Drayton Valley Brazeau Snow Club hill opens thanks to Mother Nature and Volunteers
It wasn’t just Mother Nature who came through for the Drayton Valley Brazeau Snow Club this winter.
From the dedicated club and community volunteers, sponsors, Municipalities, and ski enthusiasts, the entire community came together to make the ski hill’s first season in three years a great one.
A huge dump of snow in early February this year was enough to create a snow base for the hill, and Snow Club President Randy Beckett and his team of dedicated volunteers, jumped into a high gear to have the hill ready to open on February 10th.
“Opening day was fantastic,” says Beckett, whose family has been skiing here for three generations. “We had 183 paid lift tickets – almost double what we expected.”
“When we were last open (the 2014/2015 winter season), we had anywhere from 80-120 tickets on average,” says Club Vice-President Mike Kwirant. “After being closed for two seasons, we wondered if people had forgotten the hill was there, so to have 180 people was phenomenal.” While there wasn’t enough snow to make a proper base in the last two years, Beckett and Kwirant, along with the rest of the club weren’t idle. In those years, they did substantial upgrading to the hill’s electrical system, cleared the runs,
expanded the parking lot, improved the access to the chalet, landscaped, added a terrain park for freestyle skiers and snowboarders, and added a tubing hill.
“The hill is 55 years old, built by oil companies and volunteers, and everything they had or used is still there,” Beckett says. “It was a massive cleanup.”
The Snow Club has had support from dedicated volunteers, critical to opening day and every ski day since.
“Without a handful of individuals who stepped up to the plate, we wouldn’t have been able to open,” Beckett says.
Volunteers operate the lifts, manage ski rentals, sell tickets, and do maintenance.
As just one example of the
dedication of volunteers, the Snow Club’s webmaster updates and maintains the www.draytonvalleyskihill.
com website even after a move to Nova Scotia.
Many of the current volunteers, Kwirant notes, grew up skiing on the hill and want to give back.
“People say, ‘My kids or my grandkids love it here - it’s such a great facility that we’ve got to make it work,’” Kwirant further adds.
Volunteers are welcome, and Beckett and Kwirant encourage those
interested to join the Canadian Ski Patrol, who provide service to the local ski hill.
Brazeau County and the Town of Drayton Valley have also supported the hill, with both Municipalities providing $5,000 each in funding in April 2017. The County also contributes mowing of the hill in the summer and plowing of the access road in the winter.
“That financial assistance helped us get through a starving year,” Beckett says, noting the utility bills had to be paid, whether there was revenue or not, before the hill was winterized.
This reduced bills from $1,000 a month to $100 a month. “We were able to maintain the utilities and stay afloat.”
Of course, the community has been critical to the ski hill’s return, from the youth who helped design and test the new terrain park, to the many skiers, snowboarders, and their families who come to enjoy the hill, to the growing list of community sponsors.
Over 340 people enjoyed Family Day at the hill this year, far exceeding the club’s expectations. R&D Beckett Holdings and Intercon Messaging sponsored free hamburgers, hot dogs, and pop to everyone at the hill that day.
“It was chaotic in a good way - everyone was shaking their head at the volume of people,” Kwirant says, adding the Snow Club is thankful for all of the support it gets. This includes companies that have donated a total of close to 1,800 litres of diesel for hill equipment, and equipment operators who have donated their time.
“Our 4-foot by 8-foot donation recognition board in the chalet is full, and we have more recognitions to put up,” Kwirant says.
It’s not just special events like opening day or Family Day that are bringing people out. Attendance at the ski hill has been steady on weekends and on Tuesday and Thursday nights, he adds. The hill provides families an inexpensive way to enjoy the outdoors, have fun, and offers a local stepping stone for those not ready to tackle the Rocky Mountains of Jasper or Banff on their skis just yet.
Despite frustrations with the weather, a ton of hard work maintaining and upgrading the ski hill, and financial uncertainty, Beckett says this season has made it all worthwhile. And there’s already plans to improve the terrain park and tubing hill for next season and beyond.
“The smiles on the kids’ faces on opening day was the reward for me,” he says. “There’s a joy that it all worked out.”
As with the opening, the ski hill’s closure for the season will depend on Mother Nature. As of early March, the hill was open Saturday and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m. It is also available to be rented out to companies as an all-inclusive package. Ski and snowboarding lessons are available through independent certified instructors, and ski, snowboard and tubing rentals are available. Please note helmets are mandatory for everyone using the hill.
For even more information about the Drayton Valley
Brazeau Ski Hill, to rent the facility for a private function
or to become a volunteer:
find: the Snow Club on Facebook.