Despite winter taking awhile to arrive in the Highlands, Sir Sam’s Ski/Ride opened on the same weekend it did last year (Dec. 9) and conditions will now sustain it until spring, owner Doug Wilkinson said.

“Things are looking awesome,” Wilkinson said this week, after all runs opened to the public the weekend of Jan. 20-21.

The Eagle Lake ski hill also hosted its first competition, a Snowboard Ontario cross track race, this past weekend. “So that was fantastic,” Wilkinson said.

He conceded that in recent years, “Mother Nature is a bit more of a challenge for us. We don’t get as many snowmaking days in a row that we would have had in the past. We need cold weather for a good chunk of time. Now, it’s the fluctuations that are a bit of a pain.”

Even with this week’s milder conditions, Wilkinson said, “we’re fine. Our base is deep now, so any little warm-ups now and for the rest of the year are fine. That won’t be an issue. It’s just getting us started.”

He said they are fortunate they are a bit further north, and being one of the first hills to traditionally open in Ontario. He said the challenge was that their clients from further south had green yards and rain until the new year and weren’t thinking about skiing and snowboarding.

“At least Haliburton County had a little bit of snow on people’s front yards. This year, there was nothing in Peterborough and Lindsay and places where we pull from.”

He said they’d coined a marketing phrase, ‘when it’s raining down there, it’s snowing up here’, but we’re still working to try and get everybody to believe that.”

Wilkinson said the state of the economy is also having an impact on a lot of seasonal businesses, and with sports such as hockey, skiing and snowboarding, not inexpensive, it is a challenge.

“You know that weighs on people as well. So that always impacts whether people are coming up to ski or whether they’re going to continue to play hockey or do other sports.”

Wilkinson said he is planning to approach Haliburton County schools about offering reduced rates for students for the remainder of the winter, so those who might not ordinarily ski or snowboard can try the sport. “Very specifically trying to target to do some good in the community,” he said.

Other offerings

Wilkinson said staff are out and about pitching Sir Sam’s as a wedding venue.

He said the tower at the top of the hill is expected to be ready for this spring, just in time for nuptials.

“Right now, we’re actually right in the middle of wedding booking season,” he said, with staff going to wedding shows.

“We’re going to do a number of bookings for weddings for the upcoming season. It’s actually looking pretty good. We’re pretty happy with the response.”

He added that having the tower open will also boost numbers of people visiting the facility to look at the fall colours.

Wilkinson said they have lots of events coming up for Family Day in March as well as the March break. And, every Saturday he said they are doing apres ski from 3.30 p.m. with live music.