Resorts welcome winter

RON MANZ -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

December not only means the official start of winter but it's also the time all remaining local ski resorts begin operations.

This coming weekend four more resorts will fire up their lifts for the season.

Ski Banff at Norquay plans to have three chair lifts in operation. The Cascade, Spirit and Mystic Express as well as the Sundowner magic carpet will be in use.

There will be three full runs open on Mystic Ridge and at least a dozen runs in total available to ski and ride.

"We haven't had a lot of natural snow so far but we have had our snowmaking system going full bore since this cold weather started," said Rob Cote, marketing/sales manager at Norquay. "Our guns are running at full capacity right now making one foot per acre of snow every two hours. We can cover about 10 to 12 acres of terrain with one foot of snow per day at these temperatures. We will have between 50 and 75 cm of snow on all runs we open."

Norquay isn't offering any early season lift discounts because they offer the ski-by-the-hour purchase program. You can ski or ride for $29 for two hours, all the way up to $47 for five hours. A full-day adult lift ticket is $52.

Nakiska will open Saturday with some of its best early season conditions in years. The gold, silver and bronze chairs will all be operating along with the handle tow and magic carpet beginner lifts.

It's anticipated more than 50% of the terrain at Nakiska will be available.

"We had hoped to open for our sneak-a-peak this past weekend but the warm weather in November really hit us hard at the lower levels," said GM Jan Sekerak.

"We made tons of snow when it was minus 20 though and we are continually making snow at a normal rate now, so we have excellent cover on all the runs we will open this weekend."

Nakiska is already working on building its terrain park and there will be a limited number of rails open for use starting Saturday, too.

Two of the nearby B.C. resorts also open this weekend. Panorama has actually been in operation since Nov. 13 for race training but will open to the public Friday with 3,000 vertical ft. of skiing/riding available with the Champagne, Mile One and Summit chairlifts all operating.

Powder hounds have been dying for Fernie to open and it finally happens Saturday.

With 188 cm of snow so far this season, it is expected all bowls and major lifts will be open.


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