Despite raising $86,000 in crowdfunding prior to starting the season, the Mt. Timothy Ski Society board of directors is still seeking solutions to make ends meet moving forward.
“We’re scared stiff that the mountain’s on that very shaky foundation, and what we’d like to do is get it a foundation to sit on,” said MTSS president Michael Kidston, who recently stepped in to replace past president Ryan Wonnacott after he cited busy work and family commitments as his reasons for stepping down.
Kidston said the hill’s board of directors is meeting with local and provincial government officials this week, to look at consistent funding possibilities for the future.
“We’re looking to find some sort of base funding through the regional district recreation tax,” he said. “And since we’re outside the [100 Mile and Williams Lake] tax area we’re trying to figure out how do we make this happen.”
To say the hill has had a difficult year is putting it lightly. The 2017 wildfires put a stop to all summer prep work on the hill. Lack of snow leading up to Christmas postponed the hill’s original opening in mid-December. When the hill did get enough snow to open for the second half of the Christmas break — the most lucrative time for ski hills — the chairlift wasn’t operational.
Since the hill opened in January, it has faced further issues due to last-minute closures because of poor conditions on the road leading into the ski area, lack of consistent grooming and breakdowns with the groomer and chairlift resulting in many disappointments for local school groups and other patrons trying to use the hill.
“It’s been a challenging season,” Kidston said, noting he’s hopeful the meeting with local leaders on Thursday, March 22, will yield positive results.
“We’ll be meeting with both [Cariboo-Chilcotin] MLA Donna Barnett, with the Cariboo Regional District and the mayors of both 100 Mile House and Williams Lake and try to sit down and work on where we are going forward because, as our treasurer said, it’s like trying to fill up a water bucket with a hole in it.
“Losing Christmas has made it so challenging. The community really kicked in with the fundraising last fall, and we got a fair bit of our accounts payable paid down, but we’ve still got some longer-term debt we’re having to service. Losing close to a quarter of the year’s revenue not having the Christmas holiday — it’s rough for any ski hill, not just the small ones. If you lose Christmas you’re trying to break even by Easter. That’s a fact of life.”
Kidston, who lives in 100 Mile House, has been involved with Mt. Timothy since it opened and was president of the MTSS for several years, however, has been off the board for about seven or eight years.
He said keeping the road leading to the ski hill maintained has been an issue this season due to heavy snowfall. While it’s created great conditions on the slopes, the road has been an issue for patrons trying to get to the hill.
“For a large part of the 30 years the mountain has been operating there has been logging going on using that road,” Kidston said. “The logging companies, the contractors have pitched in year after year, but this is one of the years where there’s no active logging. West Fraser has done plows of the road on their own nickel just because we started asking around and the community, as ever, just pitches in and helps, but you can only ask so many times and the same people so often.”
Aging equipment is another issue the board of directors needs to address in the coming years, he said.
“It’s always a juggle,” he said. “All the years the cut-to-the-bone financing starts to catch up. There’s never been any surplus to do the little things in the long-term.”
The meeting with local and provincial government officials this week, he hopes, will answer some of those questions moving ahead.
“It’s like trying to repair that old car where eventually the repairs outstrip the utility. You can only say: raise money, raise money, so many times and eventually the community gets tired of hearing from you, but the numbers say the ski hill is being used. We’re always open to suggestions.”
For now, he said the ski hill is looking to finish off the season on a strong note and plans to stay open during spring break.
“We’re ready to do battle for the mountain,” he said.
“Everybody there is working like hell to keep it going, and everybody at the meeting (this) week wants it to succeed. We just have to find a way.”
Mt. Timothy Ski Area will be open through spring break, Thursday to Sunday, until Monday, April 2.