CALGARY -- Downhill and cross-country skiers are set to enjoy an earlier start to the season than usual as some trails and a ski resort open up in southern Alberta this weekend. 

Significant snowfall has provided a great deal of help for crews to prepare in West Bragg Creek where the community’s trail association announced its official opening this weekend. 

In an email, the association says most of its trail system has been roller packed and track setting has commenced with conditions expected to be very favourable during a core trial until it warms up next week. 

Physical distancing rules of two metres will apply on all areas of the track. 

Banff’s Mount Norquay will welcome fall skiers this weekend as the resort is set to be the first in Canada to open for the 2020-2021 season. 

The Oct. 24 kickoff to the season is the earliest in the ski hill’s 95-year history.  

"The snow came early, and so we got ready early," said Andre Quenneville, Mount Norquay general manager, in a statement. "And it’s already looking great; really nice conditions for such an early point in the season – we’re excited to see skiers return and get out there."

The hill will open with the Cascade Chair and Sundance Carpet operating. As the season progresses, the resort will open its Spirit, Mystic Express and North American chairs and tube park.

Mount Norquay will be open seven-days-a-week and all visitors will be required to pre-purchase lift tickets.

The tentative opening dates for other ski resorts in the region include:

  • Nakiska - Friday, Nov. 6 (originally planned for Friday, Oct. 30)
  • Lake Louise Ski Resort - Friday, Nov. 6
  • Fernie Alpine Resort - Saturday, Dec. 5
  • Kicking Horse Resort - Friday, Dec. 11

Sunshine Village Ski Resort plans to open for the season in November but a specific opening date has not been released.

Within Calgary city limits, WinSport is scheduled to open on Friday, Nov. 27. 

Passes for the ski hill at Canada Olympic Park were in such high demand this year that winter season pass sales were suspended for the first time in the hill's history. 

Officials at the park say they are working to balance an unprecedented demand for tickets and limited capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sales are up 25 per cent compared to last year with about 50 per cent more family passes sold than usual. 

Extra safety protocols at ski resorts 

Alberta resorts have been working with the province and Alberta Health Services to make sure the experience is safe this season for skiers, snowboarders and anyone utilizing trails in the backcountry. 

Sunshine Village has been preparing for a busy season by constructing heated tents to make extra room and allow people to physically distance. 

Lake Louise and other resorts have implemented physical distancing and mask protocols as chair lifts are required to be sanitized and people will be asked to sit with their cohorts.