After a stressful few weeks for area skiers and snowboarders unsure if the snowpack would be big enough for Shames Mountain to open this weekend as planned, it’s official – tomorrow, Dec. 14, is opening day.
It’ll be a soft launch – with lifts operating just Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. – but the snow is good, said My Mountain Co-op (MMC) board chair Meredith Skimson. MMC owns and operates Shames Mountain, located west of Terrace.
The base was 125 centimetres mid-mountain and 70 centimetres at the lodge yesterday, and it has snowed quite a bit more since then, she said, noting up-to-date numbers will be posted on the mountain’s website.
“The snow is good. It depends when you go – if you go in the morning you can enjoy some really nice turns,” she said. “We got 30 fresh centimetres yesterday … it was very much, game is on, this is going to be great.”
But this time last week it wasn’t looking so hot – they still needed another 70 centimetres for conditions to be safe at the bottom.
“We are really happy to see that high-pressure system ending and the precipitation turn on – just in time,” she said. “The reason we need 80 (centimetres of base) at the bottom is because there’s all kinds of creeks and water features and trees, it’s not like a ski resort in the east that’s like a golf course. It really is a safety thing.”
She said sometimes people go up there and see that there is a lot of snow and wonder why the mountain isn’t open yet, but there has to be enough to be safe – as well as enough to continue operating once open.
“There’d be no point in opening up for a couple of days and then shutting down and waiting,” she said.
After a busy summer and fall that saw a number of lodge renovations to the lodge – fresh paint inside and out, as well as replacing the carpeted flooring upstairs with a new rubber floor – with the help of thousands of volunteer hours, the team has spent the last few weeks putting on the finishing touches for the upcoming season.
“We get the mountain ready, make sure all of the equipment is operating, we do the grooming on the cat tracks, we get the kitchen ready and get everything all cleaned up,” she said, noting one of the trickiest parts is making sure the mountain’s staff – many who have second jobs – are on standby and ready to go.
“They have to be ready to go otherwise we can’t open,” she said. “(Luckily) everybody that works up there loves to ski or snowboard and they work up there because they love the mountain.”
The hill will be open full time over the Christmas break with the exception of Christmas Day, with a free day on January first with the donation of a non-perishable food item. And while there’s no shuttle bus this weekend, during the holidays MMC is offering a free shuttle bus from the Westside Copperside each day.
“It will be $10 over the regular season, but we just thought let’s get kids up there enjoying it over the holidays,” Skimson said, noting this falls in line with the co-op’s mandate to be family-friendly, accessible, and affordable.
And Skimson asked that those driving to Shames this weekend be safe and mindful of the winter driving conditions.