Skiers descend from the top of Mount Mackenzie on closing day in 2017. (File)

Ski hill still has plenty of room to grow

RMR celebrates 10 years of stoke

There it was. Sharing the broadsheet with a John Campbell era volleyball win, the provincial court charges and a review of the Revelstoke Theatre’s “Blithe Spirit”, a bold headline reading: Mount Mackenzie has a very bright future.

Two years after Pierre Trudeau’s declaration of change to the metric system and the weather was still written in imperial. A little box at the bottom of the front page boasted 5.5 inches of snow had fallen.

The whole broadsheet would cost you a nickel and a dime to read. And if you were a ski enthusiast with a wealthy imagination, on Nov. 30, 1972, it was worth the price.

The paper had spoken to Larry Nelles, a well-known Revelstoke skier of the day and a coach for Canada Fit Council who had travelled all over Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

He saw the future of the mountain.

“It’s [sic] potential is unlimited. Many other areas start at the top of the mountain and reach their capacity in a few years, from there on, there is nowhere else they can go,” he said. “Mt. Mackenzie has an endless terrain.”

An illustrated map of the mountain later in the issue shows the development of the ski hill. It introduces the staff members on the opposite page, including Brandy, the dog.

Revelstoke’s history is entrenched in skiing. Ski jumping, cross-country, it all thrives in and up the valley.

The Mount Mackenzie ski hill was established in the early 60s. The sale of the mountain presented a change from a locals-only spot to a prominent location on B.C.’s Powder Highway.

The changes came fast and furious even before opening day.

There were debates on everything and a town built on the back of blue collar work was about to transform into a resort town.

“The changes came so fast and they were so great that nobody could really comprehend how fast things would change in the community,” said Mayor Mark McKee, a supporter of the hill who was in office when it opened in 2007, “Even though we were prepared for it and we learned from the mistakes of other communities.”

One of the major expected changes was housing, or the lack of it. As realtor Emily Beaumont wrote in the Mountaineer this month, a single-family house rose from $440,000 in 2007 to $458,000 this year. The social issues continued.

A transient population would arrive every winter to ski the legendary mountain, almost doubling the locals’ numbers, by one politician’s estimate.

In an editorial published on these pages Dec. 19, 2007, the newspaper was cautiously optimistic about the ski hill and its effect on Revelstoke’s future.

“The opening is gratifying because it represents the culmination of more than 20 years of dreaming and striving by Revelstokeians. It is frightening, too, because it represents a major change in the community’s economic direction and some would say it points to changes that could be disturbing.”

In the end, it says, “Revelstoke Mountain Resort ultimately presents us all with opportunities we cannot ignore.”

Steve Bailey, the resort’s director of skier services and base area operations, recalls the frenzied work being done to prepare the hill for opening day. He arrived in Revelstoke the summer of 2007.

“It was definitely exciting times,” he said.

The staff had a to-do list in the boardroom that extended from the ceiling to the floor. As each job was completed, it got ticked off.

For Bailey, opening day was a blur.

RELATED: Updated: Mountain roller coaster coming to Revelstoke Mountain Resort

In First Tracks: History of Skiing in Revelstoke, Robert Powadiuk described the atmosphere of Dec. 22, 2007.

“At six a.m. in the the dark it was nothing but white lights coming out of the city, just a solid stream of cars. And the people had their windows open and they were screaming and yelling and yahooing before they ever got to the parking lot and when they finally got off the gondola and skiied all you could hear was the yahooing in the woods.”

About 2,000 skiers and snowboarders showed up for that opening day, the book says, “Fittingly, the first day was a powder day.”

But opening day wasn’t without its scars. A 24-year-old skier was reported missing and later found dead in a tree well .

With the opening of the ski hill, Revelstoke was suddenly on everybody’s radar.

Even after the economic downturn in 2008, the hill persevered and continued to grow. Lifts were extended, new terrain opened, a hotel and village erected.

In 2016, summer operations kicked off with the advent of the mountain pipe coaster.

Tourists were turning off the highway with purpose.

This year, the hill added more life capacity with 21 new Stoke chairs and 24 new gondola cabins.

Bailey thinks the hill has still only met a fraction of its potential.

While it’s on par with other resorts in B.C., Bailey thinks Revelstoke can continue to take it up one notch at a time.


 

@marissatiel
marissa.tiel@revelstokereview.com

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RMR adds more lift capacity. (RMR)

Opening day 2007. (File)

Opening day 2017. (Marissa Tiel/ Revelstoke Review)

Mark McKee and Alex Wadey (left) cut the ribbon on opening day in 2007. (File)

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