Heavy snow puts damper on waning days of Calgary summer

Christmas songs were being piped over the loudspeakers at Spruce Meadows on Tuesday as organizers of an upcoming marquee equestrian event chose humour to cope with a dump of late-summer snow in southern Alberta.

CALGARY — Christmas songs were being piped over the loudspeakers at Spruce Meadows on Tuesday as organizers of an upcoming marquee equestrian event chose humour to cope with a dump of late-summer snow in southern Alberta.

Tractors were plowing and staff were using shovels to scoop up the abundant white stuff from the main show-jumping ring in preparation for competition that was to begin Wednesday.

The Calgary International Airport recorded 11 centimetres of snow on Monday. The dump weighed down and broke trees, caught drivers off guard and caused power outages in many city neighbourhoods.

Environment Canada issued a new snowfall warning Tuesday because of another system rolling in from British Columbia that was predicted to bring in as much as 10 to 15 centimetres — and even more in higher elevations.

Spruce Meadows, just south of Calgary, is host to the crown jewel of its season this week. The Masters event attracts elite riders and horses from around the world who compete for millions of dollars in prizes.

“It’s something that’s got our ears forward, as they say, but we’re still looking forward to a great tournament. Environment Canada is encouraging going forward from here,” said Spruce Meadows vice-president Ian Allison.

“I used to say, ’Don’t ask me if I’ve seen it because I’ve seen it,”’ he said.

“To get two full days of this before the middle of September is quite unusual. We had a 26-degree temperature drop between Sunday evening and Monday. It could be better, but you have to make the most of the situation.”

Allison said the snow was preferable to heavy rain which usually plagues events in June. He said only thunder and lightning would cause any kind of cancellation.

Allison said the snow made it seem only appropriate to be playing Christmas music in the background.

“People ask us why we leave the majority of our Christmas lights up all year and you got the answer today. You’ve got 15 centimetres of snow, all the pine boughs are snow-laden and it looks pretty nice.

Why not throw the music on and knock it up a season or two?“