Snowjob bodes well for Mount Joy

By Geoff Lee

July 26, 2016 12:00 AM

Christopher Nicolson, left, president and CEO of Canada West Ski Areas Association, met with Mount Joy Snow Resort board vice-president, Jason Skinner, and president Ray Tatro last week for a tour and update of a snow making system upgrade.

Mount Joy Snow Resort is on track to provide full snow making coverage on its slopes for the upcoming operating season.
That’s the word from resort president, Ray Tatro, who met with board members at the hill last week to provide a project update.
The phased development plan calls for system upgrades of the water reservoir, pump building, distribution pipelines, electrical system and grooming equipment.
“We feel that we will have the reservoir started ... before the end of July at least,” said Tatro.
“We’ll get our bladder in place and before fall we expect we are going to have our waterline to the top of the hill and be able to make snow from top to bottom.”
In attendance was new Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA) president, Christopher Nicholson, who is on familiarization tour of prairie ski hills.
“Without exception every ski area we’ve met on this prairie circuit—snow making is not just a priority, it’s essential,” said Nicholson.
“It’s essential for ski areas to look into the future and having snow making to ensure that skiing and snowboarding itself also plays a critical role within these communities.”
Nicolson said if you look at health, and the diversity of activities available to families and to children and adults in the wintertime, skiing and snowboarding is critical to that.
He also noted having a snow making system at Mount Joy will also increase the reliability of the hill for families that want to ski and snowboard together.
The construction of a 1.2 million gallon reservoir at the base of the hill will replace an above ground uninsulated steel water tank that is badly corroded and at the end of its service life.
The water reservoir will be filled from an existing water well with runoff collected during the spring.
The reservoir will be constructed by Top Grade Construction Ltd. on an in-kind donation basis. 
Husky Energy has donated 831 metres of three-in flex steel pipe to carry water to the top of the hill.
“We’re working with contractors right now on boring the product into the ground so we can get the line in and get our risers and our Ts that we need to be able to hook them to our snow cannons with three phase power that we also need,” said Tatro.
He said they just received written approval from the County of Vermilion River to proceed on the reservoir upgrade.
The current system is limited to producing snow approximately 100 feet from the existing pump station near the bunny hill.
“We are looking for more resources to finish the project off, but we feel we can crawl and scrape and get by and get this done so we have that snow making ability for the next season and extend our season,” said Tatro.
He estimates the snow making system upgrade would provide the resort with three weeks of round the clock snow making as soon as the weather turns cold.
“So we create a great base from top to bottom and get an early start on the season with good quality snow,” he said.
Tatro agrees with Nicholson that full snow making coverage will have a big impact on skier visits and operating days.
Along with that, Tatro said they will need to have more volunteers or a different business model to ensure the resort is properly manned with lift operators, instructors, ski patrollers and concession help.
“It will snowball,” joked Tatro, about the potential impact of the upgrades.
He added Nicholson has given them some great ideas to create a better ski and snowboard experience.
The mandate of CWSAA said Nicolson is to help resorts manage risk and safety, share best practices in terms of education of the actual operators and encourage first time skiers and the development of skiers and snowboarders.
“One of the big opportunities for us is introducing skiing and snowboarding to those first timers,” said Nicolson.
“There are lots of other activities in the winter, but skiing and snowboarding is a little bit different from most sports in that it’s a lifetime opportunity.”
Nicholson was the former president of tourism at Sun Peaks Resorts near Kamloops B.C. where Olympic gold medalist Nancy Greene Raine makes her winter home.
“Nancy has an expression: ‘A family that skies together stays together,’” he said.
Nicholson stressed skiing and snowboarding are unique in that they provide an opportunity for exactly that, where families are able to spend time together.
“It’s kind of like growing up on a farm, but on a mountain,” he said about the lifestyle.

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