By David F. Rooney
With a new groomer coming from Montana and a promise of new snow — at least according to the forecasts —next week, RMR General Manager Rob Elliott hopes the recent weeks of sub-optimal skiing conditions are about to become ancient history.
“We had a great December and January started off with a bang,” he said in an interview over coffee at La Baguette’s in the resort’s village near the base of Mount Mackenzie. “But without new snow…”
Elliott just shakes his head as he thinks about his user-ship goal.
“Two thousand skiers a day would be a great number… but that’s a target,” he said, noting that as he spoke on Wednesday afternoon there were probably only 600 or 700 skiers on the mountain.
Fresh new snow would likely boost that number significantly but there isn’t much he can do about the drought that has plagued BC this winter. As if that’s not enough, mechanical problems in the resort’s fleet of six Cat groomers have been a headache he could do without.
Hydraulic and mechanical issues have kept different Cats in the maintenance shed for different periods of time through most of January, The machines, which cost about $400,000 a piece when new, are aging and are tended daily by three heavy-duty mechanics and a crew of helpers. The oldest is about seven years old. Of the six RMR owns one is used exclusively for guests and one has serious problems, hence a decision to purchase a second-hand machine from Montana for $200,000.
“It should be here in two weeks,” Elliott said.
Running the groomers, particularly aging machines, is not as easy as some critics might think — and there are critics out there.
Many who had enjoyed great skiing conditions in December have been dismayed by the lack of snow and what they regard as poor grooming on the slopes. Others claim that Northland Prooperties, the corporation that owns Revelstoke Mountain Resort, is just cheaping-out on grooming. Others claim the groomers are just incompetent.
“Soooooo…when’s RMR going to do some grooming?” asks one anonymous critic on The Stoke List, “or are we riding scraped hard pack runs for the rest of the season and hoping it’s going to snow all the time?”
Elliott, who skis the mountain for an hour every single day, knows exactly what conditions are like. He defends the resort noting that a) there isn’t anything anyone can do about Mother Nature’s decision to withhold snow from normally powder-happy Revelstoke; and b) the worst slopes are the south-facing ones that see snow surfaces melt during the day and then freeze at night, leaving them rough and treacherous.
Yes, it’s also a big mountain with new runs added this year. That just adds to the demands on the aging machines. And if one breaks down up on the slopes, it takes at least two machines to go and bring it back down and that simply holds everything up.
The resort is also operating four snow-making guns on the mountain at night. That helps but it takes time to set up, and fire, then dismantle, move and set up the machines so not all runs benefit from them every night.
As for the other claims, Elliott brushes them off as simply uninformed.
“Northland (Northland Properties) is saying, ‘Make it happen — get the cats on the slopes… whatever it takes,’” he said, adding that members of the Gaglardi family, which owns Northland, come here to ski. They’re aware of the problems and the efforts resort staff are making.
They very much want this resort to succeed, he said.
So do the resort’s staff. They work hard and they want to know their work is appreciated — not just by their employers — but by the skiers who depend on their efforts.
That new groomer arrives in two weeks and Mother Nature? The earliest she’ll send us some new precipitation is next Tuesday, February 11.