Ski Cape Smokey celebrates surprise snow after last winter's no go
With a good base and donation of estate funds, the ski society is looking forward to a great season
Things are looking up for downhill skiers itching to hit the slopes in Ingonish, N.S.
Ski Cape Smokey is run by a volunteer community group that relies on natural snow conditions.
The Cape Breton facility remained closed last year because snowstorms were regularly followed by rain or melting temperatures.
But this year, snow came early — and stayed. The Cabot Trail community got more than 30 centimetres of snow on New Year's Day alone.
Crews busy grooming, brush cutting
The chair of the Ski Cape Smokey Society said the volunteers could have used a little more time to prepare.
"Our base is looking really good right now," Larry Dauphinee said Wednesday.
"Snow coming early is always great, but for us, it did take us off guard this year. We had a lot of brush cutting to do that we never got to do this year, so we've been struggling to get some brush cut."
Crews have been grooming the hill and the province is scheduled to inspect the tow lift next week.
Dauphinee said the inspector was ready to visit before Christmas but had to reschedule when the area was hit with a power outage.
Grant approved for society
The ski hill is also getting some financial help with a bequest from the estate of Mary Ross Barker, an Order of Canada recipient and a dedicated supporter of sports in the area.
Dauphinee said trustees of the estate approved a $55,000 grant for the society this year, which helped pay for new safety equipment and will cover the cost of season passes for local students.
"It is amazing, but if you knew this lady, you'd understand," he said.
"She's the one who started the Ski-in-School program here at Smokey years ago when all the schools in the local area and the North Shore would come here and spend six days over a six-week period learning to ski with full instruction.
"I know myself, growing up, I took advantage of that and the kids remember it quite fondly, so we're grateful to be using her funds once again to do this."
Ross Barker, whose mother was originally from Little Bras d'Or, was born in 1905 in Toronto. According to her 1999 Order of Canada citation, Ross Barker pioneered physical education for women in the 1930s. She taught phys ed at private schools in Toronto and at the University of Western Ontario, as well as the YWCA.
After retiring to Ingonish in 1957, she became a prominent member of the community and continued to champion sports and youth activities.
Dauphinee said people in Ingonish are optimistic that the hill will be open within a couple of weeks.
"Well, after last year when things disappeared pretty quick, now that we're seeing the snow here, we definitely want to get open and take advantage of it as quick as we can," he said.
"Things are looking like it's going to be a great winter, so let's just hope the snow keeps up."