By Riley Denver
People gather outside the National Arts Centre downtown on a frosty night, still buzzing about the marvels they have just witnessed. It’s November, it’s below freezing and they have just seen the new Warren Miller film, Cold Fusion.
For many people in Ottawa, winter has now officially begun.
Miller’s 52nd annual ski and snowboard documentary played at the NAC earlier this month. Since then, Ottawa’s ski and snowboard community has been aching to hit the slopes.
“This is my fourth year in a row,” says skier John Freamo, 19. “I just sit in awe. It gets me primed for the season.”
Stewart Burgess, a 19-year-old snowboarder, agrees. “What those guys do is super-inspiring. You know you can’t do it all but it makes you want to try.”
Freamo and Burgess were two spectators out of an estimated 4,000 at the two shows says Willi Vogl, a spokesperson for Warren Miller Entertainment.
“It was an excellent response,” Vogl says. “It was even better than last year. There is a very strong fan base in Ottawa.”
“Even people who don’t ski, they go and they have the best time of their life,” says Vogl.
Excitement for the upcoming ski season has translated into big business for film sponsor Tommy and Lefebvre. It is no surprise that the Bank Street store is packed wall to wall with ski and snowboard apparel.
“Winter is about 60 per cent [of our business,]” says Freddi Rodier, a spokesperson for Tommy and Lefebvre.
“[The movie is] always a huge kickoff,” she says. Rodier adds the weather is a huge factor in what kind of success Tommy and Lefebvre enjoys.
“If we have a good winter, like last year, than we do a lot better,” Rodier says. “It’s all about the weather.”
One of the big sellers for this upcoming season is helmets, which run about $120.
Rodier says the only people wearing helmets on the hill five years ago were small children, but recently helmets have become lighter, smaller, and consequently more fashionable.
“The variety is infinite,” she says. “Now almost everybody wears one.”
Ski and snowboard equipment has also gone through some major changes this year.
Ski boot companies, who traditionally make hard plastic boots, have started experimenting with a soft boot, like a normal winter boot or a snowboard boot, with some reinforcement along the heel and sides.
Rossignol is the only company with a soft boot out this year. At $449, the soft boot is among the pricier ones on the market.
“People come in looking for a new boot and want to try it on,” says Brad Stevens, a salesperson at Tommy and Lefebvre.
Snowboards have also evolved in time for this season. For the first time ever, Burton, the standard-bearer for snowboards, has designed snowboards specifically for “jibbing,” a trick where the snowboarder rides a rail or the top of a halfpipe.
“The board is super-soft in the middle so it bends more [on the rail,]” says Jon Travers, another salesperson at Tommy and Lefebvre. With a price tag of more than $600, it is a high-end board.
With interest in skiing reaching a fever pitch and equipment flying off the shelves, the only thing missing is a snow-covered hill.
Camp Fortune, a half-hour drive from Ottawa, has been making snow for more than a week and plans to open in late Novemeber.
Mont Tremblant, a two-hour drive from Ottawa, has had some runs open since early November and has been officially open since Nov. 16.
It’s no surprise that the crowd at the Warren Miller movie erupted into cheers when the announcement was made at the Ottawa showing of Cold Fusion that Tremblant was open for another season .
Ottawa is ready to ski.