By Angelica Ingram
The December that Haliburton County residents have been experiencing has been disastrous for some.
That was the word Chris Bishop used to describe the effect the weather has been having on his business.
The owner/operator of Sir Sam’s Ski/Ride has had to delay the opening of the ski hill located in Eagle Lake by a couple of weeks with plans to open it on Dec. 19.
Although it won’t mark the latest opening he’s ever experienced since introducing artificial snow making 27 years ago it will be the first time the hill has opened this late with only one run available to ski.
“We’ll have one run and one lift open” he said. “We’ll be opening with the most limited amount of runs we’ve ever had before.”
It’s not the lack of snow that’s affecting Bishop so much as it is the mild weather as the ski hill can’t make snow when temperatures are hitting eight degrees on some days.
For Sir Sam’s the ideal temperature to make snow is somewhere between minus five and minus 10 degrees said Bishop.
“It’s cold weather that the whole industry needs you can’t open on natural snow anymore” he said. “It’s really better to make your snow on frozen ground.”
Bishop said the delay has affected the business’s revenue as you can’t make money if you’re not open.
“Thirty-six per cent of the ski businesses revenue is made over the Christmas holidays [for the whole season]” he said. “The whole industry is going to die.”
The owner points to other areas that are also facing a crisis such as Blue Mountain in Collingwood which has reopened some of its summer activities such as mini putt according to reports.
“It’s disastrous for the whole industry” said Bishop.
Last winter Dysart recreation program co-ordinator Andrea Mueller brought a new winter activity to the area by creating a skating oval in the middle of Head Lake Park.
A popular attraction the oval was constructed at the end of December and lasted until mid-March.
Mueller was planning on starting work on the oval before Christmas this year but the weather has set her and parks and recreation director Ray Miscio behind schedule.
She is hoping the weather turns around as she is still hoping to build the skating oval this winter.
“It was a big hit last year and we would be disappointed if the weather didn’t co-operate for us” she wrote in an email.
The municipality is planning a nighttime skating event at the oval for January at this point though the date is up in the air.
Senior climatologist for Environment Canada David Phillips says he has seen a December like this before however this year is different because of the combination of lack of snow and warm temperatures.
“It’s almost as if what I describe as the feel and the look of winter” he said. “I look out there and I don’t know what season it is … there’s no leaves on the trees the sun is shining the grass is greener now than it was in July and yet people are walking about with jackets on.”
Phillips said even areas such as Timmins and Sudbury are experiencing much less snow than typical for this time of year and he doesn’t anticipate a white Christmas for Haliburton County.
“It might be one of the rarities a green Christmas” he said. “I can’t believe I’m even saying that.”
The climatologist said he knows not everyone is upset at the mild temperatures and greenery even if it’s an unpopular opinion.
“A lot of people are saying well no we’re only owed this two tough winters in a row hey this is about time we get a break” said Phillips. “There are some people who are hovering over the weather forecast because their livelihood depends on it.”
Experience broker and tourism promoter Barrie Martin can attest to the December weather having an effect on his livelihood.
“In November I was getting a lot of inquiries for winter adventures but lately with the uncertainty of winter the number of inquiries (and bookings) have dropped significantly” he wrote in an email to the paper. “I am promoting experiences that are less snow dependent such as ice climbing and ice fishing (assuming cold weather).”
Extending the ski season into spring to offset the December loss isn’t something Bishop is counting on at this point as that’s not really how Mother Nature operates and people don’t want to be skiing in April.
“People stop coming after March Break” he said. “We’re weather farmers we have no control over our destiny that’s the frustrating thing about this business.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the ski hill which are celebrating by offering special retro price discounts on opening day.
Bishop said it’s not just him that’s concerned about the effect the weather is having on area business as the lack of cold and snow is delaying snowmobiling ice fishing and much more.
“Nobody’s buying snow shovels nobody’s buying snowblowers winter coats socks and tuques. It’s having an effect on everybody” said Bishop.
Those who are enjoying the milder temperatures aren’t in the clear yet as Phillips says winter will eventually find its way to Ontario.
“Winter will come it just means it will be shorter” he said.
Because Haliburton is populated with lakes Phillips said the lake effect means we could just see more snow later in the season.
“What we may see this year is that we’ll get the snow and it may come and go but then the season of the lake effect may go on longer. We may be seeing lake effect in March where often it can be cut off end of January” said Phillips.
In terms of temperatures this past November/December has broken records with an temperature average of 3.4 degrees. The previous record was 1.4 degrees in 2001.
The typical temperature for the month of December is -5.9 degrees said Phillips.