The last day of operation at Shames Mountain will be April 7. (Natalia Balcerzak/Photo)

The last day of operation at Shames Mountain will be April 7. (Natalia Balcerzak/Photo)

Slow growth year for Shames as season comes to close

The hill had lower numbers due to unusual winter

With the season’s end now in sight at Shames Mountain, general manager Christian Theberge says this year hasn’t been as financially successful due to the unusual winter.

“The numbers are a little bit down this year, but we’re still holding it together,” says Theberge. “We’ve had some rainy weather in January and really cold weather in February that kept people away… [now] the spring weather in town gives the opportunity for other activities.”

Theberge says they’ve had a consistent five per cent growth annually in ticket sales over the past eight years, but this season is below that.

“That’s how the ski industry works, we make our money in season pass sales and then over Christmas break. After that, we slowly watch our bank account bleed out and see what’s left at the end of the season and this year, we’re bleeding out more than usual.”

But Theberge says that the Mountain Co-op has prepared in advance for situations like this with some “rainy day funds” to keep them operating.

“We’re well-organized and well-planned out financially so if we get a winter or two like this, we’ll be able to weather the storm and continue on,” he says. “All our project funding is set aside in different accounts.”

READ MORE: Rio Tinto donates $50K for Shames Mountain chairlift upgrades

Despite the financial wound, Theberge says there’s still a lot to look forward to.

Many events are planned at Shames Mountain in its remaining days, such as the Loaded Throwdown this upcoming weekend. The Slush Cup, with a beer garden and BBQ, will close off the season on April 7.

As for next year, Theberge says they’re looking to renovate the lodge by building new wooden benches and tables inside.

The Magic Carpet installation is expected to start in the summer of 2020. Approximately $25,000 has already been raised from their $25 chair lift fundraiser tickets.

“I think that the beauty of this campaign is that people get excited about it and buy tickets because it’s such a great deal and essentially commit themselves in coming back to ski a few more days,” Theberge says.

READ MORE: Paragliders fly over Shames Mountain

Looking back, Theberge notes a few publicized backcountry incidents at Shames that heightened caution levels but he’s glad they all had a positive end.

“Those were good lessons and we get to learn something from it. No one’s harmed, it’s fantastic and we’re very fortunate for that.”

And for any backcountry enthusiasts planning some springtime trekking, Theberge reminds them to keep checking avalanche bulletins as the risks can be higher in warmer weather.

Although patches of the ground are beginning to emerge through the snow at Shames Mountain, end of season work is expected to keep some staff busy to the end of June.

“It’s incredible the amount of work that goes into preparing and then shutting down for what is a four and a half month ski season,” Theberge says.

“Next season, we’re hoping to get a little bit more snow than this year of course, but we love the sunshine that we’re getting right now — it’s certainly some of the best spring skiing that anybody will get to experience.”

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