Outdoor enthusiasts enjoying the Mt. Timothy Ski Area. File photo.

Mount Timothy under threat of permanent closure

Society hoping for funding through referendum

Correction to an earlier version: While the board has gone to 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall, Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb, CRD Chair Margo Wagner and Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett, they haven’t met with the South Cariboo Joint Committee yet.

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The Mount Timothy board of directors are worried about the future and have gone to the Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett and the Mayor Mitch Campsall of 100 Mile House for help.

“We are in a position where the mountain is probably going to close, we’re talking permanently close, unless we can get some kind of funding the same as the ball fields, rinks, swimming pools, etc.,” said Michael Kidston, president of the society.

The mountain has struggled this season, starting late due to lack of snowfall in mid-December. The chairlift also had to undergo repairs after being struck by lightning during a storm. These two issues cost the mountain, according to Kidston, over a quarter of their revenue in a ten-day period. Typically, this is when the mountain is at its busiest.

“We are basically flat-broke now and we’re going to have no money to get started next year,” said Kidston, adding the society will likely not be selling season passes this month as in previous years. “We just didn’t feel comfortable selling season passes at this stage because if we had that money we would spend it now and if we spent it now and it [the mountain] didn’t open next season we would be in a pretty strange situation.”

Kidston and the board are hoping to get funding through regional recreation taxes from the SCJC and the Central Cariboo Joint Committee through a referendum. If the committees agree and the referendum is approved, Kidston said the society would most likely not know until November and they probably wouldn’t get the money until the season after.

The meeting with local and regional government representatives had a supportive atmosphere in wanting to keep the mountain open according to Kidston and everyone was optimistic about the future hopeful referendum passing but no one had any other ideas about a funding formula.

Kidston said his optimism verged on the cautious side though, based on the feedback from the politicians.

“They were not saying “oh yeah, for sure this will go”. It’s just it’s going to take a good sales job and a push and even then it’s just to get them to agree to take it to referendum,” he said.

Just to get open this upcoming season, the society needs to collect at least roughly $100,000 by October just to bring things up to standard. Most of the society’s expenses go to equipment costs and they have exercised multiple cost-cutting measures to survive, according to Kidston.

The carpet lifts are one of those expenditures. Before next season, the two lifts have to be retrofitted with a new safety switching system and cost roughly $12,000 and completed and inspected before Oct. 15, 2018. Without the prospect of funding, Kidston is doubtful the society will even bother.

“We don’t have any money to do it. We don’t have $12,000 to do one carpet let alone twice that to do both.”

The carpets are also key to the school programs, which have been fairly successful for the mountain this year despite some cancellations during later months from storms or bad roads conditions, he said. Beginners can’t use the ski lifts and the mountain’s t-bars are out of use due to the aforementioned cost-measures except in dire situations, such as when the weather is extreme or the chairlift is not functioning properly.

Other equipment, such as the groomer, is also outdated and require multiple fixes. The ten-year-old groomer is also a victim of cost-saving measures.

The society only has roughly 10 staff members with only the hill manager being a year-round hire. Most of the staff tend to live in 100 Mile House or the district and Kidston said the loss of the mountain may make prospective young families and professionals look somewhere else to live.

“100 Mile House is in a growth position, not huge, but people are moving here from places they can’t afford and are finding it nice here,” he said. “Something like a ski hill is an attraction.”

He also mentioned it’s an attraction for visitors even if it is not a destination resort. He said he has talked to some visitors from Vancouver from time to time who come to Mount Timothy because there is smaller crowds and passes are cheaper than other ski hills such as Whistler or Fernie.

News of the uncertainty surrounding the mountain has already been in the public and Kidston said the society is not trying to hide it.

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