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By: Laura Keil, Editor

The construction of the Crystal Ridge sled-assisted ski hill upholds a tradition of local enterprise.

In the 1950s, it was power for the town. A group of women raised money to bring electrical power here by renting out and catering at the community hall. They brought a generator from McBride with the money so Valemount would have power. It was local folks who installed the power lines as volunteers.

Later it was the health clinic. The Province refused to build a clinic in Valemount. Locals used the nascent Regional District to fund a health centre. Doctors came from McBride (they saw the need first hand). It was only when the provincial government conducted an audit of the McBride Hospital that they noticed the Valemount clinic existed. They saw that supplies were being ordered and shipped through the hospital. Imagine the audacity of people creating a clinic on their own! Later, recognizing the need, the province built a new health centre for the community.

With the opening of the Crystal Ridge sled-assisted ski hill, I can’t help but think of how it fits in with our history. Nearly all the ground-work was completed by locals, from assembling the bridge, piece by piece, to logging the ski runs, to the field work and the oversight. The money that paid for the project was voted on by the entire community at the CBT Community Initiatives meetings that happen each year.

What an incredible thing for a community to “own” a project in this way.

It is true there is no chair lift. There’s no mountain-top restaurant. You’ve got to dress warm and buy or borrow a snowmobile. You’ve got to like skiing intermediate to advanced ski runs in powder. It’s a simple workable design. Much like the initial power grid. Much like the clinic. Much like our original streets. Much like our original schools.

What happened to all those other things? Where are they now? Who invests in them and pays for them?

It’s the province that wouldn’t build a clinic until there was one already here, the province that didn’t build power lines until locals constructed their own system, the province that pays for our schools and to maintain our roads.

Over and over we have proved that Valemount is not the frontier “slap it up and take ‘er down” community that governments have assumed northern towns are. We are a permanent place, not by government decree but through incredible enthusiasm for where we live.

Congratulations to the many community groups and local people that have worked on Crystal Ridge. It is a perfect fit for this community and a sign that this enterprising spirit is alive and well.