While some local motorists have lamented the slippery driving conditions during recent snowfalls, skiers and snowboarders in the area have embraced the white stuff.
Roz Pulo, director of marketing at Asessippi Ski Area and Resort, estimates that about 30 centimetres of snow fell during the most recent winter storm. The snowfall was a welcomed asset to the resort and a stark contrast compared to last year when temperatures remained well above seasonal norms and precipitation was at a minimum.
"We had a good run for snow making for a while, but now it’s a little too warm," Pulo said. "It probably reduced our snow-making time by three or four days."
Asessippi is still on schedule to open Dec. 7, Pulo said, and once the temperature dips back down, snowmaking, utilizing the hills 38 guns and extensive snowmaking system, will begin to ensure the slopes have a strong base.
"People are already booking their equipment online," Pulo said. "It’s amazing to see the increase in action. You can feel the excitement building for the season and for the resort."
When the resort does open this year, Asessippi will feature 25 runs with three chairlifts, two terrain parks and a giant snow-tubing park that has doubled in size from last year.
Another new addition is the snow carpet. Measuring 650 feet in length, the carpet is the ideal way for beginners and children to get from the bottom of the hill to the top, eliminating the fear of getting hung up on a T-bar lift or not being strong enough to hold onto a handle tow.
"It’s like a moving sidewalk," Pulo said. "You step on and you can leave your skies on, your snowboard on or hop on with your tube and at the top it rolls you off."
The carpet is strategically placed so that it takes skiers, snowboarders, or tubers to the top of the snow-tubing park, which features a slow and fast run, or the bunny hill, a great area for young or beginner skiers to start out.
"If you’ve never tried skiing it’s the perfect resort to learn how," Pulo said.
But Pulo also said the resort offers some challenges for more experienced skiers, offering black diamond runs for expert riders and rails, tables and jumps for freestyle riders.
"There’s lots of variation and different things with the mogul run and ski-cross course, so there is something for everyone," Pulo said.
About 80,000 people pass through the resort in a typical year, Pulo said, and the resort is always trying to branch out and offer snow enthusiasts more options.
One unique feature is that Asessippi now hosts weddings, adding another dimension to the slopes.
"We think we’re the only area in Manitoba where you can get on a lift and go to the ceremony and have the bridal party come up that way," Pulo said.
In Brandon, Cam Wirch, owner of A&L, has seen an increase in customers coming in who have been bitten by the winter-sports bug.
"We’ve had a lot of early interest this year," Wirch said, adding that ski and snowboard equipment, protective gear and outfits have generated a lot of interest.
"There is a lot of excitement and I think people are in the mood now," he said.
According to Wirch, his family skis and snowboards regularily at Ski Valley in Minnedosa, which is also busy making snow in anticipation of the opening of the ski season.
"The hills are so close and there’s great snow and a great atmosphere," Wirch said.
He’s also part of a volunteer group that works to groom a series of cross-country skiing loops open to the public in the Brandon Hills south of the city. The early snowfall, close to 30 cm, has resulted in ideal conditions on the trails.
"The trails were created for the Canada Games in ’79 and there is 2.5, 5 and 7.5-kilometre loops," Wirch said. "It’s already groomed out there so it’s really nice skiing right now and it’s through the hills which is a really scenic area."
The different distances really open up the trails to the beginning skier to the more advanced, and Wirch said cross-country skis are available for rent by the day or weekend at the store.
The volunteer grooming group is also currently fundraising for a piece of equipment that is designed to ensure that the snow is broken up and sifted prior to being groomed to prevent the trails from icing up. Anyone who would like to donate towards the purchase of the equipment can do so at A&L.