Nitehawk needs workers

Nitehawk Year-round Adventure Park came to city council last Monday (Nov. 14) looking for funding support.

Nitehawk asked council for an additional $19,000, bringing the total to $192,000 for the 2023 season. The additional amount is targeted to upgrades to staff housing as well as accommodating inflation increases.

Council later approved the ask on its fourth day of budget deliberations on Nov.18.

“Staffing is a major issue for us going into this season,” said Johnathan Clarkson, Nitehawk general manager. “We typically hire about 110 staff for the season, part-time casual and some full-time; right now, we're sitting at 60 people of that 110 that we need.”

Lack of staff could lead to limited hours at the park, he said.

“I'm really hopeful that we don't have to do that and that we can move forward with regular operating hours.”

Clarkson says the park is currently hiring for all positions, but snow makers are urgently needed.

He said much of the staff at the park are teenagers and college students, and transportation to the hill is a barrier. Additionally, the current construction on Hwy. 40 between the city and the park causes delays.

Clarkson said staff accommodation in the park currently can house four to five people but notes it's an aging building.

“It's certainly not the best, and I do feel bad all the time when I see our staff having to live inside that unit,” Clarkson told council.

He added that aging rental equipment needs to be replaced, and the facility requires many needed upgrades.

Fuel costs for running the ski hill equipment are also a significant expense for the park this year.

“I can see our fuel costs continuing to rise,” said Clarkson, “last year we spent with even less terrain (open) roughly about $204,000 on fuel.”

After a landslide in 2020 forced closures of many aspects of the park, this year it will be open to skiers, with only 20 per cent of the slope closed off.

Nitehawk’s funding comes from the city (25 per cent), the County of Grande Prairie (25 per cent) and the M.D. of Greenview (50 per cent).

“The residents of the City of Grande Prairie are the primary users of the ski hill, so I think we all have a responsibility to look after it,” said coun. Wendy Bosch.

The park is also working with Alberta Environment and Parks to secure a long-term lease of the land it sits on, said Clarkson.

The new lease could amount to $325,000 for land securities. Clarkson hopes the same funding model can be used to secure the necessary amount.

An ask of $81,250 (25 per cent) was presented to the city at the Nov. 14 council meeting and was ultimately defeated during budget deliberations on Nov. 18.

Coun. Gladys Blackmore noted Nitehawk is still in talks with the province and council’s denial of the ask would not affect the park's operations immediately.

Coun. Chris Thiessen agreed with Blackmore, noting the park is located in the M.D. of Greenview.

Nitehawk is hoping to open on Nov. 26, said Clarkson, but he noted it is very weather dependent.

“We farm snow,” said Clarkson, “we're looking for cold weather to be able to make snow.”

For that, he said temperatures need to be at most -6C consistently throughout the day and evening.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News