SAM Magazine—Kimberley, B.C., Jan. 4, 2022—After a suspicious Dec. 18 fire destroyed the control system for the main chairlift at Kimberley Alpine Resort, the ski area managed to find an innovative workaround just in time for the holidays. The disabled chair is the only lift out of the base area village, but with help from neighboring resorts Revelstoke and Kicking Horse, as well as a local logging contractor, Kimberley secured three cabin cats to shuttle guests out of the village to the top of the frontside so they can access the working lifts on the backside of the ski area.
Following the fire, the Kimberley team devised the snowcat shuttle idea, and Canada West Ski Areas Association sent a note to membership about the situation, said Matt Mosteller, senior vice president for Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which owns Kimberley Alpine Resort. “Our team connected within our own (owned) ski resort operations and garnered a grooming cat with a crew cab from Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, and we also connected with Revelstoke Mountain Resort, which graciously offered the use of one of their cats with a crew cab.”
In addition, the owners of a local logging company, Rob and Susan Pukas, provided the resort with one of their cabin cats.
The snowcats arrived Christmas day and went into operation Dec. 27. Kimberley has implemented a reservation system for the 12-seater cats, and is offering the shuttle service at no extra charge. Guests have been asked to limit themselves to one ride a day, and masks are mandatory at all times in the cats.
“We are excited to offer cat skiing for the first time at KAR! But please be patient with us as we iron out the wrinkles and work to ensure everyone’s safety,” said GM Ted Funston in a Dec. 26 note on social media.
In a follow up message to guests on Dec. 28, the resort reflected on the operation: “We understand that the snowcats do not get everyone up the mountain as quickly everyone would like and that reservations fill up quickly, but we have learned a lot from the last few days of operation and from your feedback, and are working to maximize the number of seats available and to make access to the cats as fair and equitable as we can.”
Changes included opening up reservations for the next day at 6:00 p.m. the evening before, and adding a standby line. Going forward, Kimberley is reserving four of 12 seats in every cat for walk-on riders.
Guests also have the option to hike to the backside, which takes approximately 20-40 minutes. Those who can are encouraged to do so, leaving seats in the cats open to families with young children, older skiers, and people who are less mobile.
Mosteller said local companies, such as Bridge Interiors and New Dawn Development, provided tents and other outdoor shelter for a temporary area at the top of the Easter chairlift (called Easter Village) where guests can warm up without leaving the backside of the mountain. The ski area also installed a rail park and lights for night skiing in its beginner learning area, served by a surface lift and a T-bar.
“This is an incredible example of how the ski industry and community come together to support each other when one has experienced hardship,” said Mosteller. “Thousands of notes of support have come from our local Kimberley and Cranbrook community members, businesses, and our skiing and riding guests.”
A plan is underway to get the disabled quad operational as soon as possible. The fire demolished the lift control building and the electronic equipment within. Its cause remains under investigation, but the blaze is being treated as suspicious until proven otherwise.