Saskatchewan ski park closed for another season

Saskatchewan, never Canada's downhill skiing mecca, has lost another venue for the season.

Staff shortages and lack of money are problems, say officials

Saskatchewan, never Canada's downhill skiing mecca, has lost another venue for the season.

PWT Snow Park of Stranraer, 166 kilometres southwest of Saskatoon, will remain closed for a second season in a row, the company that owns it says.

For more than three decades, the park now run by Twin Towers Management Ltd. has drawn skiers and snowboarders from around the Kindersley, Rosetown and Biggar areas, as well as from Saskatoon.

The lift machines remain silent again this year, and that's a shame, board of directors chair Aaron Minish said.

"I have a three and six-year-old that I'm teaching to ski and now of course we either have to go to Battleford or go out to the mountains," Minish said.

It's not a lack of snow or local skiers that's the problem, but a lack of workers, Minish said, adding that local farmers are too busy for seasonal jobs that pay about $14 an hour.

As well, the sponsorship sales that are an important source of revenue are down because staffing at the hill is so uncertain, he said.

In addition, the snow park has had other money problems. It owes the local rural municipality $70,000, a sum that represents about a third of its annual operating budget.

Minish thinks he can sell off some old equipment to pay the debt and get local donors to buy new machines.

Sport still popular

Local skiers are adjusting to the news their local hill will be closed.

"Unfortunately, making snow requires a 24-hour commitment," said Delayne Pumfrey, president of the local ski club. "You can't stop for a day. You can't stop for an hour. It has to be a consistent snowmaking out there and unfortunately there's just not the staff and the people to do it."

Last year, the provincial government announced that the Blackstrap ski facility south of Saskatoon would close permanently after a new buyer could not be found.

The Stranraer snow park's hiatus and Blackstrap's permanent closure bring the number of ski hills across the province down to six. 

Still, the president of Alpine Saskatchewan, Terry Hooper, says the sport's popularity is growing and the remaining hills are getting busier.

Efforts are also underway to create new "bunny hills" around Saskatoon and Regina, he said.