Day Ski: Canmore Nordic Ski Centre
by Lisa Evans
Originally built as the host facility for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games Nordic events, the Canmore Nordic Ski Centre has continued to offer skiing to the public and for competitive and training purposes. But maintaining its legacy as a world-class facility has had its challenges and rewards.
Revitalized for Top-level Competitions
“Since '88, cross-country skiing has evolved and added new disciplines that require steeper hills and wider trails,” says Michael Roycroft, area manager of the specialized facilities and trails division of Alberta Parks. In 2005, the Government of Alberta reinvested $25.6 million in the facility to bring it back up to international-competition standard by revitalizing the Centre's trails and snow-making capacity.
Since the Centre's refurbishment, Canmore Nordic Provincial Park has hosted five World Cups (in 2005, 2008, 2010, 2012 and the 2013 Paralympic World Cup) and in 2016 is slated to host four more International Ski Federation (FIS) Stage World Cups as part of Ski Tour Canada, along with a round of the IBU (International Biathlon Union) World Cup series. In addition to these international events, the facility hosts more than 40 events and competitions a year.
World-class Trails and Facilities
Making Canmore a world-class facility for competitive skiing also benefits recreational users. “What the competitive element does is help drive facility investment in snow-making and in trail maintenance,” says Roycroft. With more than 65 kilometres of groomed trails, Canmore offers a broad range of trails that vary in difficulty, from a system where top athletes in the world train and race on, to a variety of recreational trails. Roycroft says approximately two-thirds of Canmore's trail systems are for recreational use, and offer great value – an adult day pass costs $15 and a season pass is less than $170 a year. “Where else can you ski at a world-class facility for so little?” says Roycroft.
Also situated on Canmore Provincial Park's land is the Bill Warren Training Centre. Opened by Winsport in 1994 using funds left over
from the 1988 Olympics to provide dry-land training and support services to Canada's Nordic-sport athletes, the Centre underwent major renovations and upgrades in 2008 that nearly doubled the size of the facility to include the latest cutting-edge environment as well as with office space for Cross Country Canada, the World Cup Academy and the Canmore Nordic Ski Club. “The building plays a major role in making Canmore a hotbed for training and living for athletes who want to pursue Nordic sport for career,” says Mike Norton, manager of Canmore operations for Winsport.
Tapping into New Opportunities
In 2009, Canmore became the first centre in North America to launch Frozen Thunder. Modelled after some similar initiatives in Europe, Frozen Thunder allows Canmore's ski season to start in October. With funding assistance from Winsport, the Canmore Nordic Centre stores snow in a warehouse under a layer of sawdust throughout the sum- mer months. The snow is then brought out in the fall to create up to a two-kilometre ski track. “In late October, early November, teams from all over the continent, if not the world, are trying to scope out early snow,” says Norton. Canmore's Frozen Thunder Classic is one of the first races on the calendar anywhere in the world. “Getting an early race under the belt and the jitters out is a huge advantage for Canada's National Team members,” he added.
This year, Canmore partnered with a community group of volunteers who built a warming hut approximately two kilometres out from the day lodge. The “meadow” hut, which opens in December, provides 1,000 square feet of warm-up space and beautiful views.
Although Canmore's summer programming wasn't top of mind when the Nordic Centre was first developed, the Centre began to think about how to make the most out of its land year-round when the trails were refurbished in 2005. “The old adage of `If you build it, they will come' has been true here,” says Roycroft.
Canmore built a singletrack system in 2010, and since then, summer use has blossomed. “Weeknights, parking lots are often full, and weekends, the parking lots are always full,” says Roycroft. In addition to winter skiing, a skating rink, tobogganing slope and onsite tubing, its summer activities include an 18-hole disc golf course (ranked one of the best in Alberta) as well as fat biking. Providing a well-rounded portfolio of activities for users has helped Canmore retain its status as a world-class facility. For more information, visit www.albertaparks.ca/ canmore-nordic-centre.com.