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Phoenix Ski Hill triples acreage, gets government approval on resort plan

The annual Spring Fling at Phoenix Ski Hill. Photo Erin Perkins.

The approval of a new Resort Master Plan for the Phoenix Ski Hill will provide further stability with possible future financial benefits for the Phoenix Mountain Alpine Ski Society (PMASS).

Earlier this week the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations announced that they have approved the plan and have replaced an existing license of occupation agreement for PMASS with a 30-year operating agreement.

"Phoenix Mountain provides an affordable family-oriented ski experience for thousands of residents and tourists each year,” said Don Colclough, president of PMASS, in a government press release. "The society is pleased about the province's decision, and we look forward to continuing to operate Phoenix Mountain as a successful community ski hill long into the future."

The plan ensures that land surrounding the hill, which is Crown Land, will remain for recreational purposes and not be logged by BC Timber Sales or the West Boundary Community Forest.

"Ski hills provide great family outdoor recreation opportunities in communities throughout British Columbia,” said Steve Thomson, minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations for the province. “This new master plan will help ensure Phoenix Mountain continues to provide jobs and valuable recreation opportunities in the Kootenay Boundary region."

Under the new master plan, the ski society has expanded its Controlled Recreation Area from 67 hectares to 210, said Colclough. The plan includes an overview of the hill as it currently operates and expansion plans, which are only possible under the right economic conditions. Having created this protected buffer zone will also mean there is more recreational land protected for other users like cross country skiers, snowshoers, hikers and mountain bikers.

The plan proposes a phased development which could mean an increase in beginner and advanced ski terrain, an expanded base area and the introduction of summer recreational activities.  

While this new announcement doesn’t make the society’s financial woes go away, it could open up some possibilities for a different source of more permanent funding through the Regional District Kootenay Boundary, said Colclough.

Since the government cut BC Gaming Grants throughout the province a few years ago, the society has been struggling to find secure funding to keep them in the black. Ideally they would like to secure $60,000 of annual funding from either one source or several. Last year Colclough went to all the Boundary governments looking for some help. So far no one has stepped up with a permanent option, although RDKB Area D director Irene Perepolkin and Area E director Bill Baird have said they will help. Perepolkin told The Boundary Sentinel she is looking into several options and hopes to have some answers in the new year.

Phoenix set to open Friday, Dec. 21

Unlike last year when an unseasonal rain washed away the base snow, the ski season at Phoenix is set to open at its usual time, the first day of the school Christmas vacation.

The favourable weather has left a 56 centimeter base, which continues to grow.

Colclough was skiing on the hill over the weekend, after a grueling day helping get the resort ready for business.

“The snow had three centimeters of fresh snow over groomed conditions and it was glorious,” said Colclough, who got down five runs before dark. “There isn’t tons of snow, but we’ll get it built up as much as we can.”

Being able to open for the Christmas vacation will put the society in a more favourable financial position. Last year they lost thousands by not being able to open until January.

Other changes to expect include some new staff, a new shack made from the cab of a swather at the top of the hill for the liftees to sit in to warm up and a new sign off the deck of the cafeteria, said Colclough.

For more information about Phoenix, visit their website at www.skiphoenix.com