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Calls for action after Shuswap’s Larch Hills nordic area inaccessible for over 24 hours

Sheer ice leaves ski area affected by lack of road maintenance, access restored Dec. 28
Edgar Road leading up to the Larch Hills cross-country ski area near Salmon Arm was impassable due to sheer ice on Dec. 27 and the morning of Dec. 28. (John Thielman photo)

The road leading to the Larch Hills cross-country ski area near Salmon Arm was impassable due to icy conditions for more than 24 hours.

John Thielman, owner of John’s Ski Shack, which sits on Edgar Road about two kilometres from the ski area, said no maintenance was done on the road on Dec. 27 or overnight into Dec. 28. It was almost 36 hours before a road crew came.

“Everybody had phoned in, hundreds of people probably phoned,” said Thielman. “They all know the road needs maintenance and it just doesn’t happen.”

READ MORE: Salmon Arm’s Larch Hills ski area temporarily inaccessible due to icy road

AIM Roads was contacted about the sheer ice on Dec. 27 when maintenance workers couldn’t make it up the road to begin work at Larch Hills, starting around 6 a.m. Skiers and snowshoers were turned away and Thielman noted people live in the area year-round, including the caretaker.

The road was extremely unsafe to drive and Thielman said an emergency vehicle would not have been able to make it up if one was needed.

“Lots of people live up here and and it’s so treacherous to get down,” he said. “It sure would be nice to be able to drive to town.”

Larch Hills is about 20 kilometres from central Salmon Arm.

An AIM supervisor came with a grader around 11 a.m. on Dec. 28 and had to put on two pairs of chains to begin work shaving down the ice, Thielman said. The Larch Hills trail report confirmed that two sanding trucks followed the grader to the chalet.

The road is now driveable and events scheduled for this week, including the Dec. 29 Lantern Ski and the Women’s Ski Night the same evening, are going ahead as scheduled.

Larch Hills manager Karen Tanchak said Thielman and others “went above and beyond to get the grooming done yesterday” (Dec. 28) and the ski area is blessed with many wonderful volunteers.

Thielman said overall he is disappointed about the hours spent with no assistance and about no one being able to get an answer from AIM Roads.

He mentioned that hundreds of people a day visit the trails, and other businesses besides the ski shack depend on that income. As well, Thielman said that since Larch Hills is the primary outdoor non-motorized recreation area in Salmon Arm worth millions of dollars over the years, he doesn’t know why it isn’t a higher priority.

“The maintenance system just doesn’t seem to be happening in a timely fashion,” said Thielman. “I’m not sure if it’s a highway issue or a management issue, but AIM doesn’t own the roads and they’re managed by the Ministry of Transportation, so I don’t know.”

In a Dec. 28 release on Faceboook, AIM Roads said it had received many calls regarding icy road conditions region-wide and all jurisdictions were dealing with them.

“All of our resources are deployed and our trucks are working through the areas; this is going to take time, please be patient and understand we are getting to you,” reads the release.

AIM Roads has not responded to a specific query about access to the Larch Hills ski area.

The post also listed the Road Classification system that AIM uses to prioritize areas for maintenance and an interactive map to find local roads and what classification they may have.

READ MORE: Questions of Okanagan road conditions surround Christmas Eve bus crash blame


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Rebecca Willson

About the Author: Rebecca Willson

I took my first step into the journalism industry in November 2022 when I moved to Salmon Arm to work for the Observer and Eagle Valley News. I graduated with a journalism degree in December 2021 from MacEwan University in Edmonton.
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