SNOW SCENE: WinSport takes break, but good times lie ahead this season

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There won’t be any skiing or snowboarding at WinSport until Saturday at the earliest.

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With temperatures hovering well below -20 C over the next couple days, officials for the hill at Canada Olympic Park have smarty decided to keep everyone safe by shutting down until it gets a little warmer.

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And anyone looking to get in some turns this weekend should make sure they check with WinSport before they go, because they’ll be evaluating a forecast and making a decision on Saturday or Sunday.

“In this town temperatures change on a dime, but if I were to forecast, I’d guess that we’ll have to close Saturday, as well,” said Dale Oviatt, senior manager of communications at WinSport. “We’ll wait and make that decision later in the week and make sure temperatures don’t fluctuate once again.

“It’s the safety of our guests and our staff. There will be some people who would love to come out in -30 temperatures, but with how few people would come out, it just makes sense to keep the doors closed.”

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With the extreme cold setting in, it only makes sense to keep skiers and riders safe. There’s a whole lot of time left in the skiing and riding season, after all, so it’s better for everyone to stay warm and ready for more temperate days ahead.

And in an effort to stay positive in these dark and frigid days, it is perhaps worth noting that this deep freeze should actually lead to significantly better conditions at WinSport.

The Calgary hill has an expansive snowmaking operation that’s kept the slopes covered in snow for the past couple months, even as warmer-than-usual temperatures have led to less-than-ideal conditions in the mountains.

Skiers enjoy a sunny day at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park on Tuesday before the cold snap arrived. Photo by Brent Calver /Postmedia

As Oviatt explained, WinSport’s going to be ramping up its snowmaking operations in a major way while the rest of the city bundles up and tries to get through the brutally cold couple of days that lie ahead of us this week.

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“If there is a silver lining with the cold, it’s the ability to make snow,” Oviatt said. “The colder it is, the more snow you’re able to make in a short period of time, plus we don’t have to shut off those snow guns while the guests are there. For us, for the next three days we’ll be making snow 24/7 and a lot of it and pushing it around the hill, so certainly some positives, and when guests come back after this cold it’s going to be even better conditions out there.”

All that new snow couldn’t come at a better time. It means better coverage across the hill for all the skiers and riders who are taking their first strides in WinSport’s expansive learning area, of course, and it should also make for some killer conditions for a couple major events that are set to be hosted at the facility over the next couple months.

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The first of those is the Snow Rodeo, which has become one of the highlights of Calgary’s winter sports calendar.

WinSport is hosting major competitions in February. Photo by Brent Calver /Postmedia

Between Feb. 8 and 17, WinSport will be hosting three major FIS World Cup competitions.

There’s an FIS Snowboard Slopestyle World Cup, with qualifications on Feb. 9 and 10 and finals on Feb. 11.

There’s also an FIS Snowboard Halfpipe World Cup competition, with qualifications on Feb. 8 and the finals on Feb. 10.

A week later, the skiers will take over, with an FIS Halfpipe World Cup event that will see qualifications go Feb. 15 and 16 and then the finals on Feb. 17.

It’s a lot of elite sport.

“At this point, you look at the halfpipe skiing and snowboarding, we have one of the best halfpipes in the world,” Oviatt said. “Getting the chance to see those top athletes compete in an event like that is a special opportunity. So come on out, if you want to ski and snowboard yourself during the day you can, and then you can watch the event out of the side of your eye or just come out and watch.”

At the end of February, the fun continues when Calgary plays host to the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games. WinSport will be the centre of a lot of the action, as it will be playing host to eight events from Feb. 27 to March 2.

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