Edmonton Ski Club's lease terminated, leaving future uncertain

The Edmonton Ski Club might be shutting down for good after 106 years in the city.

'It fell behind its times,' former general manager says

In recent years, the Edmonton Ski Club has struggled to stay open. (Sam Martin/CBC)

The Edmonton Ski Club could be shutting down for good after 106 years in the city.

A termination of lease notice has been posted on the door of the club telling the owners to vacate the premises by December 11.

Coun. Ben Henderson said Monday that the decision to close the ski hill "was made by the board" and not by the city.

"With their decision not to operate this year, that put the lease in a kind of tenuous position because it's based on how they operate," Henderson said. "The cleanest thing to do was to terminate the lease right now based on their decision."

The City of Edmonton posted a termination of lease notice on the ski club's door on November 9, giving the tenants 30 days to leave. (Sam Martin/CBC)

However, there is a chance that the ski club could reopen after the 2017-18 ski season.

"I think everyone hopes that [the closure] will be temporary," Henderson told CBC News. "But ultimately it's their decision."

The Edmonton Ski Club, located on Connors Hill at 9613 96th Ave., was created in 1911 as a ski jumping venue. It claims to be the oldest ski club in North America.

Financial trouble plagued club for years

In recent years, the ski club has struggled to stay open.

Last year, then executive director Ken Saunders asked Edmonton city council for $1.3 million over five years to maintain the club's operations while the Valley Line LRT was being constructed through the hill.

Council approved an emergency fund of $338,000 to the ski hill in October 2016 to get it through last winter.

"We've been trying really hard to keep everything going," Henderson said of the funding decision.

Saunders said at the time that the emergency funds would go towards covering staffing costs, paying off debt and buying new equipment.

The club also received emergency funding six years ago.

The financial struggle has plagued the ski club for years, according to former general manager Lorne Haveruk.

Equipment dating back to the 1950s, competition from three other ski hills in the area and a lack of city funding made it difficult for the club to stay afloat, Haveruk said.

"There's been built up competition so the small Edmonton Ski Club didn't have money to replace lifts," he said. "It fell behind its times."

During the 2015-16 ski season, the ski club took in $600,000 in revenue, it told the city in September 2016.

Patrons not convinced club will reopen

There are already signs of the club's decay in Gallagher Park.

A letter posted next to the termination of lease notice said a section of one of the ski club's buildings was previously condemned. 

Access to the ski club has already been fenced off by city officials "to ensure the safety of the general public," the letter said.

Equipment, including snow machines, sit unused behind the Edmonton Ski Club. (Sam Martin/CBC)

Caitlin Brown grew up with the ski club practically in her backyard. By the time she was 13, she spent every day each winter on the slopes.

Brown now lives in Victoria, B.C., but said she keeps the memories of the ski hill with her.

"It's part of my childhood that's gone," she said. "That was a big part of growing up in Edmonton."

Brown worked at the club as a lift attendant and ski instructor until 2007. She said money was tight even back then.

"It always seemed to be a bit of a struggle," she said. "There were never any renovations going on and there didn't seem to be any money coming in. It wasn't a big surprise for any of us."

Haveruk got involved with the Edmonton Ski Club in 2013. While the finances were never great, he said he still believes the ski club should reopen.

With the Valley Line LRT planned to run through the hill, it would be an accessible option for Edmontonians looking for a way to learn how to ski or snowboard, he said.

"The potential of that ski area is probably one of the best in Canada for becoming an in-the-city learning facility," he said.

The ski club is included in the city's master plan for Gallagher Park. However, the plan will not be finalized until 2019.

Henderson said he will be meeting with club representatives in the coming days to find out more about its closure.



With files from Roberta Bell