Phoenix hill faces financial challenge

A change in their classification under the gaming grant program will make things $47,000 tighter at the Phoenix Mountain Ski Hill this year.

The Phoenix Mountain Ski Lodge

With no provincial funding available until August 2014 at the earliest, Phoenix Mountain Ski Hill is hoping for support from local government to help operate for the upcoming season.

Phoenix has been around since 1969 offering a local ski opportunity for residents and tourists alike.

The ski hill is looking at opening in mid-December, usually when the children are out of school.

“We open through the whole school holiday,” said Barb Cornelius, administrator at Phoenix Mountain. “We close Christmas Day, but we’re open every other day. January and February we run Friday through Tuesday. We’re closed Wednesdays and Thursdays. We run the school program up there Mondays and Tuesdays. In March, we go down to just weekends.”

Cornelius says she hopes the community sees the ski hill as being a great recreational facility in the region.

All the school kids in the Boundary have an opportunity to go up to the hill and have a lesson, and time to ski at a reduced rate, she said.

“It introduces a lot of people to skiing that way,” said Cornelius. “It also helps get the parents back into skiing when they go out with their kids. It’s a sport where the whole family can do it together. Most other sports like hockey or soccer are a spectator sport for the parents. There’s a lot of traveling involved. Phoenix is 20 minutes from town and is inexpensive and the whole family can ski together. You don’t have to be together the whole time either. You can send the kids off on their way and meet with them later for lunch.”

Phoenix Mountain operates as a nonprofit organization. The society that operates the hill (Phoenix Mountain Alpine Ski Society) held its annual general meeting on Oct. 9.

“We had a great turnout,” said Cornelius, who estimated that there was close to 100 people. Cornelius said it’s been a long time since Phoenix has been self-supporting.

“We have been relying the last 12-13 years on gaming funds,” she said. “The province has been coming through every year with $47,000 a year, which gets us through the year and gives us some money for start-up for the following season and summer maintenance and all that.”

The hill hasn’t been denied funding this year but has been moved into a different application sector, Cornelius added.

“Which is a different time frame for applying,” she said. “Which means we won’t be eligible for funding until August 2014. Which means this season we’ll have to go the whole year without gaming money to supplement us. That’s a big challenge for us.”

Cornelius says the society is hoping to be able to get some funding from the City of Grand Forks and the local regional district to help the hill with operating expenses.

“Our backs are up against the wall,” she said. “We may need to go to referendum for that. If it comes to that, we really hope the community sees Phoenix as a recreational facility that deserves to be supported and they want to see us carry on into the future. We’re the only recreational facility in the area that’s not supported by tax money.”

Phoenix Mountain is also relying on fundraising efforts including the upcoming Operation Snowflake which asks people for a $50 donation in exchange for a snowflake which is hung on the lodge.

The hill also hosts a junior racing team, Phoenix Mountain Racers, which is run by a parents’ group and participates in the Nancy Green Ski Race Series.