That Shames Mountain is a winter sport and recreation success is evidenced by the enthusiasm, engagement, energy, and sheer hard work applied by the organizers, volunteers, and supporters of My Mountain Co-op (MMC).
That same effort, however, is also an indicator of the fragility of the project’s economic viability. If the economic prospects for Shames Mountain were solid, a well-heeled corporation would be presenting a resort development master plan to Council.
The project needs up-front capital. MMC’s fund-raising target is ambitious, and commitments by contributors are not without risk.
Much of that risk hinges on what happens after the initial capital requirements are met. What ultimately determines success or failure for any undertaking, be that for profit or non-profit, is what follows the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
If enough people show up to enjoy the mountain, and if they keep showing up even when the weather is not quite up to promotional video standards, Shames Mountain will be a success.
At 37 km from Terrace, Shames Mountain is not exactly next door. Access to the mountain is a challenge. The cost of providing regular, reliable, safe, and affordable transportation to the base of the mountain would weigh heavily on MMC’s budget.
It would severely limit its ability to build up reserves for the future replacement and upgrading of equipment, and for developing new runs and related facilities.
MMC has been lobbying city council for a capital contribution to the project, and council has been reluctant to accede, a reluctance which, in view of council’s other cooperative experience, is both understandable and justifiable.
The city can, however, make a significant contribution to MMC’s long-term viability. Council could negotiate an agreement with BC Transit to provide a service to Shames Mountain.
There are precedents for such a service. BC Transit provides a service linking the West Kootenay municipalities of Fruitvale, Montrose, Trail, Warfield, and Rossland to Red Mountain.
According to BC Transit’s web page that service “operates Saturday, Sunday and when school is not in session from December 1 to March 31, depending upon snow conditions and operations on the mountain.”
Imagine what such a service would do for the long-term viability of Shames Mountain.
Reliable, safe, clean, and affordable transportation to Shames Mountain would eliminate the access problem for those youths in this community who now depend on parents, relatives, or neighbours to drive them to the mountain and pick them up again.
Reliable, affordable, and safe access to Shames Mountain would open the mountain to more people.
Primarily but not exclusively, the idea of public transit would appeal to young people. It would enable more youth to sign up for ski and snowboarding lessons, and thus provide more opportunities to offer such courses.
Reducing the access problem would lead to more people going to and enjoying the mountain. It would trigger a chain reaction enhancing the viability of the mountain, reducing the risk for its initial investors, and expanding the area’s recreation choices and opportunities.
The problem and solution at the heart of it all is not money, it is people. If enough people flock to the mountain, money matters will take care of themselves.
The city would have to negotiate a deal with BC Transit, but the need for a deal would only arise if MMC reaches its fundraising goal.
The commitment for a transit deal would invigorate MMC’s fundraising effort, but there is a cost to the idea; it would require a subsidy from the city.
Yes, a subsidy means property taxes.
But a transit service to Shames Mountain would maximize the value of the community’s combined contributions, private and municipal.
It would benefit the community as a whole.
Andre Carrel is a retired public sector administrator now living in Terrace, BC.