Snow is not yet in the forecast for southern Alberta, but that hasn’t stopped ski shops, resorts and families from gearing up for the upcoming season.
“As everyone has seen in the past year, things are really hard to come by right now, so it’s really important to do it early,” said Joe Molina, manager of web operations and marketing for Alpenland in Lethbridge.
Last season saw an increase in people looking to try skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing as a way to get outdoors during the pandemic. This caused an equipment shortage across the country, something Alpenland is trying to avoid this year.
Molina said they started ordering clothes and winter clothes in early summer or even earlier. They have already started reordering products because people are already starting to buy.
Coronavirus pandemic fuels demand for winter recreational equipment
“The industry is really starting to feel the shortage of products, and it was really vital for us to order early,” Molina said. “So even with the new orders, we hope we can get enough supplies for next season, but it will be difficult to get things even as we get closer to December.”
Like most industries, Molina said the ski industry is not immune from a shortage of manufacturing and sourcing material, specifically alloys, such as the aluminum used to make ski poles.
“We have doubled them to make sure we have enough equipment that we can sell.”
As soon as Alpenland opened on Saturday morning, families were inside putting on ski boots.
Brayden and Thomas Baird are young brothers who say they have been skiing since they could walk.
They like to be reckless, the excitement and adrenaline that comes with hitting the slopes.
Last year, they both noticed more people on the hill. They were happy to see people try the sport they love, but it had a downside.
“It was nice, but at the same time, the lift lines were a lot longer,” Brayden said.
Strong season pass sales are a rare ray of light for BC’s ski resorts after the pandemic
Long lines are expected with a record turnout, something Castle Mountain Resort saw.
“The past year was exceptionally busy,” said Sales and Marketing Manager Cole Fawcett. “In fact, it ended up being the busiest season in Castle Mountain Resorts history.”
The resort took on a series of capital projects over the summer, spending nearly $ 1.5 million.
Most of it was spent on snowmaking improvements and adding 1.1 kilometers of snowmaking infrastructure to the mountain.
Fawcett said this will help them have more predictable conditions, stay open longer, and hopefully open before their tentative December 3 date.
“It looks like things are going to be busy, but our expectations are under control.”
If you plan to visit Castle Mountain Resort, some things will look similar to last year. Again there will be a limited number of day passes available to limit capacity.
“That was new to us last year, and it really worked well and kept things going with a dull roar on any given day,” Fawcett said. “I think that’s important, pandemic or not, to the guest experience.”
Still, it’s a move Fawcett never saw coming.
Last day rush to buy Big White ski pass tanks website, local ski culture appears on the rise
“Three years ago in the industry, if you said, ‘Hey, in a couple of years, you’re going to limit the number of season passes you sell,’ most of us would have told you to go fly a kite. That just wasn’t something we would have anticipated as a problem. “
Castle Mountain Resort will participate in Alberta’s Restriction waiver program. To use the indoor dining spaces, customers must provide proof of complete vaccination, rapid COVID-19 antigen negative, rapid or laboratory PCR test, or proof of medical exemption. Masks will also be required inside when not eating or drinking.
“We are changing the lineups and base area from a mask mandate to a mask recommendation,” Fawcett said.
So if you’re looking to get out there and hit the slopes this season, those in the industry say there’s no better time than the present to start preparing.
“Despite the warm weather, it’s good to start early with the best selection we have for the season,” Molina said.
“It sucks to go in and be disappointed when you’re in the middle of the season and discover there are no cross-country skis again. That’s a bummer. “
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.