CANMORE – Frozen Thunder is in jeopardy of melting away in 2023, say organizers, who are reaching out to the public to help bring the snow loop back this year.
Ongoing renovations at the Canmore Nordic Centre will force the relocation of approximately 14,000 cubic metres of snow used to build the early season training and recreation track.
This means a new free-standing snow pile is being built near the old biathlon stadium and will be an extra $20,000 bill above budget – or 25 truckloads of sawdust to cover it.
It’s a cost the financial partners – a group of provincial, national and non-profit sport organizations – can't cover, which is why a donation page has been set up to “Keep Frozen Thunder Solid.”
“So many people use the Frozen Thunder trails and it takes a lot of money to put them in place,” said Norbert Meier, events chair at Alberta World Cup Society.
“There’s an interest on everyone’s part to say, hey, if you’ve been using Frozen Thunder, here’s a chance to help keep it going, here’s a chance to contribute to its growth and development and pitch in a little bit.”
Starting in 2009, Frozen Thunder is a two-kilometre man-made snow loop that normally operates for about three weeks between late October and early November. It heavily influences the early ski season for the eager community wanting to get back on the frozen trails, youth development, tourism in the fall, and, of course, giving high-performance athletes a head start on the season, making Frozen Thunder an “essential part of how things operate now.”
In a worse case scenario, Frozen Thunder wouldn’t be built in 2023, but would return in 2024.
However, Meier has confidence the community will come through by the donation period’s end date on March 28.
Part of the renovations at the Canmore Nordic Centre include building a new Nordic ski facility, widening the biathlon range, and tripling the amount of storage space for snow, which will be used to triple the length of Frozen Thunder starting in 2024.
“We’re aiming at six or seven kilometres of snow once the two sites are in operation and productive,” said Meier.
“The challenge we have with starting something new is you have some start-up costs.”
A major reason for the future expansion of Frozen Thunder is Canada’s highly successful Para Nordic Ski Team, which trains out of Canmore. Specifically, sections on the trail that are designed for sit-skiers.
Along with the Para Nordic Skiing World Cup returning to Canmore in December 2025, there are two world cups coming to town next winter: the cross-country skiing world cup in February 2024 and the biathlon world cup in March 2024.
Three early season snow loops usually try to make a go each year in Quebec, British Columbia, and in Canmore.
“So far, Frozen Thunder has been the most successful snow storage track in North America,” said Cindy Chetley, Nordiq Canada’s high performance coordinator
“People here have this in their backyard, it’s quite a cool thing.
“This [donation] is a one-time thing,” Chetley added. “Now would be [the public’s] chance to help give back for the people who have enjoyed Frozen Thunder for all the years and want to continue enjoying it.”
For more information about donating, click here.
Frozen Thunder is financed and operated through a partnership agreement between: Nordiq Canada, Biathlon Canada, Alberta World Cup Academy, Alberta Biathlon, and Nordiq Alberta with support from the Canmore Nordic Centre.
For eager skiers, last year’s costs to the Canmore Nordic Centre included the Kananaskis Country Conservation Pass, which is $15 for a personal vehicle day pass, or $90 yearly (registers two vehicles).
For the general public, an adult pass for Frozen Thunder was $90 for use anytime between Oct. 21 to Nov. 14 from noon and 5 p.m. An adult day pass was $15.
From 7 a.m. to noon, the snow loop is reserved for high-performance athletes. After 5 p.m., it’s free for public use.