Karl Ernst helped build the iconic green Summit chairlift at SilverStar almost 50 years ago, therefore it was only fitting that he receive the last ride.
Ernst was the first official employee of SilverStar Mountain Resort, and he returned Sunday to take the final ride on the lift, which is being torn down to make way for a new gondola.
“In 1960 the directors decided to hire me,” said Ernst, a wide grin on his face due to the honour of getting the very last ride, alongside his grandson. “I was a machinist in Bill Attridge’s Vernon Machine Shop.
“All the time stuff came from France that we had to put up at the mountain.
“I got fired in the morning from Vernon Machine and got hired by SilverStar in the afternoon, so that’s how I got here.”
Ernst took the final ride on the Summit Chair Sunday afternoon, following hundreds of ski and board enthusiasts who took a turn on the fixed grip double chair from 1970. For a minimum $5 donation, visitors received a day pass for the Summit chairlift with proceeds going to the SPCA. Approximately $1,000 was raised.
“SilverStar’s been an excellent ski area all along, we never missed a season for snow,” said Ernst, decked out in his green ‘Last Ride’ T-shirt. “While other areas were short on snow, we had enough to keep going.”
While Ernst was the first paid employee at the mountain in 1960 for the season, he did leave but returned in 1966. A few years later he teamed up with Bill Attridge and built the chair lift. In 1985 he also helped build the Silver Lode Hotel.
“It’s an honour, and thank the Lord that I’m still able to ski with my grandsons 58 years later,” said Ernst of his time on the mountain.
The ski season came to a close last Sunday at the popular resort with the final Summit rides for skiers and boarders. But there is still one last chance to ride the ‘green machine’ today before it is demolished. Snowmobiles have taken over the mountain for the Hill Climb with the Western Canadaian Hillcross Association from 8:30 a.m. to dusk.
The new Doppelmayr gondola is expected to be completed for a grand opening in July 2018.