Toronto’s newest local ski hill won’t open this season because of ‘unprecedented’ severe winters in Canada’s largest city
Toronto has been learning to ski at Centennial Park for more than 50 years. But this month it may be forced to shut down unless conditions improve soon, the last remaining all-day ski hill in North America.
Centennial Ski Ski Hill and Park (CSHP) is nestled upwind of the city on city-owned land that has been consistently in a severe freeze-thaw cycle.
The park is home to rows of cottages whose owners either rent them out to skiers, or allow them to stay if they choose. Those properties have been abandoned or abandoned and are in danger of damage, according to the city.
“We’ve had one of the worst winters in Canadian history. The snowpack is devastating,” said Phillip Phillips, the president of the national ski federation of Canada. “The infrastructure at CSHP is in an awful state – it’s losing pressure, and we have no way to store the snow if the ground freezes.”
About 500,000 people visited the park every year, making it the third-highest rated park in the country according to an online sports club guide. This season the only other ski hill in Canada – located in Lethbridge, Alberta – is closed.
Phillips said he is not certain of the financial toll of the increasingly brutal winters. But with winter-friendly snow conditions becoming increasingly rare in North America, it’s a concern for the future of the country’s ski industry.
The US industry expects a 6% drop in participation for upcoming seasons, according to a nationwide survey by Ski America. The statistics contrast with Canada, where economic growth from tourism has strengthened Canada’s economy and provided a strong source of foreign exchange.
While attendance has declined on the Canadian side, more than 1,000 skiers have established roots in Canada’s largest city. This winter, the city is already snowed in, and areas farther north still have snow.
Still, the city and the park’s ownership have decided to act. Negotiations with the city have been going on for nearly a year, and city officials say they have yet to find a solution to bring the hill to winter closure.
The park’s last remaining all-day ski hill could soon close. Photograph: Eric King/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Mayor John Tory said he was “heartbroken” when he heard the news. “When it happens to a municipality, it’s obviously incredibly disappointing,” he said. “I’ve got to rely on the experts, and they tell me there is nothing else they can do.
“And I’m heartbroken, I’m absolutely heartbroken.”
Some of the owners of the cottages have suggested they take their expensive properties up the country, after having to cancel winter plans and considering moving into a retirement home, but Tory said the city hasn’t closed the door on options for the park.
“We haven’t dropped the ball or the gavel,” he said. “We’re moving ahead with a lot of options, but none of them make any sense if we can’t get a winter at all.”
Neither Tory nor most residents seem to have heard that the staff and volunteers that make up the park’s upkeep have not been paid for the season. In recent weeks, they have been volunteering for free to keep the park in good condition, and have taken temperatures of the ruined basements, worried they would soon collapse on themselves if there were no assistance.
“For most of us who ski at the park, it’s been a tradition and something we do every summer,” said Josh Lavigne, a Toronto freelance photographer who has been skiing there since he was a teenager. “We definitely don’t want it to close down. It’s so ingrained in so many people’s lives.”