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Ski season begins at Camp Fortune

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Those eager to hit the slopes this weekend are in luck with Camp Fortune opening on Thursday.

Nov. 30 is the Chelsea Que. ski hill's earliest start to the season in four years. The excellent conditions and clear skies in the forecast show for a busy year ahead.

There are currently two hills open serviced by one chairlift. On a sunny and warm Thursday, it was busy with winter lovers starting their ski and snowboard season.

“The conditions are perfect,” said Cee Zavi, a season pass holder at Camp Fortune, who only picked up snowboarding last year.

“I just like the progression. It’s something that every day I get a little bit better at and it’s nice to just go down the mountain to clear your head," he said.

As it turns out, Zavi is not alone. Après-Covid, many ski resorts saw a steady increase in business.

“We’ve found sort of a shift where people have adopted skiing and outdoor activities during the pandemic and luckily for us and everyone’s health everyone has stuck with it,” said Erin Boucher, assistant director at Camp Fortune.

“Season pass sales have been strong and as you can see by a random Thursday afternoon, there is quite a few people out.”

Camp Fortune, like most resorts, had to increase its prices. Boucher notes the ski hill faced a big jump in insurance costs, as well as hydro, fuel and many other utilities required to operate it, but says the cost change was ’modest’ and remains competitive.

Even against the steep slope of inflation, the ski industry is expecting a banner year, as the sport continues to grow

“This might be the year where we’re able to crack 22 million skier visits with the domestic market and international market,” said Ski Council of Canada president and CEO Paul Pinchbeck.

“There’s a certain mental health benefit of just being active year-round.”

Pinchbeck says another positive for the industry and a cornerstone for the Ski Council is that the ski community is becoming more diverse.

“All the provinces are doing extraordinarily well now looking into the 20 per cent or more of the people on our slopes who would consider themselves to be a member of a visible minority.”

To help make the sport more inclusive, there are national programs, like Never Ever Day, a beginners package for anyone who’s ever considered trying skiing or snowboarding.

It provides an all-inclusive experience by providing equipment rentals, a beginner lift ticket and a lesson for just $25.

Camp Fortune will offer a similar program later in the year and until Dec. 27, the ski hill is selling passes at a discounted rate, starting at $29.

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