Here’s why kids in Maple Ridge, B.C., and Ont. don’t head out to the mountains anymore

OTTAWA — Ben Burwood is an 18-year-old who likes to snowboard, but the Maple Ridge, B.C., teenager and the rest of his classmates are not heading to the slopes right away.

“This is my first winter, so I’m kind of a little nervous about how long it’s going to take to get the power working,” said Burwood, who rides for Uni Bouncing, a local ski company.

They will be out on the hill anyway, of course. As kids at Ilkley Hall Public School, in northern England, they also know they have their best chance of getting out when there’s snow on the ground. That hasn’t been the case this fall, and most schools have been closed.

“You will see a lot of snow events in the next two weeks,” said Bob Holinger, director of operations at Scotty’s Scenic Ride Canada, which runs mountain cruises from Quebec to the St. Lawrence River at Buffalo Lake.

“I suspect there will be a lot of snow around on weekends between Christmas and New Year’s and then we should have a good snow season.”

He says it’s a great time to see the mountains, as they have several big events lined up, including a Carnival of the Mountains, which pairs people with wild-sounding challenges like pitching a net during a flying machine contest, or building your own skis with ropes, a chairlift and a pole at a ski-out run.

But it won’t be very cold when they get there: thermometers should land at about freezing.

“Snow is not a good winter activity unless it’s at a 12-degree all-purpose base temperature,” Holinger said.

Brian Martin, director of marketing and communications at Pinecrest Ski Resort in Mount-Blandford, Ont., expects more than 60 cm of snow to fall in Ontario by February, but there’s snow at many resorts, he says.

“If people have never gotten up on a mountain and seen it,” Martin said, “it’s a different world than it is downtown” in urban Ottawa, where temperatures are usually below freezing.

On average, late November to early March in Eastern Canada is the coldest time of year. When I went to Cancun a couple of years ago, it was dry and sunny — in Ontario, the heat index reached 40 degrees C at Fernie, B.C., at the same time.

But it can snow in frigid temperatures, too. The Ottawa Hills ski resort posted a video of an extreme blizzard that racked the resort’s Web site last week.

“We posted the video, I mean we’re just probably 25 or 30 degrees back up there and it was still blowing,” said Gail Langer, general manager at Ottawa Hills. “It’s amazing. It’s something that you don’t find here. We didn’t know where it was from.”

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