Going to be a slippery slope

By Geoff Lee

December 10, 2015 11:03 AM

GEOFF LEE PHOTO Mount Joy Snow Resort president Ray Tatro, left, and volunteer terrain park manager Spencer Tripp rest on a T-bar at the top of the hill that will have man made snow coverage in three years.

Mount Joy Snow Resort will celebrate 50 years of ski operations in January with the start of a $250,000 development plan to expand snow making from the top of the hill to the bottom.
The first phase of the three-year plan will see the construction of a 20-by-60 metre reservoir that will hold more than one million gallons of water for snow making.
“You can’t have a ski hill without white stuff on the ground,” said resort president, Ray Tatro, during last weekend’s work party.
“It’s nice to have a whole bunch of lifts, but if you don’t have snow there’s no hill.”
A three-ton picker, loaned from Calroc, helped to clear the area for construction by relocating a silent shack and removing some rusted engines.
An expected late fall start to ground-breaking has been delayed until the spring due to frozen ground and late approvals from Alberta Environment and Parks, and the County of Vermilion River.
“We only received permission last week from the County to finally put shovels in the ground,” said Tatro, who noted frost in the ground makes proper soil compaction for the reservoir more difficult.
To get ready to make snow for the 2016 season in January, volunteers cut and welded floor patches to the bottom of an existing 5,000 barrel water tank.
Water from the tank will be used to provide snow coverage this season from the Strawberry run beginner slope accessed by a rope tow.
“We believe by the first part of January we will be open and keep that part of the hill open until mid-March,” said Tatro, owner of Exhaust Masters in Lloydminster.
The resort just signed a new 15 year lease with three, five-year terms from landowners Walter and Jean Harbin who have supported the resort since it began in 1966.
The signing allows the resort to step up fundraising to install new water lines to the top of the hill to make snow from the top down within the scope of the three year project.
“When we start to make snow with our two snow cannons we can operate for 18 to days, 24-hours a day and produce a large amount of snow,” said Tatro.
The second phase of the project will include building a new pump house and possibly storage for the resort’s PistenBully groomer and other equipment.
Phase 3 would be providing water on the south side of the T-bar lift line to guarantee snow for a longer period of time on that side of the lift.
Phase 3 also calls for the possible upgrading of their grooming equipment.
” It’s a big undertaking (and) we’ve had some great support already,” said Tatro.
“Synergy Credit Union has really come to the plate for us to kick this project off with a $10,000 donation.”
Tatros said that was “a really good boost” to get the work going.
“We know the economy in the area is not what it was two years ago,” he said.
“We still feel this is the time; we can build off the fact area residents 50 years ago had the foresight to get this kicked off and start this hill.”
Synergy committed their funding a year ago with a formal presentation to take place soon at the base on the hill.
“They are erecting a sign to publicize that we have helped them get the project started,” said Glenn Stang CEO of Synergy Credit Union.
The sign will include a trail map showing more than 12 runs accessed by two lifts.
“I think they are also hoping that the signage will help generate additional interest in the region for more sponsorship and donations as they continue with their plans,” said Stang, who noted several of his employees are involved in the project.
Stang said Synergy continually looks for opportunity to support the community’s needs and especially those things they believe drive economic success within the region.
“For a lasting value we see the ski hill ­— it providing local recreation, it keeps kids active and off the couch and it keeps family costs down to go skiing because they don’t have to travel,” said Stang.
He added it also keeps people at home so they can spend their money locally. 
“It really has some strong economic benefits.”
The County, through the Paradise Valley Recreation Board, has also contributed $10,000 toward the cost of the three year improvement project.
The Lloydminster Snowboard Club told the resort board last Thursday it was dispersing its funds to them after disbanding last year.
“They came with a cheque for $8,500 — it’s really going to benefit us,” said Tatro.
The reservoir will be dug by Top Grade Construction with a trade of services and a donation from that company covering the cost.
The resort lent Top Grade two snow cannons last winter to construct a snow bridge.
“The phase one is going to go very well for us,” said Tatro.
He said snow making is very important because they can’t always count on Mother Nature.
“We usually have a thaw in mid-January and sometimes it’s hard to get over that hump and it takes us until February to get back to snow again.”
Making snow will guarantee the resort can have a full season of skiing.
“When we do that, we need to expand the base of volunteers or perhaps change our business model,” Tatro said.
“If we know we’ve got a certain number of open days, perhaps we have to go to paid staff of some degree.”
As it now stands, the hill is entirely run by volunteers.
At Synergy, Stang said Mount Joy aspires to be more like other ski hills in Edmonton that are able to open in late November thanks to snow making.
“They will be able to get started with some man made snow and can sustain it longer as well into the spring,” said Stang.
“I’m excited for them — I think it’s good for our region Tatro said this year the resort has a tremendous board and some key people.”
Lloydminster snowboarder Spencer Tripp has volunteered to manage the terrain park and build safe and fun features likes rails.

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