Editorial – Ski Hill barely makes the shuffle

Jeff Burgar

Politicians talk good stories about making sure youth have many legal and healthy fun activities.

Sports like swimming and hockey get the elephant share of taxpayer’s money needed to keep doors open. Even professional billion dollar sports teams like football are always looking to feast on money willing politicians want to throw at them for nice buildings.

Recreation opportunities are one of the Five Pillars of a Community, along with Quality of Education, Health Care, Opportunities for Business and Employment, and Community Safety. Recreation includes culture, like museums and libraries. Sports and cultural activities are key items for every serious politician.

Sometimes, items don’t grab the interest of a particular elected rep or group of reps. Like libraries, horseshoe pitches, campgrounds, and soccer fields, to name only a few. These too often fall to the bottom of the budget list if they only appeal to smaller segments of the population.

Take the High Prairie walking trails. The trails are not being expanded. People who use them make little noise about trail upkeep. One would think the entire High Prairie town council lives in long care housing. They don’t have enough energy to walk 100 metres, never mind jog around 2-3 km of trail. The trails rarely make the budget list.

There are 92 ski hills between Manitoba and the West Coast. Most are community hills, operated by non-profit clubs, groups or local governments. One is our local Smoky River Ski Hill, owned and operated by the M.D. of Smoky River.

Local governments around the hill, ranging from M.D. of Greenview, which stretches from Valleyview south and west almost to Grande Prairie, Big Lakes County, Northern Sunrise County at Peace River, and of course the M.D. of Smoky River, all pitch in. The budget shortfall is usually about $350,000 per year, depending on weather and equipment breakdowns.

It has to be said, the giant share of covering the loss is Smoky River. The M.D. balances that against not paying a huge share for arenas in Falher and McLennan. In return, those communities are not asked to pay a share for the ski hill.

There were 1,967 users from the entire Smoky region. Greenview, with 1,368 users last year, kicked in $75,000. Big Lakes County, with 1,504 users, $10,000. Sunrise County, with 648 users, nothing. Same nothing from the Slave Lake town or region, which sent 658 users. The records for Big Lakes last year probably included High Prairie.

High Prairie council gave nothing to the ski hill last year in a “free ride, we’re broke” process that started three years ago. Maybe the same this year.

The hill is an asset in attracting people, keeping people, and adding to the quality of life in our region. The amounts of money wasted in so many other areas, including recreation, could easily cover decent contributions to the Smoky Ski Hill.

Both Big Lakes County and the Town of High Prairie councils should take another look at this.


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