This less than white season hasn’t been too good for one of the biggest outdoor winter sports on the prairies, snowmobiling.
Jon Ryan, with Powersports of Regina, said snowmobile sales have been down 30 to 40 per cent this year, “There’s not really a positive spin-off to no snow around here for sure.”
“We had a really, really strong early fall and sales were actually quite a bit better than our year-to-dates in the last five years at Christmas time,“ said Ryan, “But then it started raining and being above zero. And definitely you eliminate the city crowd, the guys that (have to) leave from home to go riding.”
Ryan snowmobiles in his down time as well, and he said unless you can trailer North, at least past Greenwater Lake, then there aren’t any places to ride.
“I have 185 miles on a snowmobile, I should have about 1,200, 1,400 miles... We have a cottage northeast of Regina out by Fort Qu’Appelle and normally, our snowmobile club’s got a couple hundred members and I bet you there’s only been four or five snowmobiles to the shack this winter,” he said.
Ryan said he could be optimistic and hope that a big dump of snow on the province would turn the season around, but he doesn’t think it would be enough to make up for lost time.
But Ryan shouldn’t hold his breath. David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada, said in an interview that the jet stream pattern causing these huge swings in the weather, which would normally be over the southern United States, is over Northern Saskatchewan, and it doesn’t look to be going anywhere.
“So I think if you were a betting person you would bet on more of the same. There’s a certain thing in weather called persistence; what you see is what you’re going to get, it takes a lot to turn it around,” said Phillips.
The fluctuating weather pattern has created a bad year for skiing and snowboarding as well. Don Williams, manager and owner of Mission Ridge Winter Park near Fort Qu’Appelle said people just don’t seem to want to hit the slopes.
“All the other hills around here are brown, we are pretty much 100 per cent man-made snow... We’ve got all the snow that you’d ever want, we’ve got it eight feet deep in places out there. But people just think when there’s no snow in Regina there’s no snow out here,” said Williams.
Revenues are down 10 to 15 per cent over last year for Mission Ridge, Williams said those numbers are significant; their business usually will only fluctuate three or four per cent year over year.
“It wasn’t a good Christmas, it was too warm and people just weren’t in the mood for (skiing),” said Williams.
But, he’s hoping business is going to be picking up soon.
“There’s a little bit of snow falling... and I’m hoping that it’ll get people in the mood to go skiing again. The way the temperatures are right now is absolutely spectacular for skiing. In the single digits either plus or minus over zero, but that’s never good for... marketing for skiing and snowboarding. That’s kind of the dilemma we’ve got.”
And with no one going out to ski and snowboard, retail has been taking a hit as well; but they say business has started to pick up since the new year.
“In December there it was really warm so we weren’t seeing the crazy rush to get Christmas presents like we normally see. It was almost like the warm weather was making people forget to shop. But as soon as the first snowfall came and the Christmas rush was over it picked up again, and it’s kind of normalized,” said Andy Balak, a sales representative at Sunshine & Ski in Regina.
Balak is a snowboarder as well and he said it’s been difficult getting out on the runs this year.
“It’s definitely been a lot tougher, we haven’t been able to get out as much as we want with no snow around the city,” he said.
Because the conditions around in Saskatchewan haven’t been very good, once the mountains in Alberta and B.C. started getting snow, Balak said a lot of people are going away to hit the slopes, and they’ve been getting their gear locally.
“It’s snowing where it needs to, people are still happy, are still coming in to get the gear that they need so it’s not like we’re having a terrible year. It’s snowing where it needs to, and people are headed to the mountains it sounds like everybody’s still having a good season, so it’s all good,” said Balak.