Edmonton Ski Club needs $1.3M from city to keep hill open

The Edmonton Ski Club may not survive another winter, if the city gives the cold shoulder Monday to its request for cash.

'We did this with very limited funds, very limited resources and in the shadow of an uncertain future'

The Edmonton Ski Club is asking the city for financial help, as it struggles with aging infrastructure and declining donations. (Edmonton Ski Club )

The Edmonton Ski Club may not survive another winter, if the city gives the cold shoulder to its request for cash.

The club is asking city council for $1.3 million over the next five years, $388,000 of which is needed for the 2016-17 season.

The request goes before the Community and Public Services Committee Monday.

Without the financial support, the club says it may not be able to operate this winter.

Executive director Ken Saunders says it's the first time the club has asked for help from the city, throughout its 100 years of operation in the river valley.

"It's really about reinventing the Edmonton Ski Club for the next 100 years, but we can't get there without the city's help," Saunders said in an interview Monday on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"It is, after all, city land and this non-profit organization has been running the ski club for all these years with little help from the city and now it's time, if the city wants us to be in place, to support us."

'A steep price' 

The ski hill operates from November to March, and sees between up to 32,000 skiers per season. The club expects to see those numbers rise between five and 10 per cent every year.

Saunders says the club wants to expand and continue programs for people new to the sport, but its growing popularity is putting pressure on aging infrastructure.

"All of our efforts to increase revenue and expand our services — the reality is that the 100-year-old infrastructure just can not keep up with the cost of expanding those services," Saunders said.

"I talk about the transformation and the excitement that we have at the Edmonton Ski Club. It has come at a steep price.

"We did this with a decaying infrastructure. We did this with very limited funds, very limited resources and in the shadow of an uncertain future."

Valley Line stalls redevelopment 

The Valley Line LRT is also expected to run through the ski hill, which means the club will need to replace its lifts and realign their runs to accommodate construction.

But until the new transit line is complete, many of the necessary infrastructure upgrades can not be completed, Saunders says.

"It's just really being able to provide a consistent quality product without bootstrapping or using duct tape or shoe strings," he said.

"If we were to go away now, I think it would make it very, very difficult to reinvent it a few years from now."

The report states the club has previously partnered with other businesses to help bolster their finances, but has had difficulty reaching fundraising goals and recorded a net loss of $473,000 from 2011 to 2015.

The funding request will be before the Community and Public Services Committee Monday.