Local ski hill is still an important need for our community and beyond

Student from Prairie River School in High Prairie tubing down the hill at the Tube Park.

Lucie J. Mercier
Express staff

The Little Smoky Ski Hill is a winter’s gem when it comes to recreational family fun and enjoying the great outdoors. It’s situated on top of the river banks, overlooking the Little Smoky River, that provides breathtaking views of the valley to enjoy. This is something that our local Municipality has known for quite some time now, and the importance of keeping the ski hill operating has been proven over the years, by seeing just how far people will travel to come out to enjoy this little piece of “ski heaven”.

With most of the visitors coming from our two neighboring districts, the M.D. of Smoky River No. 130, has collaborated with municipalities of Big Lakes and Greenview for the ski hill, in hopes of getting some support for some of the costs that come with an operation like this.

Aside from anyone who has been employed at the ski hill, not many people really know and understand the huge amount of work, and pride that goes into the preparation for snow making, and getting everything organized in order to get the ski hill up and running as quick as possible. But sometimes, even with all the planning, it turns out that Mother Nature has the last say in the matter. With the mild temperatures kicking off our winter season in November and December, the conditions proved to be too warm on some occasions, frustrating staff members, as snow making seemed at times futile. And so, with the weather not always cooperating, this delayed the opening of the ski hill, until the end of January of this year.

The process of making snow, involves having consistent temperatures of at least minus fifteen degrees Celcius, that lasts for weeks preferably.

The colder the temperature, the easier and faster the snow guns can produce the fluffy white stuff. But throw in warmer weather, and all production comes to a screeching halt. When conditions work in favor, snow making begins, and staff members are able to work non-stop around the clock, making huge piles throughout the runs, moving the snow guns every hour or so. Strict care and supervision is necessary at all times, to make sure the snow guns are constantly running efficiently, and that none of the two inch water lines that provide water for the guns are being buried during the process.

As the runs are being built up with snow, a Snow CAT is used to help push and create the ski runs, and is also used for the final grooming.

Once completed, you then have perfectly groomed and pristine ski runs, ready for the public to use. It’s an art all on its own.

The ski hill boasts of different choices for all ages, interests, and skills.

And with this being their 31st season of operation, the business has slowly made improvements throughout the years. There are ten ski runs, which range from a beginners hill that is called Turtle Mountain, all the way up to black diamond runs. And if anyone wants a little more challenge, they can try out the Terrain Park that consists of rails, jibs and various jumps.

If skiing or snowboarding is not really your thing, there is also the Tube Park that might suit your fancy.

Basically it’s a huge toboggan hill that you go down, while riding on inflatable tubes that are especially designed, manufactured, and purchased for the activity.

Tube Park hill has four runs to choose from, and it is a huge attraction for many of all ages.

It’s also a great place for families with little ones that haven’t mastered the art of skiing yet, and are looking for an activity that they can do together.

“It’s an introduction to skiing”; says Clem Bourgeois, the ski hill General Manager.

“You see, the Tube Park is situated right beside the easiest ski run, and the people on the tube hill notice the skiers going down, and it looks like fun to them. It doesn’t look so intimidating. And the next thing you know, they end up trying out skiing on their next visit.”

Another addition that was added to the ski hill, were ski patrols.

The last time the hill had patrol members, was back in 1989 to 1993. So the decision to bring them back was an easy one to make. Rhonda Bourgeois, who is also an RN, is the Patrol Lead. When she’s out patrolling the hill, she is the one that responds to any first aid situations if any happen to arise.

If anyone is interested in becoming a ski patrol, they can email: littlesmokyskipatrol@gmail.com

The Little Smoky Ski Hill has visitors coming out not only from the local district, but also from as far as La Crete, High Level, Slave Lake, Grande Prairie, Edmonton and so forth. It is also a great location that is central for schools to plan their class trips, and come out with students for the day, and it has also been used by the local Big River View Snow Club that uses the site for their training.

If lessons are needed, the ski hill has instructors that teach both skiing and snowboarding, either in group lessons or private. Providing lessons is a great way to learn not only about the sport, but also about safety and awareness.

This helps beginners feel more confident, and reassured, as they enjoy their time at the hill.

Now, if you aren’t of the athletic type, you can still come out for a visit with friends, and enjoy a meal at the Hilltop Café located right on site. You will find a large choice of food items on the menu to choose from. One item on the menu, is the popular Bingo Bob Burger and Poutine. If you’re looking for something on the sweeter side, you can try a tasty dessert like Saskatoon Pie, or homemade doughnuts or cinnamon buns which are made fresh each week.

It’s a great excuse to get out for fresh air, and a change of scenery.

The Little Smoky Ski Hill is located just off highway 49, west of Twp 744, and north on Rg Road 214. The ski hill is open Wednesday to Sunday, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, and the Hilltop Café is open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm Wednesday to Sunday.

You can contact the Ski Hill at 780-837-8144 for info, or bookings.

 

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