Editorial: no business like snow business

Summit carves out special need in west
Mike Jiggens
October 07, 2019
By
While conducting my interview with the founder of the Western Canadian Snow & Ice Management Summit for this issue’s cover story, I kept reminding myself how grateful I am to be living in southern Ontario.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-Western Canada by any means. I have several family members and friends living in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, and I have enjoyed my visits to that part of the country every time. It’s the Western Canadian winters I don’t care for.

I have faced a number of Calgary winters over the years, but I’ve never had the opportunity to experience a Chinook. I’ve read about them and heard lots about them from others who have been there and done that, and it’s one of those cool phenomena you’d love to experience at least once.

Chinooks, as I’ve learned, aren’t necessarily that “cool,” though, if you’re engaged in winter snow and ice management services. Chinooks typically produce freeze-thaw-freeze cycles that keep snow contractors on their toes, even though for the masses it’s a nice yet temporary tease of spring for upwards of 24 hours before it’s back to the deep freeze again.

It’s that long, drawn-out deep freeze that doesn’t appeal to me. Southern Ontario winters are cold enough for me, thank you, but by comparison are reasonably mild next to Western Canadian winters. I guess I’ve just been spoiled all these years. Winters in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland are usually very mild, but wet. I’d rather live with some cold and some snow during the winter months as long as I’m not perpetually wet.

Western Canadian winters tend to be long as well. Snow in October and May is virtually unheard of in southern Ontario, yet it can be commonplace in Alberta and Saskatchewan (and in parts of Quebec and Atlantic Canada, for that matter). Speaking with this gentleman from Calgary who was involved with the snow and ice summit, I found it difficult to identify with the Western Canadian snow season, both in terms of extreme temperatures and snowfall amounts and frequencies.

Commercial snow contractors in southern Ontario would be up to their eyeballs in work if we experienced the same winters they do in Western Canada. For southern Ontario landscape contractors engaged in winter snow and ice maintenance, their off-season (non-growing season) is notably shorter than their on-season. In Western Canada, the seasons are typically about the same length with the winter season capable at times of outlasting the summer season.

Snow and ice management is a big deal in the western part of this country and having a proper forum where contractors can meet, network, learn and demonstrate some of the latest technology in equipment and materials is important. The Western Canadian Snow & Ice Management Summit took place in September in Calgary for the second consecutive year. It was created to meet a need and has grown sufficiently enough to warrant a third offering next year.

Previously, Western Canadian snow contractors who wanted to further educate themselves and get a close-up look at some of the latest technology available would have to attend that year’s SIMA (Snow & Ice Management Association) conference at a location usually in the northeastern United States. It was easier said than done to get to these forums with connecting flights usually required.

Something positive and much needed has been carved out in Western Canada, and it looked like organizers were going to realize at least 400 attendees this year – a significant leap from the 300 in attendance the year before.

I guess there really is no business like snow business.

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