By Tim Kalinowski
There will be downhill skiing in the Cypress Hills this year as usual, says Peter Swain, parks director for the south region, but his administration staff will be taking over direct management of the Hidden Valley Ski Resort for at least this winter.
“What Parks is doing is we are stepping in and making sure that downhill skiing remains an activity that’s in southeast Alberta. The previous operators (the Fischer family) have decided to move their investment elsewhere. They let us know this past winter. We have been working toward coming up with a solution toward finding a new operator. Unfortunately we didn’t move quick enough off the hop. We didn’t think we could get one of these rfps (requests for proposals) out and still have time to get an operator for this winter so we opted to take the operation over this winter instead,” explains Swain.
Swain goes on to say another reason Alberta Parks opted not to go with a new operator this year was because the Alberta Winter Games will be in the region between February 13-16 in 2016.
“The Games would be a massive financial hit for any new operator walking through the door. There is some financial risk in that, and, frankly, it is better mitigated by a larger operation like ours than a smaller one.”
Other than a different person signing the paychecks regular users of the resort and its seasonal employees shouldn’t see too many changes over previous winters, says Swain. He will, however, make it a priority to get a new private operator in place for the start of the 2016-2017 season.
“The ski hill is owned by the people of Alberta and managed by the government. We hire a facility operator to run that for us. In that way the government owns the big stuff, but the operator owns all the small stuff like the rental skis, groomers, etc. We don’t want to be in this for the long run. We want to have that downhill ski area managed by someone who lives, breathes and eats downhill skiing. The ski hill will be best served in the long run by someone like that.”
Hidden Valley will be aiming for a first or second week of December opening as usual. Swain hopes to see many out on the slopes this winter.
“As soon as it gets cold, we will start making the snow.”