By Bill Hellyer, Pacific North Division President (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Most ski industry headlines relate to projects associated with international destination resorts, however there are stories that reflect the community spirit that supports smaller ski operations, such as these two from 2017 in Prince George Zone.
Mount Timothy Ski Area (in the Cariboo region, 20 kilometres east of Lac la Hache), is operated by a non-profit community-based association, as are six of the 10 CSP-served ski operations in Pacific North Division. The Mount Timothy association normally holds multiple events in the summer raising necessary funds for the ski season. However in 2017, record-setting wildfires resulted in an area evacuation alert from July 10 to August 15 and a complete evacuation from July 15 to 27. As normalcy returned in September, there was no money in the association bank account for the ski hill to resume operation in the fall. The word was passed that donations were needed to fund the 2017-2018 season. The Cariboo community spirit rose, in support of Mount Timothy. By mid-November $100,000 had been donated, and this year’s season at Mount Timothy was saved, showing how important Mount Timothy is to the community. As a side note, the campaign increased awareness of the hill and of the CSP, which made it easier to recruit new CSP members for the Mount Timothy patrol.
The Hart Highlands Winter Club (known as the Hart), within the city limits of Prince George, celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2018. The Hart is a small community association-based operation, primarily catering to school-age children and their families and is the place where countless children have been introduced to the sport. The Hart struggled with a lack of adequate snow and occasional mid-winter melts, too often cutting the season short. At the suggestion of the Prince George Alpine Ski Team, a former Prince George-based BC MLA used his contacts to raise in excess of $200,000 from local businesses, individuals, the City of Prince George and the provincial Northern Development Initiative Trust to purchase and install a Silent Pole Cat Snow Gun in 2017. Snow-making started in December and the Hart opened even before some of the mountain-based ski hills in the area.
The Hart story is also CSP related. The Nechako Rotary Club of Prince George manages the local Operation Red Nose every December (volunteers provide a safe ride home for you and your vehicle). It is funding the purchase and installation of a magic carpet for a new learning area for the ski school. The magic carpet is coming second-hand from Asessippi Resort in Parkland Zone, Saskatchewan Division. Many patrollers volunteered with Operation Red Nose to help raise those funds and one of the Red Nose Nights was designated as Canadian Ski Patrol night.
These stories remind us that although local ski areas may not catch the headlines, they are very important to their small-town Canadian communities and that those communities are ready to show their spirit and support when the need arises.