Marble Mountain reopens after devastating flood, snowmobile association surveying damage

As skiers and snowboarders get back on the slopes, snowmobilers on Newfoundland's west coast are still finding out just how bad the damage is.

Work to repair landscape will have to be done in off-season, Marble GM says

Marble Mountain has reopened, less than one week after major damage caused by flooding. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

About 30 people were back on the slopes at Marble Mountain early Thursday afternoon, as the ski hill reopened just five days after devastating floods.

The damage remains significant, but crews worked around the clock to make the best out of what nature handed them, said general manager Melissa Dwyer.

"After seeing the damage, it was a little disappointing because we'd worked so hard," Dwyer said. "But I had faith in our crew."

They created a pile of man-made snow to reopen three slopes on the mountain — Cruiser, Jigger and Broadway.

Melissa Dwyer, general manager at Marble Mountain, expressed pride in her crew for working around the clock. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

A sprinkling of fresh, natural snow sat on top of the slopes on Thursday morning, a welcome change from the rain and mild temperatures that ravaged the hill last weekend.

"We focused on the areas we could get open quickly, and now we're working on the rest of the mountain," Dwyer said.

The weather last weekend caused much of their snow to melt, which resulted in floods that ripped major gouges in the ground in various areas of the hill.

The weather also forced about six feet of mud under the base of the new Lightning Express chair lift, which was the focus of excavators in the last few days.

Large gouges as deep as 15 feet are seen in a section of the Marble Chute slope, a main feeder on the western side of Marble Mountain. (CBC)

Dwyer said they plan to cover the gouges with man-made snow for now, and they'll assess the damage and make repairs in the off-season.

The upper sections of the mountain are still bare, as they await more snow to help out the snowmaking crews.

"We're hoping for some good snow, some natural snow now to help us cover in the area. It's still January, so we have no worries that we'll be fully operational by the time February comes around."

They don't have an estimate yet for what the damage will cost  — both in repairs and loss of revenue. Each year, the hill factors snowmaking into its budget. So far, they have not gone beyond the money they've budgeted, Dwyer said.

Snowmobilers still getting a grasp on damage

The province's west coast is a hot spot for snowmobiling, both for locals and tourists, but last weekend's weather could wreak havoc on conditions.

Ben Fitzgerald, manager of the Newfoundland and Labrador Snowmobile Federation, told CBC's Corner Brook Morning Show his organization is still figuring out the extent of the wreckage.

There are several major "outages," or areas where the trail is disconnected, including one that separates the Deer Lake region from the trail system on Goose Arm Road.

About 30 feet of road surrounding a bridge in that area has been washed away, leaving the bridge standing on its two abutments.

A bridge is left standing in Goose Arm, near Deer Lake, with the land on one side completely washed away. (Lori Hann/Western Sno-Riders/Facebook)

"It's just gone. It's wiped out," Fitzgerald said. "You don't normally see the bridge stay and everything around it go. But in this case, Mother Nature had a plan."

Fitzgerald is urging all riders to avoid snowmobiling alone for the time being, and to keep tabs on the NLSF Facebook page or to call the NLSF for updates.

The federation had just finished submitting claims from Hurricane Matthew's damage, which caused $700,000 in damage to their trails, as well as more than $1 million in damage to the T'Railway, Fitzgerald said.

With files from Colleen Connors and the Corner Brook Morning Show