Recent History – 1999
March 5, 1999
By Day Roberts, Special to the Daily News
Ski Hill Has an Active Past
It was 40 years ago, in the 1959-60 season, that the present Bear Mountain Ski Hill began taking shape. A small shack was acquired and moved, with much difficulty, to the base of the hill on Mike Lougheed’s hay field.
Work parties cleared the bush from the hill and peeled old paper from the walls of the shack, which was used as a temporary shelter. There was a great deal of activity on Saturdays and Sundays, in the formative years, preparing the runs.
But from this newer location, a bigger and better hill was plainly visible just to the south on Bear Mountain. and so it was that the skiers acquired the property and moved again, shack and all, to the present hill.
The International Ski Club, which had started only a few short years before in the 1957-58 season, with a dozen or so members, had grown into the active, well-organized and increasingly popular Dawson Creek Ski Club. The original International Ski Club had been named so because of the mixture of individuals from various ethnic backgrounds on the first executive: President, Jim Elliot (Canadian); Vice-President Magne Holten (Norwegian); Secretary-Treasurer, Ramon Franquesca (Spanish). Other members were Mable Dickie, Carl and Elsa Seidl, Poldi Seidl, Don and Betty Scatchard, Pepe, and later Bob and Marg Van Os, Bob and Bunty Jordan, Roy Hunt, and many others.
The first slope was one facing northeast on Dumont’s quarter, part-way up the radar road hill.
The meeting place of that first season was usually Elliott’s living room at the NAR Station. Fees were for the coffee fund.
As the Dawson Creek Ski club activities were established on the present hill site, a rope tow which had been envisioned by Ernie Bittman, Carl Seidl and others, was added to the facilities for part of the length of the hill.
Then things really began to hum, with the added interest of many new skiers. the road to the hill was improved, parking space was enlarged and the Club even had a Grand Opening Ski Meet, with visitors from Grande Prairie and Fort St. John.
Don Scatchard gave lessons to new skiers and as a result better use was made of the hill.
Potluck suppers took place in the little ski shack and memberships increased to the point where there just wasn’t any room left, so something had to be done.
Fortunately, the Club had among its members a courageous and imaginative architect, George Killick; an energetic and capable builder, Carl Seidl; an enthusiastic man who had a sash and door business, Elton Hanson; a couple of bankers, and others with various talents and tools, and so with a considerable amount of planning, deal-making and smooth talk, along with a great deal of hard work, the A-frame Bear Mountain Ski Chalet was begun in 1961 and officially opened in 1963.
The following season the short tow rope was doubled in length from 1,000 to 2,000 feet, and hill lighting was installed, introducing the exhilarating experience of night skiing to the club. In 1965, the tow rope was replaced with a safer T-bar lift and the lighting was extended and improved.
The main ski run was also extended and improved and two new runs were built, including a one-and-a-half-mile cross country ski trail, starting at the top of the T-bar lift and finishing at the bottom.
The years glided past, with many hard-working executives and members contributing to the improvement of the ski hill and thus to the overall enjoyment of skiing in our area.
Then, on the afternoon of January 23, 1979, the A-frame ski chalet and contents was destroyed by fire.
Dawson Creek Ski Club President Bryan Chamberlain; Vice-President Don Chahley; Treasurer Sam Wilson; Secretary Joyce Armstrong; and the rest of the hard-working executive and members immediately went to work to plan a new chalet.
Through the efforts of South Peace MLA Don Phillips, a $200,000 B.C. Lottery Fund grant was obtained.
Building Committee Chairman Neil Hansen an ardent skier himself, designed the new chalet with assistance from Killick, Metz, Bowen & Rose Architects, DaRos general contracting, Zwick’s Plumbing and Heating, and Ron Moch Electric, completed the new structure in record time.
Dawson Creek Ski Club’s new $325,000 Bear Mountain Ski Chalet was officially opened on Saturday, November 24, 1979 by Phillips, assisted by new Ski Club President Walter Havard. Still having a considerable debt to retire, the Ski Club affiliated with the Dawson Creek Athletic Association in the spring of 1980 and received considerable financial assistance for upwards of $150,000. In return, the DCAA now holds the deed to the property, which may be redeemed by the Ski Club at any time.
In 1982, the ski hill road was paved to the top of the hill and in 1984, a new ski run was cleared, increasing the hill’s runs to six.
Further improvement in 1987 included the digging of a four-million-gallon reservoir, the building of a new pump house to contain the vertical turbine water pump, and installation of artificial snow-making equipment, an ambitious $350,000 project. An additional B.C. Lotteries Fund grant for $175,000 was obtained for the project. In 1989, a much-needed snow groomer was purchased and considerable hill maintenance was carried out.
Over the years, the Dawson Creek Ski Club has had the support of its members and is thankful for the much-appreciated support of individuals and businesses in the area.
The close proximity of the hill to Dawson Creek and the excellent facilities the Dawson Creek Ski Club has to offer, is the envy of many other ski clubs in the Peace River country.