Latvian ski centers battle lack of real winter

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Despite the warm and wet December, Žagarkalns ski center near Cēsis has had a slope open for skiing and snowboarding for a month, according to Vidzeme TV on January 6.

The only slope currently open in Latvia is covered in snow saved up from last year. Meanwhile other hills are utilizing every moment air temperature dips below zero to begin producing snow. Žagarkalns managed to open one slope in with the saved up snow on November 30. 

Even though meteorological winter had yet to start in December and there were several days of rain, weekends still saw many visitors. Owner Juris Žagars said that the experiment with saving up snow hasn't yet made a profit, however it has not created significant losses, either.

“With all the very, very bad weather, I don't recall such bad weather in the 20 years Žagarkalns has been open, however we've been able to pay wages with the profits and the slope has been open here,” said Žagars.

The meter-thick snow layer has melted to 50 centimeters, but as soon as weather permitted Žagarkalns began operating snow machines. They've gained valuable experience in ensuring snow during unfavorable weather conditions. “If February will be cold, then we're planning on saving up snow for the other slope as well, so we can have at least two slopes when we open,” said the hill owner.

Children from the Sigulda Sports School visited the hill over the weekend. “The hill is very good, it's easy for the children to ride down it, it's not hard, it's not soft either and isn't icy,” said the school's ski coach Ieva Meldere. Meanwhile other Latvian hills haven't opened for the season, but Gaiziņkalns, Kaķīškalns and Milzkalns hills have turned on their snow machines.

“We've begun generating some snow, we're saving up some of it and waiting for the season to start. We're not too disheartened, as two other years we also opened only on January 14,” said Milzkalns hill Board Chair Viesturs Ošnieks.

He did, however, admit that he doesn't plan on saving up snow for the next season like Žagarkalns, which LSM previously reported was based upon Finnish technology. The winter sports hills maintain hope that winter will come soon and the season can be officially opened.

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