Shames Mountain had what the manager is calling a fantastic season this winter, which wrapped up at the beginning of this month. It opened nearly a week early last December and had no closures due to weather.
“It’s one of the rare seasons where we managed to open the hill early, meet our closing date, and not have any days where we were forced to close from the high wind, extreme cold, avalanche dangers, or any of those things,” said manager Christian Théberge.
“Typically I would be expecting to lose four or five days of the season due to the weather, and that can be anything from too much snow, to too much cold, to not enough snow, to too much wind.”
The downhill skiing and snowboard season on Shames Mountain wrapped up on April 1-3 with a fire, hot dogs and smores the first day, the Loaded Throwdown competition the second day and the annual Slush Cup on the last day.
With the extra open days this last winter season, Théberge said bus transportation doubled and they sold more day passes. He estimates there were 2,000 more visits to the hill than the average 20,000, though the official tally will not be done until June.
As for weather, Théberge said it was a light snow year, with 20-centimetres reported only three times in the season, compared to the average 4-5 times per month.
“It was certainly a very low snow year, but we did not get very much rain,” he said. “It stayed nice on our operating days, which makes a huge difference. People like sunshine.”
Théberge says the nice weather and corresponding great season shows again how weather-dependant they are at the hill.
But the enjoyment on the hill is also due in part to the enthusiasm of the people, according to Tim Martin, one of the regulars who said this past season was amazing.
“Even the days when there wasn’t as much fresh snow, or it hadn’t snowed in a while, just the vibe up there, the friendly people, familiar faces, welcoming attitude was fantastic,” Martin said. “The best part of Shames is the people and the attitude and environment… It’s a great place to be, a great place to meet people, and a great place to get outside and get some exercise.”
The school program at Shames Mountain was at capacity this year, with the hill needing more instructors and gear if they want to expand it — “a good problem to have,” Théberge said.
The free passes for grade five students also drew a good amount of new young skiers to the hill.
“Some who started the year as never-evers, are now full-fledged skiers going all over the mountain,” Théberge said. “They’re our future so it’s fantastic to see the youth and the juniors be a large percentage of our skier population.”
Looking ahead to this summer, My Mountain Co-op is installing a new heat recovery system to reduce emissions and cut future costs at Shames Mountain.
The chair lift is powered by a diesel generator since the mountain is off the grid, and this new system will harness the heat from the generator and use it in a wood boiler system to heat the lodge.
“We are hoping to reduce our diesel consumption by 20 percent,” Théberge said of their goal.
The project is estimated at $60,000, with $30,000 from Terrace Community Forests, and Théberge said most of the rest will be volunteer labour and donations.
He adds that some people have already been approaching him wanting to help because they find the project interesting and valuable.
He expects volunteers will do a minimum of two thirds of the work, which includes some electrical, mechanical and machinery work, as well as some digging and trenching for the wiring.
“What makes things possible is that we have a strong volunteer force and a strong contingent from the community that cares about the mountain and the project,” he said.
“Volunteers are our bread and butter.”