BARRHEAD - Just in the nick of time.
With just a week and a half before Misty Ridge Ski Hill’s official opening, the not-for-profit society which runs the ski hill received the official stamp of approval on its new ski lift.
That's what society treasurer Louise Miller told the Barrhead Leader Dec. 19 during the celebration for the opening of the hill's new lift and water cistern. The facility officially opened to the public Dec. 21.
“It took us a little bit longer than we expected,” she said, referring to the installation of the ski hill. “But its finally done and we are ready to have another great year of skiing.”
What Miller is referring to is not the installation of the ski lift itself, which took a lot of effort by a lot of volunteers, but what turned out to be a mini-saga to purchase the lift itself.
In 2017, the Barrhead Elks donated $79,000 to the hill to make several improvements, the No. 1 being the purchase of the used ski lift for $24,000 from a hill in B.C. to replace the old bunny hill toe-rope.
Unfortunately, the sale fell through and the society lost its $12,000 downpayment.
Difficulties in delivery, as well as getting documentation from the seller, caused the society to search for alternatives, which turned out to be a new $100,000 Austrian built T-bar style lift from Muller Ski Lifts in Vernon, B.C.
The funds to purchase the lift came from the remaining $25,000 from the Elks donation, along with $25,000 from the Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP) grant and $50,000 from the County of Barrhead.
The lift arrived at the beginning of September, however, before they could install it, volunteers had to prep the site starting with the demolition and removal of the old lift.
“Foundations had to be built on both ends so everything had to be engineered and the profile had to be just so,” Miller said.
For safety reasons, the distance between the towrope and the ground needs to be uniform the entire length of the run.
Volunteers then erected the towers and strung the cabling for the T-bar. Ski hill manager Greg Reschke installed the final hardware before it was inspected by the Alberta Elevating Devices and Amusement Rides Safety Association (AEDARSA). The inspection was on Dec. 18.
“There were a few little glitches that we needed to fix, but nothing to be concerned about,” Miller said.
She added this did not come as a big surprise as they conducted a trial test the prior weekend with nothing of relevance surfacing.
New cistern installed
The other major project the society undertook this offseason was the installation of a 33,0000-gallon, fresh-water cistern.
Miller said providing water for the chalet has been a challenge in recent years, which is why the society was so pleased when they were successful in their application for a $20,000 Farm Credit Canada (FCC) AgriSpirit grant.
The FCC is a self-sustaining Crown corporation and in 2019 awarded rural community groups between $5,000 and $25,000 in FCC AgriSpirit funding. Over the 16 years, the fund has awarded more than $15 million to support 1,263 projects.
Miller noted that although there are three wells on the ski hill property, only one is still pumping.
“It couldn’t keep up with our usage so we had to haul water from Barrhead to fill up the well,” she said. “And last year we had such a high bacteria count in it, it was deemed unfit for human consumption.”
As a result, the well water was used only for the toilets, but for everything, else they had to bring in large jugs of water.
The upcoming season
With the new lift and improvements to the chalet, including a new furnace and hot water heater, Miller said they are ready for what they hope will be a good season.
“The only thing that might be a hindrance is the weather,” interjected society member Greg Reschke, noting that so far the hill doesn’t have a lot of natural snow.
However, in early December volunteers were able to add to more snow.
“Two weekends ago it hit that and we made snow for five or six days straight,” he said. “We have a pretty good base right now, but we definitely would benefit from another snowfall or two. On a ski hill, you really can’t have too much snow.”
Reschke also noted the ski hill will once again be bringing in lights for a special night skiing fundraiser on New Year’s Eve. Festivities start at 6 p.m. with fireworks scheduled for 9 p.m.