Andru McCrackenBy Andru McCracken

It’s time to take the next steps towards developing skiing in Valemount. At a recent annual general meeting of YORA more than 50 people attended. Why? On the agenda was a plan to create better access for ski tourers and to develop a bunny hill for kids to learn on. People are hungry for outdoor winter experiences.

Awestruck, full body

When people come to Valemount and McBride they are often struck by their surroundings, especially at this time of year. Fresh snow on the peaks, raking winter sidelight, wild skies and wicked storms leave the landscape changed day to day. The mountains are magnificent, vast tracts of untouched wilderness, home of the endangered mountain caribou, the sought after mountain goat and the legendary wolverine: it is easy to be inspired. But that’s just the beginning. That’s volume setting 1 on a stereo that goes to 10. Want to turn up the volume? Go INTO the mountains. Make a long ascent along the spine of a ridge, climb up those mountain slopes. Or just play on the aprons of these giants, carving turns in the snow with red cheeks and noses and faces. This is the next level. This is what it is all about. Playing in the mountains is something holy.

Great opportunities

We have schools full of kids who only get the opportunity to ski when their parents take them to Jasper… right past the mountains that are worth skiing. It’s time to build some infrastructure to help aid skiing here in Valemount and McBride. To bring attention to what is here and to build more, and create some excitement about it.

Skiing is not an economic development project

The driving force for almost everything we do is economic development. When two or more get together to propose something for the community it’s generally some sort of tourism proposal or a way to drum up business for merchants. But developing ski areas in our communities isn’t about the economy, the merchants or tourists. This isn’t a monorail, and it’s not a silver bullet. It is a way to help us connect with the environment, to this place and to each other.

A question of viability

When we aren’t developing our communities’ economies we’re running the numbers on any proposed project. Would this project be viable? Would this project make or lose money? How long is the season? What are the spinoffs? These are not the questions that need to be asked. I believe we need to be asking what projects we can undertake that can easily sustain themselves.

Humble beginnings

The right projects in Valemount and McBride, well considered, could be the next big thing for our community. Especially if you are five years old.

Other stuff

Much has been made of our bike parks (I’m a fan, have you heard?) and the way they have shaped our communities. What I see in mountain biking is bonafide community building. I see kids getting out there, teaching each other and getting really good. I see locals coming together to fix trails and move dirt. I see community pride and deep growth and the awesomeness that comes with playing out of doors.

Support this

Even though developing modest ski areas doesn’t promise to super charge our economy, or ‘put us on the map,’ or make money, or bring tourists, developing this winter sport deserves support.