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Murray Ridge Ski Area in Fort St. James is ready for snow

Long before the season began, the ski area has been preparing to be better than ever

Murray Ridge Ski Area management is hiring seasonal staff, prepping the facility, and ready for snow in order to open for the 2023-24 season.

Jana Gainor, general manager, reports the t-bar has a new cable, the learning area has been re-graded and the lodge is freshly painted.

“It looks really, really nice,” said Gainor of the new paint job.

These and more work done, much of it paid for with a $605,000 grant received in 2021 from the province’s Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program funding, have made some big improvements to the ski hill.

Two small on-hill cabins have been renovated and are nearly ready to book — something Gainor said will take a bit of time to fine-tune in terms of how they’ll operate.

“I’m kind of excited to see how it goes,” said Gainor of the new accommodations.

RV hookups are coming, and a newly prepped area for a beginner terrain park in the learning area is ready for snow. There are also three trails for summer mountain biking on the hill.

Two yurts are still to come, one for a warming hut and one for another accommodation rental opportunity. The floors for the yurts are not yet constructed, while the warming hut floor is underway, Gainor is uncertain whether it would be ready to use in time for the current season.

But what is ready are the in-runs, which she said have all been brushed from wall-to-wall, so all the hill needs now is some snow.

With a little bit coming, and everyone hoping for more on the way, she said the hill is slated for a “soft-open” on Dec. 16, snow-permitting.

Early-bird season-passes haven ended, but Gainor said this year, the hill is offering a new option for skiers and boarders not ready to commit to a season’s pass, a 12-day punch pass which can be used over the course of two seasons.

Whichever you choose, the ski hill, which is a not-for-profit, still has some of the least expensive passes in the province, though there was a small increase in adult day pass prices for this season to $60 a day. Purden Ski Village adult day passes were $89 for the 2022/23 season and Powder King Ski Resort adult day passes are $100 for the 2023/24 season.

But while their ski passes haven’t gone up much, the ski resort is looking to make a few more dollars, visitors willing.

Over the season they will be continuing their fundraising drive to raise the rest of the money the hill will need for a new Snowcat groomer, asking visitors to “round up” their purchases if they would like to in order to help out with the purchase.

The ski hill’s current groomer is nearing its replacement date and they want to make sure they can replace it if needed, in order to stay open.

Fundraising for this key bit of equipment was kick-started with the annual fundraiser on Nov. 4.

One hundred and four tickets were sold for the event and the tables were filled.

The annual event included live music by Sam Holden, a live auction, a silent auction and lots of food.

The $33,777 raised will be going towards the purchase of the new groomer, for which the non profit hill will have to raise around $525,000.

Economics of tourism in B.C.

Tourism in B.C. contributed more to the province’s GDP in 2021 than oil and gas, more than forestry and logging and more than agriculture and fishing.

According to the province’s own data, tourism in the province generated a direct contribution to B.C.’s gross domestic product of $5.0 billion in 2021.

Forestry and logging contributed $1.5 billion, oil and gas brought in $4.5 billion and fishing and agriculture brought in $3.3 billion.

In 2021, the province’s tourism industry generated $13.5 billion in revenue, employed about 84,500 people, and supported over 16,650 businesses within B.C. The majority of those businesses are locally-owned small to medium-sized businesses which directly contribute to local economies.

The industry contributed $1.4 billion in taxes to the province.

*Source: Value of Tourism, Province of B.C. website.

READ MORE: EDITORIAL: Fort St. James community spirit shines again

Ruth Lloyd

About the Author: Ruth Lloyd

I moved back to my hometown of Williams Lake after living away and joined the amazing team at the Williams Lake Tribune in 2021.
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