The lack of snow and warmer temperatures made for a more challenging ski season in the Ottawa area but many skiers found ways to enjoy it anyway.

“For the die-hard ski and snowboarders, we’ve still been having a good time this year running bus trips and getting out on the hill, but this season has probably deterred people who were on the fence and newcomers to the sport,” said Glen Barber, president of the Bytown Ski Club.

“We had a dump of snow in early January, so this year folks have had to take advantage and get out quickly when there’s new snow,” he explained.

“It’s rare to be able to ski with good snow, nice weather, and few crowds. Usually, you have to pick two out of three. This year we’ve had warm weather and smaller crowds, but subpar snow.”

Total snowfall in Ottawa from January to March was only about 83 cm in 2024, the least in 12 years.

Meanwhile, the average mean temperature was minus 1.5 degrees C, the warmest January to March since at least 1960.

Barber and fellow Bytown Ski Club skiers were able to endure the conditions with the help of manufactured snow maintained by the hills.

“All of our investments are in making winter happen to the best of our abilities,” said Erin Boucher, who works in marketing for Camp Fortune in Chelsea.

“So we have manufactured a lot of snow — as much as we can when the temperatures allow. … And then we do have state-of-the-art grooming technology that allows us to offer the best skiing possible. But having said that, certainly, it has been a challenging season,” she said.

“Skiers are definitely snow-starved. … On the flip side, the weather has been challenging for skiing, but it’s also been really enjoyable this season,” Boucher explained.

A warmer winter was predicted by scientists in 2023 due to the weather phenomenon called “El Niño.” Warm water takes the place of cold water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, causing changes in the way the air moves around, impacting south-central Canada.

“We’re still getting out on the hill. Our monthly bus trips to Tremblant in January and February were full, and it’s a big enough hill that there are always runs in operation,” said Barber.

For some skiers, the shortened winter was not idyllic, despite the efforts of the hills.

Zach Azoulay, a long-time skier, feels the seasons just keep getting shorter and shorter.

“This season felt disappointing because of how inconsistent the weather was. One day it would be minus 15, the next it would be 10 degrees. This is awful for snow conditions because when it gets cold again it pretty much turns into a sheet of ice. This has a lot of impact on your body,” said Azoulay.

“The lack of snow is a deeper message about climate change. If we want to be able to ski out east for a long time we need to pay attention to what’s happening around us and do something,” said Azoulay.

“It makes me worried that in the next 10 years, there won’t be any more skiing in the east because every year the season just gets shorter and shorter. It’s really sad.”