Edmonton Ski Club 'blindsided' by termination of ski hill lease, open to collaborating with area hills

Edmonton Ski Club 'blindsided' by termination of ski hill lease, open to collaborating with area hills

The Edmonton Ski Club was caught off guard by the city's decision to terminate the lease on its downtown ski hill. 

"They blindsided us, basically," president Monty Worobec said. 

A notice of termination — printed on city letterhead — was posted on the door of the ski club's river valley chalet on Monday. Worobec said on Tuesday it was the city that posted it. 

Worobec said the Edmonton Ski Club's volunteer board, financially strapped and responsible for decades-old buildings and equipment, began talking in August about the possibility of taking a year off to focus on much-needed repairs and upgrades.

Based on the five-year financial plan presented to councillors last winter, Worobec said the ski club expected to get $217,000 from the city this season.

After electricity and insurance and other basic costs were covered, the idea was to put the rest of the money toward fixing up part of the chalet that was deemed structurally unsafe. 

Worobec said the ski club told the city about its decision in early October. The ski club's board thought it was working with the city to put together a two-year fiscal plan. 

But two weeks ago, Worobec said he was personally given a heads-up that the city would be suspending the lease. 

"It shocked me because we had been waiting to see if they were going to approve our proposal that we put forward to them for our budget for this coming year," Worobec said. 

"The communication piece, I think, is what really caught us off guard," he said.

"It's like a snowstorm and we're kind of going in one trajectory. To get that lobbed into our laps like, 'Boom,' like hitting a snow drift at a 100 miles per hour. Like what just happened?"

Potential for partnerships? 

The Edmonton Ski Club has been operating since 1911. 

"We want to be open next year and we're going to fight and do what we need to do to do that," Worobec said. 

At city hall on Tuesday, Mayor Don Iveson suggested the possibility of bringing the Edmonton Ski Club together under some sort of umbrella with the two other local ski hills: Snow Valley Ski Club, near Whitemud Drive in the city's southwest, and Rabbit Hill Snow Resort in Leduc.

"There have been, I know, some discussions about how potentially, other ski organizations in the city, including Snow Valley, could come together to support maybe a single organization or coalition of organizations supporting a number of different sites," Iveson told reporters during a break from a council meeting. 

"There have even been some discussions about Rabbit Hill, as well, which, of course, will become part of the city of Edmonton once the annexation's concluded," he said.

"If there's some efficiency in bringing them together in some kind of partnership that helps provide value for the taxpayer, but ensures those amenities are there into the future, then I think that's all worth exploring."

While Tim Dea, a spokesperson for Snow Valley, said he had no comment on potential collaboration with the other ski hills, Jim Sutherland, general manager of Rabbit Hill, said he would be open to it.

"I'd be happy to talk to the mayor about it, along with the other ski hills in town," Sutherland said.

"We all know each other very well — the different operations in town. We get together every so often and talk about mutual problems and whatnot. We're not adversaries or anything like that, so we'd definitely want to talk about it. Anything that would improve or strengthen the industry in the Edmonton area is something I'd be interested in." 

Worobec said the mayor's comments are the first he's heard about the option.

"That's news to us," Worobec said. "What's been going on behind city doors for 10 months, we don't even know." 

But Worobec said he's not opposed to the possibility of collaborating if it brings people to the downtown ski hill. 

"It only makes sense," Worobec said. "We want to make sure our voice is heard and there is still a hill there." 

Worobec said there's uncertainty around the ski club's master plan, but he hopes it's cleared up soon. He said the ski club's board hopes to meet with area Coun. Ben Henderson within the next few days.