SNOW SCENE: WinSport ready for holiday fun … but dress for the occasion

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The end-of-December is the busiest time of the year at WinSport.

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The hill at the west end of Calgary is a hive of alpine fun over the Christmas holidays. You’ve got first-timers stepping onto their skis for lessons. You’ve got families getting in runs at the tube park. You’ve got skiers and snowboarders of all shapes and sizes taking advantage of everything that Canada Olympic Park has to offer.

This year is, understandably, a little different, though.

We’ll get to the COVID of it all in a minute, but the reality is that anyone who takes a look at the weather app on their phone knows there’s a serious cold spell that’s about to hit Calgary for the next couple weeks.

When the forecast is calling for highs of -25 C, even the most hardened alpine enthusiast probably pauses before strapping on their boots and heading out for the day. That’s a serious deep-freeze, and before anyone heads to WinSport this holiday season, they need to make sure they know what’s up.

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“Always check the website before you come. It’s essentially on a daily basis,” said Dale Oviatt, senior manager of communications at WinSport. “The forecast can change on a dime. We don’t have an exact (calculation) that we look at. We look at what the windchill is going to be and what is the trend that’s going to happen.

“We’re Calgarians. We’re used to cold weather, but we do advise that people wear lots of layers when they do come and then enjoy the winter.”

SNOW SCENE: WinSport ready for holiday fun ... but dress for the occasion
A snowboarder jumps off a ramp at WinSport . Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

While the frigid temperatures may impact WinSport’s holiday schedule, there’s currently a lot that’s planned between now and the new year.

For starters, there’s the Snow Rodeo. Starting Dec. 27, the world’s very best snowboard slopestyle and halfpipe skiers are descending on Calgary for World Cup competitions that should serve as vital previews of what might happen when the 2022 Beijing Olympics go down in February.

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The COVID-19 situation means that spectators won’t be able to take in the action in-person, but it’s still a major event that speaks to the quality of alpine facilities that WinSport has on-offer.

On the complete other end of the spectrum is the holiday snow school, where countless Calgarians have taken their first strides on skis or snowboards before confidently heading out to the mountains.

WinSport is continuing to offer all sorts of lessons this holiday season, but like the rest of the facility, proof-of-vaccination is required — or a negative test taken within the last 72 hours. That’s true of the tube park, the hill itself and literally every other facility that WinSport is operating.

“It’s been well-received so far,” Oviatt said of WinSport implementing the restrictions exemption program.

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So the vaccination requirements are pretty straightforward. What’s less clear is how the weather is going to impact the holiday season. If the temperatures do what the forecast is calling for and dip down towards minus-30, WinSport will make a decision on whether it’s safe for guests to be out on the hill.

“Christmas is coming, and, to us, the Christmas season is our season,” Oviatt added. “We’re disappointed with what the forecast is calling for, but we know lots of people are going to come out and have a good time — and we’re really looking forward to it.”

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