Marking 40 years, Wapiti Valley Ski Hill looks back at past

Nicole Goldsworthy / LJI Reporter / The Wapiti Valley Ski Hill marked 40 years on March 17.

Nicole Goldsworthy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,

A local ski hill marked four decades of serving northeast Saskatchewan and its ski and snowboard enthusiasts.

On March 17, the Wapiti Valley Ski Hill celebrated 40 years with a barbeque lunch on the deck, and created a memory wall displaying moments from the past.

Eileen Shaw, general manager for the ski hill, talked with and said she has been a part of the Wapiti Ski Hill family for many years, and it has been great to see the changes throughout the years.

Shaw has been the general manager for three years and was part of the Wapiti Valley ski patrol since 1984.

“Over the years, it’s nice to see kids who grew up skiing with their parents and are now grown up’s themselves bringing their own families back to the ski hill.”

Since the inception of the Wapiti Valley Ski Park, it has approximately 23,000 skier visits annually and growing each year. The Wapiti Valley Ski Area is located approximately 30 minutes north of the City of Melfort. It was established in 1982 by the Wapiti Ski Co-operative Association with a group of volunteers. The Wapiti Regional Park Authority was established in 1984, including its member rural municipalities, hamlets, towns and a city within an approximate 80 kilometre radius of the park.

The founding members were:

  • City of Melfort
  • Town of Nipawin
  • Town of Kinistino
  • Town of Naicam
  • Town of Choiceland
  • Town of Star City
  • Town of Tisdale
  • Village of Codette
  • Village of Smeaton
  • Village of Love
  • RM of Star City
  • RM Flett Springs
  • RM of Willow Creek
  • RM of Kinistino
  • RM of Nipawin

Not all of these are members today. The Wapiti Valley Ski Hill Board consists of surrounding members RMs and municipalities who form the Wapiti Valley Ski Resort Board.

Shaw said they receive minimal operational grants and rely on ski shop rentals and lift tickets for majority of their revenue. The ski hill has been making a profit and continues to make improvements to their facilities. A full restaurant and bar are available to the public every day the ski hill is open. The current chairperson of the Wapiti Valley Ski Board is Dennis Weibe, an original founding member.

The first year the Wapiti Ski Hill opened, they used a snowmobile to take people up the hill. The following ski season, volunteers helped construct and install the T-Bar lift. Money was fundraised by public donations and community support. A log chalet was constructed at the same time with volunteer labour and government grants. Another maintenance building was built in 1986 with the structure matching the chalet used for a shop and equipment maintenance. Major expansion of the park happened in 1988 with construction of a new ski area with more runs and the addition of a hand tow lift. This brought the runs up to 16 and increased the lift capacity of the hill. A terrain park was also added for the freestyle enthusiasts.

A slope groomer was purchased in 1990 and snowmaking equipment was purchased in 1996. Shaw said they make snow every year now, even when there are seasons with more snowfall than this last winter.

“Our current snow-making equipment includes a water pump, snow guns and lots of water hoses. We make the majority of the snow base at hill.”

It was in 2000 when they installed a quad chair lift that is currently being used today. This purchase has increased the popularity of the ski hill and resulted in an increased number of skiers coming to the hill. The carpet lift was also added to the bunny hill in 1984

Shaw said that approximately 50 employees work at the Wapiti Valley Ski resort as ski shop/rental personnel, instructors, kitchen, maintenance and snowmaking staff.

The final day of skiing at the Wapiti Valley Ski resort was on Sunday, March 23 with their annual slush pit, where skiiers go down the hill – often in crazy costumes – and try to pick up enough speed to make it over a pit of slush.