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Early opening for Mount Washington

Nov 21 2012

Mount Washington's renowned deep snow base is piling up early again this year, prompting the ski resort to open ahead of schedule.

Ski lifts will start running at 9 a.m. on Nov. 30 - a week earlier than the original Dec. 7 target date.

Details of which lifts and terrain will be open at the start of this year's season are still to come.

"To be able to open up in November four years in a row - that really is amazing," Brent Curtain, Mount Washington Alpine Resort spokesman, said Tuesday.

A total of 86 centimetres of snow fell during the past weekend, and snow was falling Tuesday on the mountain near Courtenay.

Weather systems are expected to dump more snow in coming days.

"The forecast for the rest of this week is leaning toward more snowfall with upwards of 20 to 40 centimetres of new snow on Thursday," Curtain said.

Three of the resort's deepest snow levels have taken place in the past three years.

Even though the resort has opened in November in recent years, it has typically opened in the first or second week of December in the past 15 to 20 years, Curtain said.

The resort will have about 700 employees at the peak of the Christmas season, he said. Many are returning from previous years. A recent hiring fair filled remaining vacancies.

More than 300,000 visits are registered at the mountain every year. "We have definitely been more aggressive in our efforts in coming up with new programs and ways to keep attracting people. We have obviously found with the economic uncertainty that we've seen over the last few years, there's definitely been some apathy toward heading up to the slopes."

Fresh offerings are paired with appealing pricing and continuing promotions, he said. The resort is introducing a Rookie Year program for new young skiers and snowboarders. A season pass is $199 for four-and five-year-olds, and $399 for six-to 12-year-olds. "A huge push and focus for us is on the people learning to ski and snowboard. We are trying to build a base of people who will be our customers years down the road," Curtain said.

More young families have been using the resort, he said. A focus on destination visitors from Ontario and Alberta, flying in via WestJet, is also paying off. "We've seen some bookings already from those destinations," said Curtain.

> On the web: mountwashington.ca

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