David Martel could be described as a weather contrarian.
While most people are relishing Central Alberta’s unseasonably warm temperatures, Martel is hoping for sub-zero conditions. But such is the bias of a ski resort owner.
With the mercury expected to hit 11C tomorrow, Martel and his partners are pondering a postponement of Canyon Ski Resort’s Nov. 15 opening date for the 2014-15 season.
“I think every hill that was supposed to be open by now has pushed their opening days back a week or two.”
Normally by this point, Canyon’s snow-making guns would be spewing crystallized water across its runs. But resort officials are still waiting for temperatures to come down a bit.
“It looks like near the end of the week we’re going to fire everything up,” said Martel.
That doesn’t mean staff at Canyon have been sitting idle watching the weather reports. They’re just putting the finishing touches on a new Magic Carpet conveyor lift, which will carry skiers and snowboarders up the beginner hill.
The 107-metre-long system, which cost about $150,000, should be much easier for novices to use than the old handle tow that it replaced, said Martel.
Other changes for 2014-15 include a new handle lift at the tube park, which Martel said will be faster, smoother and more reliable than the 1978-model that was there before.
The facades on some of the out-buildings have also been replaced, he said, and new fencing installed. There’s now also a steel staircase between the lower parking area and the lodge.
“What we’re really striving to do is have the first-time skiers or snowboarders coming out and really enjoying their experience and wanting to come back.”
Next year, said Martel, a renovation of the lodge is planned.
But the year that he’s really looking at is 2019 — when Red Deer plays host to the Canada Winter Games.
“Everything that we do out here is done sort of with the games in the back of our minds,” he said.
Although it lacks the vertical distance to accommodate the alpine skiing events, Canyon will play host to the snowboard and freestyle competitions, said Martel. A master plan for the resort will include terrain changes and upgrading of the snow-making equipment to ensure Canyon is ready when Canada comes calling.
Those changes, said Martel, will benefit hill users before and after the games — including by extending the season by having the equipment to make snow earlier.
“That’s the most important thing with the Canada Games is the legacy it leaves behind.”
Martel is also optimistic that the games will increase public awareness of the facilities that Canyon offers.
He said additional information about the resort’s role in the games should be released by spring.
Now entering their fifth season as owners of Canyon, Martel and his family continue to make improvements every year. They’ve been rewarded with more people on the hill.
“We’ve seen a rise in users, even in our off-season,” he said.
Canyon is also marking its 50th year of operation this year, with lift passes, rentals and meals each costing just $7 on the first Friday evening of every month.