Nfld. & Labrador

Major damage at Marble Mountain, but staff say some slopes could open this week

Marble Mountain's chief operating officer is confident that at least some slopes will be open for skiing and snowboarding by the end of the week.

Despite structural damage to slopes, dropping temperatures mean snowmaking can resume

Tony Abbott is the chief operating officer for Marble Mountain Ski Resort. (CBC)

Staff at Marble Mountain are busy dealing with damage caused by this weekend's flooding, but the ski resort's chief operating officer is confident that at least some slopes will be open later this week.

It's a lot of work, we know that. But we're prepared, we're used to this.- Tony Abbott

Marble Mountain lost a significant amount of snow during heavy rain and unseasonably warm temperatures, and flooding left large gouges in the ground on several slopes.

It also pushed about six feet of mud under the base of the new Lightning Express chair lift, which is what staff are focusing on now.

"We need to get this mud out of here now before it freezes and turns into concrete," COO Tony Abbott told CBC News. 

"Loss of revenue is what hurts. But hopefully this will balance out and Mother Nature will be a little bit kinder now."

Tony Abbott, the COO of Marble Mountain tells the CBC's Carolyn Stokes what work needs to be done to make the ski hill operational after the storm. 1:12

Abbott said an excavator will be on scene Monday to dig out the chair lift, and then resort staff will shift their focus to snowmaking and getting slopes open as soon as possible.

Marble Mountain Resort, which is usually in full-swing for the season by now, lost most of its snow as a result of flooding and high temperatures over the weekend. (CBC)

He expects that at least some slopes could be up and running by as early as Wednesday.

The Newfie Bullet is the smallest of the three chair lifts at Marble, covering the bottom-centre section of the mountain, and Abbott said once some of the runs it services are open crews will then focus on making snow at the top sections of the mountain.

"It's major damage at the top. It's a lot of work, we know that. But we're prepared, we're used to this," Abbott said.

'More cosmetic than cost'

Premier Dwight Ball was at Marble Mountain Monday morning assessing the damage, but said at this point the resort has not asked for financial assistance from the provincial government.

Ball said the flooding is clearly a setback for the facility, but after speaking to Abbott and other staff he's confident the hill will reopen in some capacity this week.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball says as of Monday, Marble Mountain has not requested financial assistance from the provincial government to help repair flood damage. (CBC)
"[Tony] is telling me right now that it's more cosmetic than it is cost," he said. "If they tell me that this place is going to be back open for activity, I think it will be."

Ball said the province is ready to assist if necessary, calling Marble Mountain the "centrepiece of winter tourism" for Newfoundland and Labrador.

"Unfortunately it is near the end of January now. We would have hopefully been skiing by now and had lots of people buzzing around, but that's not the case," he said. "But it's Marble Mountain, they've been through this before."

An excavator works to clear mud from under the Lightning Express chairlift Monday morning. Getting the mud cleared out is a priority for staff before the temperatures drop to the point that the mud freezes. (CBC)

Abbott said while right now the priority is digging out the chair lifts and taking advantage of dropping temperatures to make snow, he said structural work on the damage to the slopes likely won't take place until after the ski season.

"We're going to try and fill these things in with snow and then deal with these things this summer," he said.

Large gouges as deep as 4.5 metres are seen in a section of the Marble Chute slope, a main feeder slope on the western side of Marble Mountain. (CBC)

Temporary repairs are also taking place Monday to fix power and snowmaking lines that were cut by the shifting ground, which Abbott actually witnessed himself during a dramatic few moments on the mountain Friday night.

"I was met with a wall of ice and snow flowing down over the mountain. I turned the CAT [tractor] around and got out of its path. That's when it started going down over the mountain and started plugging culvert after culvert."

He said he's never seen anything like it in his 38 years in the industry.

"Once the water let go on the mountain, basically we lost of control of everything," he said.

With files from Carolyn Stokes and Krissy Holmes