Snowflakes are falling and that’s putting pressure on staff at Silver Star Mountain Resort.
Activity is escalating as crews ensure the existing slopes and new terrain are ready for the projected alpine opening Nov. 26.
“In the ski industry, nothing happens until the last minute and we’re in the last minute,” said Brad Baker, operations director.
After a successful summer season of hiking and mountain biking, Baker started looking towards winter and logging of 130 acres began to open up new terrain and a new race centre.
“When we got word to go, it was hair straight back go,” he said.
Large piles of burning debris dot the landscape and it’s hoped they will disappear long before the first skiers hit the slopes.
The logging has been selective, leaving a mix of species, as well as older and younger trees.
“We don’t want just balsam of a certain maturity so if a pest comes in, it wipes everything out,” said Baker.
A harvesting license must be obtained from the Ministry of Forests and there is also consultation with the Okanagan and Splatsin First Nations.
While some people see a rough hill, Baker envisions white powder waiting for skiers.
“It’s a little bump that adds a little excitement.”
Additional tree skiing is in the Putnam Creek and Silver Woods areas.
“There’s some excitement. We try to bring more value to our pass holders,” said Anne Haight, sales and marketing director.
Over at Cloud 9, the run has been expanded by 12 acres to create the new race centre.
“We took a lot of humps and bumps out. We reworked the whole run,” said Baker.
“The idea is to put the whole race program here. It will bring the caliber of the teams up. There will be certain days when there’s not racing, and it will be open for everyone to recreate.”
The former race centre, Big Dipper, will return to daily skiing and snowboarding use.
With the trees gone at Cloud 9, native grass seed will be planted.
“The forest floor will produce huckleberries and other food for the wildlife,” said Baker as deer walk by in the distance.
Including the new terrain, Silver Star now has 3,282 skiable acres, with a total of 9,000 acres within the resort’s management area.
Currently, a master plan is being developed with the provincial government.
“There’s still lots of terrain for future development,” said Baker.
When he’s not looking to the future, Baker is ensuring the upcoming season moves ahead, and that includes mowing and brushing the runs.
“It allows us to be one of the first resorts to open,” said Baker, adding that nordic skiing can begin with 15 to 20 centimetres of snow and alpine with 40 to 50 centimetres.
As Baker tours the resort Wednesday, he stops at the gateway to Just Dandy, Wee Willie and Davidson’s Delight Pipeline, with spectacular views of Trinity Valley and the Monashees.
“The great thing is cell phones don’t work here,” he laughs.
A short distance later, Baker is pointing out Chute 5, with its 4,500-foot drop.
“Other resorts can’t hold a candle to us for extreme,” he said.
“This is one of the first runs everyone heads to on a powder morning.”
To maintain the landscape and meet the needs of skiers, an army of equipment is needed — everything from groomers and snowmobiles to snow blowers and a zamboni for Brewer’s Pond.
“We’re getting two new snowcats. It’s about $1 million for the two,” said Baker.
“We have one of the most modern fleets for grooming equipment.”
But not all of the work is just on the slopes.
In the village, the Saloon is being converted into a new restaurant, the Red Antler.
“It will have garage doors so we can open them up in the summer,” said Haight.
Presently, season pass tickets are being sold to local residents while skiers from across Canada and internationally are making plans for vacations.
That means restaurants are gearing up and shelves are being stocked in the village shops.
“It’s exciting. We’re bringing in staff and meeting the team we will be with over the winter,” said Baker.