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Mixed bag of winter weather makes for challenging ski season in Saskatchewan

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Similar to Katy Perry's 2008 hit, winter conditions in Saskatchewan have been hot and cold.

The mixed bag of warm, dry conditions followed by extreme cold snaps has created challenging conditions for a ski hill northeast of Regina.

"The fluctuation in temperature I don't think has gone unnoticed by anybody," said Anders Svenson, Mission Ridge Winter Park business manager.

Mission Ridge was unexpectedly forced to close for the day when wind chill values plummeted to -40 early Wednesday morning. The ski hill factored in temperature, wind speed and wind direction before making the call.

"It's always a difficult decision to make," he said.

"We've got so many people that rely on us being open — our staff, our guests (and) our school program."

The school program can bring upwards of 200 student skiers to the hill every day, and unexpected closures make it nearly impossible to rebook classes for another day, Svenson said. The current wait list has thousands of students on it.

The ski hill has been open to the public for a total 51 days so far this season. The five-year average for this time of year is 57 days.

Unexpected closures due to weather are common in the ski business. But typically, these closures happen sporadically and only last two or three days, according to Svenson.

"We haven't lost as many days as you might think with the fluctuations in temperature," he said.

"What we've seen is longer spans with marginal conditions at the beginning of the season, then a real cold snap in January that caused us to shut down for a solid 10 days in a row."

Mission Ridge delayed the start to the season due to a lack of snow and warm temperatures that prevented crews from making artificial snow.

Once temperatures dropped, slope conditions improved. There's now three feet of snow on the hills, according to Svenson.

The fluctuating conditions are expected to continue into the spring.

On Wednesday, The Weather Network released its latest forecast outlook that predicts a warmer-than-usual spring with "profound mood swings."

Svenson doesn't anticipate it will impact the rest of the ski season, which goes until the end of March.

"The biggest struggle we have is to remind people that we make our own snow. So you're not relying on Mother Nature to provide optimal conditions every single night," he said.

"We've got plenty of snow for everybody to enjoy for a while yet."

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