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REPORTING · 20th August 2011
Merv Ritchie
On Friday evening, August 19, 2011, two representatives of the “My Mountain Co-op” (MMC) venture, Curtis Billey and Darryl Tucker, attended the Regional District Kitimat Stikine (RDKS) boardroom. They came to inform the 12 elected and appointed board members of the RDKS, along with the administrative staff, of the new position MMC has achieved.

MMC (legally known as My Recreational Mountain Co-op) has reached a deal with the current owners and from the presentation made on Friday evening it appears as if the effort may be a success; it will take just a small amount of further support, not the millions originally sought.

Friday evening also featured a fund raising effort at the Elephants Ear Coffee shop on Lakelse Avenue in Terrace, which was packed to overflowing.

The new deal is very simple. The owners want a $200,000 upfront payment to address their financial obligations to their creditors. MMC has already acquired these funds and more. The MMC has also stated they would prefer to pay the creditors directly to establish a beginning working relationship with the suppliers. To this, it appears from the statements made Friday evening at the RDKS board meeting, the current owners have agreed.

The next payment the owners would like to see is another $200,000 by the end of the year. This is where it starts to get tight for MMC. They would like to say they have this but they do not, at the moment, and to start the season they need to expend some serious upfront cash. MMC has $380,000 in the bank from share purchases and donations.

The original price for the Ski Resort was $1.5 million and when MMC began getting involved the purchase price was $1.25 million. Today they have negotiated the price down to $1.1 million. The plan is to pay this new price in 4 distinct payments. 200,000 today, $200,000 by December 2011, another $150,000 by December 2012 and the remaining $560,000 by getting the Provincial government to forgive the loan the Ski Corporation has had for two decades.

This makes the actually purchase price close to $550,000. The amount owed to the Provincial Government is for a loan for the original purchase of the assets from the Kitsumkalum Ski Hill twenty years ago and for two years of royalty fees owed for the per user visit to the Ski Hill.

The relationship between the current owners and MMC is described as “very amicable”, which has provided the Co-op group a unique opportunity to find a solution beneficial to everyone involved.

As the operating and purchase figures were being shared it was disclosed how the Ski hill has always operated at a loss. Currently the losses are averaged out (using the past 5 years) at around $27,000. Billey described this as being similar to many other local recreational facilities such as a golf course or a community swimming pool. They are all great community assets and require a yearly subsidy to maintain their operations. Over the previous years the losses were less due to lower fuel prices. Shames Mountain is completely reliant on diesel fuel for their equipment and electrical power.

“It’s a philosophical decision, I guess, if a ski hill is something we really want in the community and we want to support it, but if we do want to support it that’s the number and it’s not large.” stated Billey.

The reason the MMC group has been attempting to raise $2 million is due to what they see as necessary repairs. The lodge, groomers, T-bar and chair lift add up to about $400,000 in immediate expenditures; $75,000 on the chairlift, $175,000 on the groomers, $185,000 on the lodge and another $37,000 on the T-bar. These necessary repairs add to the operating capital required, the legal expenses and the purchase price.

The plan initiated by MMC was to get the local governments to each donate $200,000 towards the purchase and repairs required at the Ski hill. This Billey stated was unpalatable to most. Tucker called the Terrace rejection of the $200,000 contribution a “hit to the solar plexus”. Terrace would have been the foundational centerpiece to the local government fund raising effort. With Terrace fully in and supporting it might have been easier to bring in Kitimat, Prince Rupert and the Regional Districts. Neither Tucker or Billey wanted to comment on Terrace Mayor Pernarowski voting against it after he travelled on their behalf to other communities to promote the concept. Councillor Bruce Martindale has prepared a new motion for this coming Mondays council meeting, August 22, to have the remaining funds of the “Town for Tomorrow” grant, $91,000, directed to the MMC effort.

The current Shames Mountain Corporation office on Lakelse is being packed up and the plan is to set up the full ticket sales and administration at the Quinitsa building on the corner of Eby Street and Highway 16. This Tucker and Billey feel will be a better location for the office and the location can also serve as a pick up and drop off point for travellers to the ski hill. The MMC currently has the use of the building at no charge from the City of Terrace until the end of the year.

“At this point we feel we are about $280,000 short to open this year.” stated Billey after he presented a slide on the current ‘Timeline and Cash Flow’.

Billey also stated they were looking forward to corporate sponsorship from both Rio Tinto Alcan and BC Hydro but was not able to provide any time reference as to when these might come in or be solidified.

“We’re not so much here to ask you for money as to ask for your collective help. […] We need your help to be able to raise that money so that we can carry on and continue this facility in the Northwest. And we also need some sort of a backstop. We don’t have the deep pockets that some of the prior owners had. […] We’re looking for your collective assistance.”

“Curtis has laid it out well here”, began Tucker after the RDKS Chair Harry Nyce asked for his comments, “The reality of this ski resort in this region […] the exposure it brings, it helps put us on the map. It would be a shame of a resource to lose.

“But we really are at that critical stage here next week. The Shames Mountain Ski Corp is closing up and boxing up their office so if My Mountain Co-op doesn’t proceed ahead it won’t open this year and ah, beyond that it’s anybody’s guess when that type of an operation would open again. So it’s really come down to a critical time line here and we are within days of another media piece going on.” he stated as he turned to look at the media table in the board room.

“If we could have this one year to bridge us over to the next level, I could see good things coming,” Tucker added after he described some of the future plans.

Terrace Councillor Carol Leclerc asked if they had any back up plans after being turned down by two municipalities for the request for $200,000 each. Both Tucker and Billey stated that there was no saviour out there; they were looking at corporate help but nothing was on the immediate horizon. Leclerc then asked if they had gone back to the Co-op membership for more money. Billey stated “No” and Tucker replied that they hadn’t had time to discuss it. Billey then interjected and suggested what they have considered is raising the price of the ski passes as they are currently cheap in comparison to others. “Everybody’s got to realize it’s really cheap to ski here.” This however, they stated, wouldn’t get them over this immediate shortfall to get the Hill ready for the season.

Director Peter Weeber, the Mayor of New Hazelton, spoke to the history of the RDKS involvement in the ski hill at Kitsumkalum and thought it was great that the location was now at least at a spot that gets lots of regular snow. He explained how the RDKS supports many recreational facilities and the $27,000 wasn’t out of line. In a joking manner he stated he would easily vote to support this venture adding that the funds would not come out of his areas budget but out of Terrace and Kitimats.

Leclerc asked if they had approached an NDI grant and Billey stated there may be $60,000 available but they haven’t pursued it yet as they were waiting to see the response they got at this meeting. Dease Lake Director Darcie Frocklage asked if they did more traditional fund raising such as bottle drives.

Tucker replied they are doing small and big fund raisers, “From here I am going over [to the Elephants Ear] for a fund raiser and that will raise $500 I suspect.” He then described the Henry Roy Vickers prints that they will sell to raise more funds. Tucker suggested this may bring in another $50,000 to $75,000.

“We’re looking for something in the win column. When I first came here I think we didn’t have any money in the bank. Now, six months, less than six months, the summer basically, we have $380,000 and that’s not too bad. We are now going, which is typical, into the Fall getting hyped up for the ski season. I can see momentum building.”
"how about this"
Comment by blocky bear on 23rd August 2011
Highways keeps the road open....private helicopters fly people to the top of the mountain. The private guys will figure out the most economical way to do this by way of competition ;size of machine turn around etc. d.b.
well said Roy
Comment by Linda on 21st August 2011
Agreed.
Ski Hill doesn't get it
Comment by c. sandecki on 21st August 2011
I'm with Roy harding.

This ski hill has been a dud from the beginning, depending upon bailouts and forgiveness of its financial responsibilities. Surely to goodness the regional district - with its many directors who have lived this nightmare for years - will have the good sense to let this one die.

To still owe the provincial government more than $560,000 after twenty years is poor footing from which to seek alms.

Had they named their new venture OUR Mountain Co-op instead of the me-me-me self indulgent MY Mountain Co-op taxpayers might have been more sympathetic. But I still wouldn't approve a dollar of my taxes going to this out-of-town dud.
public money once again?
Comment by bill braam on 21st August 2011
The ski hill is a luxury I can't afford to go to. The regional district pot of money was seriously drained by the previous hill and did not recover funds from its sale agreement. Now taxpayers are being asked to contribute even more money to the present hill. Perhaps money would be better spent buying a few luxury shuttle busses to transport people that can afford to ski and support the ski hill in Smithers, it has a hard time staying viable also. Shames is a jewel I agree but only a few are able to use it. Thank you.
If so much as a penny ...
Comment by Roy Harding on 20th August 2011
of RDKS (read MY) money goes toward this, I'll be even more livid than I already am.

Regional District - just stick to what you are SUPPOSED to be doing, that's all. Never mind getting involved in feel good projects, that's not what you were created to do.
hotsprings and skiing
Comment by rod on 20th August 2011
,,,blocky bear;
I think that combination is in the back of a lot of people's minds....
if we had
Comment by blocky bear on 20th August 2011
A viable hotsprings resort to bolster the ski hill all the red ink conversations would soon be a solid black. I would ask all you stalwart citizens to think about that. d.b.