A snowy ski season possible for Wapiti ski hill

Wapiti Ski Hill may soon have snowmaking capabilities, depending on the outcome of a future feasibility assessment.

Wapiti Ski Hill may soon have snowmaking capabilities, depending on the outcome of a future feasibility assessment. The District of Elkford applied for the B.C. Rural Dividend Grant in May, and was awarded $10,000. The money will be used to hire a consultant who will conduct a feasibility study for snow making at Wapiti ski hill.

Scott Beeching, director of planning and development services for Elkford told The Free Press the project has a timeline of three months which will including hiring a consultant that has experience in snowmaking and the operations of a small scale ski resort.

“The consultant will work with District staff and the Ski Club to compile local and industry standard information and apply it to the Ski Hill then the consultant could determine the feasibility of such a project,” he said.

According to Beeching, the feasibility study was identified because of the lack of snow over the past two ski seasons, which forced the ski hill to be closed during peak weekends and holidays.

“Weather is a challenge and the Ski Club cannot rely on the snowfall. Temperatures are conducive to pre-Christmas and December openings but the average season starts in January because there is not enough snow cover,” he said. “The Christmas/ New Year holiday week can be very lucrative; unpredictable opening and closing makes it difficult to plan and budget year to year.”

Snow making capabilities would provide the Wapiti Ski hill with a stable snow base making for a more predictable and lucrative season.

“A reliable schedule will enable users from out of town to plan vacations with greater certainty,” said Beeching. “The positive social impacts of the ski hill cannot be understated, as the hill has been a focal point during the winter for many years. This project is building off existing infrastructure and should have little environmental impact, the water source has been identified and a water license will not be difficult to obtain.”

The study will aim to determine what investments would be needed to equip the ski hill and how it would affect the business of Wapiti and its surrounding community.

“The first step of the project would be to identify existing programs, assets and infrastructure that are in place that support snow making. Then to determine the cost and source for additional equipment and infrastructure that would be required, identify man-hours and training to operate the equipment,” said Beeching. “The final step would be an analysis to determine what would be required [for] marketing and promotion, to ensure the project is sustainable and meets the goal to build capacity for economic growth in the community.”

According to Beeching, a reliable snow pack and schedule will benefit more than just vacationers.

“Wapiti Ski Club has, in the past, had two full-time ski patrollers and employs more than 30 students, however none of these positions were filled the last two seasons. This number will increase as required as the predictable and expanded season requires, mostly seasonal with some year round jobs,” he said. “Experienced construction and trades people will be required at the installation stage and local tourism should increase benefiting retail sales, accommodation, food and beverage providers.”