Edmonton Ski Club expects to get emergency money to open this winter

The Edmonton Ski Club now expects to get the $388,000 it needs to operate this season.

‘I don’t think Edmonton would be the same place without this’

City council still has to decide whether to grant the ski club an additional $912,000, money the non-profit is asking for between 2017-21. (CBC)

The Edmonton Ski Club now expects to get the $388,000 it needs to operate this season.

"It keeps our doors open," Ken Saunders, the ski club's executive director, said Monday during a presentation at City Hall to the community and public services committee.

The committee decided to recommend that council approve the grant.

"I don't think Edmonton would be the same place without this," said Coun. Ed Gibbons, who sits on the committee.

While councillors at the meeting touted the river valley ski club on the edge of downtown as a "gem" and an "asset," it remains to be seen whether council will provide the additional $912,000 the non-profit is asking for between 2017-21.

Before making a decision on partnering over the longer term, councillors want more information about the ski club's business plan.

The master plan for Gallagher Park, where the ski club is located, isn't expected to be finalized until 2019. Saunders said there are questions about where the clubhouse and other infrastructure fit in.

He also noted the looming impact of development for the LRT Valley Line. While the LRT "will clearly be a benefit," he said the lifts will probably be affected and predicted a T-Bar will have to be taken down temporarily.

Club came back 'from the brink'

Saunders said when he took on the role of volunteer president five years ago, the Edmonton Ski Club was in serious financial trouble.

With a loan from the social enterprise fund, the group was able to return "from the brink," he said.

In 2010-11, the ski club's revenue was only $291,000. In 2015-16, that figure went up to $600,000.

Saunders said the club has grown substantially by correcting the funding mismanagement of the past and positioning itself in the community.

It's the home base of four skiing organizations, and two more hope to establish there this season. Participation in ski lessons, including for the disabled and underprivileged people, is up, as are numbers for ski camps and after-school programs.

Saunders said the club needs help to meet that increase in demand. Of the $388,000 requested from council, $228,000 is to buy more equipment and hire staff. The remainder will go toward the club's debt.

Though the club's infrastructure is aging, the grant isn't going toward repairs.

Coun. Andrew Knack said he was "worried that you can only defer maintenance for so long."

Saunders said with the exception of one lift, the rest of the facility should hold out until the club gets on solid ground.

"I am here to ask you to buy us some time," Saunders said.

The committee has asked staff to take a closer look at the ski club's long-term business strategy. Closer to budget time later this fall, councillors will take another look at its request for $912,000.

Coun. Ben Henderson said providing the funding in the interim is important to put the ski club on "good, solid, sound, worry-free kind of footing," but added he thinks there are "some really good questions we're going to have to ask."