Plenty of heavy equipment is still at work at Silver Star Mountain Resort near Vernon in an ambitious program to add more than 130 acres of new terrain before alpine skiing starts on Nov. 26. Cross-country is expected to begin Nov. 12.
“We went into heavily forested areas that were adjacent to ski runs and we did select logging,” explained operations director Brad Baker. Work started in September after the fire danger rating dropped.
An effort was made to select and keep a variety of trees, both saplings and mature, so if the forest is attacked by a “pest” there would be a better chance of survival, explained Baker. He said the older woodland was due for some culling due to the threat of forest fire.
Baker showed off vast glades where trees have been culled and grass seed laid in areas previously off-limits to skiers.
The work has made the mountain a busy and hazardous place over the past few months and follows years of planning and approvals.
Baker said the work was an effort by the resort to draw even more thrill seekers to the hill. Some of the new terrain can only be accessed on the more difficult black diamond runs.
“There’s no easy way out of this glade,” said Baker, as he showed reporters around.
He is also proud of the new race centre, built on the Cloud 9 ski hill and enlarged by 12 acres over the summer months through logging and “re-contouring” the land.
An environmental review was conducted and community input sought before work went ahead.
“We brought in local ski clubs and our coaches and said ‘Here’s an open canvas, what would you like to see for a race centre,’” said Baker.
He said the race centre will benefit skiers and coaches because of the challenging terrain.
“It’ll probably bring more races because we have dedicated terrain for the races.”
The resort’s sales director, Anne Haight, said Silver Star expects to sell an estimated 10,000 ski passes by season’s end, a similar number to last year.
She conceded there has been a slow start to sales, pointing to skiers’ fears of the El Nino effect that could spell a warmer winter.
Haight said sales spiked at the first sign of snow on the mountain.
Baker said the mountain would start grooming once 40 centimetres of snow was on the ground and could open once 50 has fallen.