an Ottawa-based ski enthusiast who has been involved in high-level ski racing – both skill-wise and altitude-wise – for more than two decades.
Wolff winters in Ingonish, from where he posts reports of the hills and snow on social media. He said the ski resort actually got a little help from Mother Nature and a lot of help from the resort’s new technology.
“We have perfect mid-season conditions. We seem to have a unique microclimate here in the bay and we tend to get a lot more snow than other parts of the island. We received more snow than expected,” he said.
“Yes, we had some hot days, and that was a challenge, but right now the real challenge is using the grooming cutter to get some air in the snow. That’s the goal, getting air into the snow and getting the moisture out of the snow. It also doesn’t hurt that we had a lot of skiers over the weekend and that helps with the descents.
About 30 km further north, along the Cabot Trail, the North Highlands Nordic Center has also managed to survive the recent rains. Center manager Katie Fougere said conditions remain ideal on Cape North’s network of cross-country and snowshoe trails.
“We had built a base of about 70cm and it held up – we only lost about 20cm of that base,” Fougere said, adding that constant grooming and packing was key. maintaining the conditions sought by skiers and snowshoers.
“We had a lot of help from our volunteers and our groomer came out at 3:30 in the morning to crush some ice before we could even make a trail. But the quality of the snow is still very good, some areas are well packed and hold rather well, while other parts are a bit softer. Overall the conditions were fast which was good for the Nova Scotia ski team training here this weekend. »
Fougere noted that many of the visitors to the Heritage Day long weekend came from other parts of Cape Breton, mainland Nova Scotia and Ontario. And she said the majority of them stayed in the area overnight.
Another Cape Breton ski resort, Ski Ben Eoin, also had a positive long weekend, according to facilities manager Darcy MacDonald.
“We have been working on our snow base all season. We produce snow and push it where it is needed most. So we were able to maintain a lot of it during the rain,” he said, adding that the hill is seeing more and more families hitting the slopes regularly.
“Our skiers and snowboarders are happy. We opened another track and we also opened the terrain park, so the riders love it.
Ski Ben Eoin is located about 27 km from Sydney.
Cape Breton Island
Baddeck-based outdoor recreation enthusiast Vince Forrestall said he was impressed with recent developments that are helping to transform Cape Breton into the year-round destination that many have advocated over the years.
” It was great. We’re seeing more and more people doing everything from skating to downhill skiing to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing to snowmobiling,” said Forrestall, who spent one of the long days at the end of week on his snowshoes on the trails at the top of the Cape Smokey Ski Resort.
“Being outside in winter is so good for people. There’s nothing like a bit of fresh air and physical activity to beat the winter blues. Developments like Destination Ski Cape Smokey are huge. More people are coming out, more places are left open to accommodate them, and we are seeing more volunteers helping out everywhere. »
Forrestall has some winter activity tips for people living in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
“If you don’t have snow in Sydney or Glace Bay, don’t worry – there are plenty of places in Victoria County where there is snow. So come play.
Meanwhile, more rain is expected in parts of Cape Breton on Wednesday as temperatures are expected to reach around 9°C. However, cooler temperatures and a few days of snow should prevail over the next few days and into March.
David Jala is a multimedia journalist at the Cape Breton Post. Follow him on Twitter @CBPost_David.