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Terrace’s Shames Mountain grapples with mounting deficit

Popular ski hill exploring new revenue streams, preparing to adjust operating hours
Snowboarders carve through fresh powder on Terrace’s Shames Mountain, a popular ski hill now facing significant financial challenges due to inflation and rising wage costs. (Black Press Media file photo)

Shames Mountain is facing a mounting deficit as inflation and higher wage costs weigh on the popular ski hill located off of Hwy 16 between Terrace and Prince Rupert.

General manager Christian Théberge from My Recreational Mountain Cooperative, which runs the facilities on the mountain, called the past year “challenging” in comparing expenses before the pandemic and now afterward.

Shames Mountain supplies its own power through diesel generators and fuel prices have skyrocketed.

“We were paying about $85,000 a year in diesel pre-pandemic and now we’re spending $180,000 in diesel,” Théberge said. “Our diesel expenses, since 2019, have nearly doubled.”

Other costs that have increased exponentially since 2019, including insurance and wages, Théberge said.

Théberge said the co-op membership had voted to maintain ticket and season pass pricing, but it has been struggling to keep up with increasing expenses.

In 2019-20 season, Shames had pre-pandemic revenue of $1.3 million versus $1.8 million in the 2022-23, Théberge said. In contrast, expenses have increased from $1.3 million to $1.9 million in the same period, leaving the cooperative with a roughly $100,000 deficit.

READ MORE: Upgrades to Terrace’s Shames Mountain a ‘game changer’

Théberge acknowledged that this year’s numbers aren’t finalized yet, so they’re mainly estimates, but they’re working hard to fill that budget shortfall.

“We just can’t seem to keep up with the rate of increasing expenses,” Théberge said. He added that, while there is concern, Shames is planning improvements and has ideas to generate more revenue.

Théberge said Shames Mountain will start renting its facilities out for social and other functions this year.

Night tubing is also on the season’s pass revenue-generating list.

“We’re looking at a dog season’s pass so we have a good way of registering all the pooches that frequent our mountain,” Théberge added.

“We’re really hoping our business community helps us sponsor events so that we can have more bands, more activities and more offerings to add value to our already great experience,” Théberge said.

One of the most significant measures Shames Mountain will be undertaking is reducing its operating hours.

Shames Mountain is also contemplating cutting its openings to four days a week compared to five as one way to control expenses.

“The final decision on what those four days will be — if we will be a Friday to Monday operation, or if we will be a Thursday to Sunday operation — is still yet to be decided.”

When asked about the impact the budget shortfall may have on capital projects, Théberge said that was a separate issue because those are covered by grants or corporate contributions.

“Seeing that we lost money last season, we knew that changes had to be made or else we would’ve lost more money,” Théberge said. “The changes that we’ve put in place — the reduction of operating days, the advent of new programming and products — is what’s going to make sure that we get to the finish line.”

Théberge said the membership was asked whether ticket prices should be increased to compensate for losses but instead preferred to cut operating days.

“We’re very happy with that decision, as this allowed us to continue our offering at the same price as we did last year,” he said.

Shames Mountain is Canada’s first non-profit ski cooperative. Season pass holders have risen from 946 in 2019-20 to 1,426 in 2022-23. Pre-pandemic visits in the 24,000 range each year have grown to approximately 35,000 now.

Viktor Elias joined the Terrace Standard in April 2023.

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