Climate change could claim Centennial Park ski hill, city report says

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One of Toronto’s two city-run ski and snowboard hills could soon become a thing of the past.

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According to the city’s master plan for Etobicoke’s Centennial Park, which deals with upgrading and enhancing facilities in the 500-acre park, the ski hill area should be repurposed, in part due to climate change. Eliminating Centennial’s skiing facilities would leave Torontonians with just one option for hitting the slopes — Earl Bales Ski and Snowboard Centre in North York.

“The decline in use of the ski and snowboard centre and the deteriorating infrastructure, coupled with the uncertainty of a changing climate provide an opportunity to revision the ski hill area,” the city’s 20-year master plan suggests, adding that the Centennial ski operations should be consolidated with Earl Bales.

There are, however, other financial factors besides global warming that led to the city’s decision to consider stopping the shussing at Centennial. The report says the facility is nearing the end of its life, with the primary ski lift no longer in operation and previous failures of Centennial’s snow-making equipment making it difficult to keep the hill open for the winter season.

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The report says changing winter weather has resulted in fewer visits, less revenue and increased maintenance costs.

The Centennial hill used to be open from early December through March but a lack of natural snow and damaged snowmaking equipment have generally shortened the skiing season — in 2016 and ’19, it didn’t open until Jan. 21, and in 2017 it didn’t open at all due to broken snowmaking equipment.

The master plan’s vision would remove the ski facilities — the lift, snowmaking equipment and lighting would be eliminated while the chalet could be repurposed — as part of an overall enhancement of the park. Ski runs would give way to tobogganing while ice skating trails would be added to the base of the hill. New features would also include a skatepark, public art, more playgrounds and pathways, and gathering spots.

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Centennial Park, which hosts annual food-based events such as Ribfest and Jerkfest, also includes an arena, stadium, ball diamonds, a go-kart track, golf course, conservatory, cricket fields, playgrounds and picnic areas. The ski hill was built on the late 1960s using landfill.

The master plan was approved by the city’s infrastructure and environment committee last week and is scheduled to be considered by council on Nov. 9, according to reports.

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