Over a hundred people rally to save the Mount Agassiz ski hill

Spirited meeting before demolition

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A community vented its anger over the fate of the Mount Agassiz Ski Hill at a rally Saturday, just as workers nearby readied to demolish the chairlifts and T-bars.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/02/2015 (2736 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A community vented its anger over the fate of the Mount Agassiz Ski Hill at a rally Saturday, just as workers nearby readied to demolish the chairlifts and T-bars.

About 125 people turned out for a rally in the town of McCreary, at the foot of the ski hill on the Manitoba Escarpment, to rail against Parks Canada and the federal government for failing to help local efforts to resurrect the ski hill.

Meanwhile, nearby ski-lift chairs hung suspended from cables in mid-air, exactly as they were left when the ski hill went bankrupt in 2000 — like “Disneyland after dark,” as one person put it.

Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press files The empty chairlifts.

But not for long. Winnipeg Environmental Remediations Inc. has been on scene, preparing to demolish the ski-lift towers.

“They’re at the ski hill as we speak,” said Kelly Rose, via telephone, who heads the Agassiz Mountain Development Group (AMDG) that has tried to save the ski hill. “They’ve been up there three days but haven’t touched anything yet,” presumably because of the extreme cold, Rose said.

Mount Agassiz, on the eastern slope of Riding Mountain National Park, was the only “mountain” ski hill between Thunder Bay and the Rockies, the other ski resorts being valleys, Rose said.

Courtesy Wayne Gerrard Protesters surround the Alpine Archie statue in McCreary on Saturday, protesting the possible abandonment of the ski facility.

The federal government recently rejected a $4.5-million plan put forward by the AMDG to reopen the hill. Parks Canada then put out tenders for the demolition of the hill’s skiing infrastructure.

The rally included speeches and an open-microphone forum at the local community hall. The crowd also waved signs around the Alpine Archie road statue outside McCreary, 230 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.

“We don’t know why they’re doing this,” said Larry McLauchlan, reeve for the Rural Municipality of McCreary, about the demolition.

‘I’d like to think there’s still hope’

— Reeve Larry McLauchlan

Even so, McLauchlan has not given up on the ski hill. Plans to reopen the site assumed much of the infrastructure would have to be upgraded or replaced anyway.

“I’d like to think there’s still hope,” McLauchlan said. “We’re kind of hoping (Parks Canada) wants the place cleaned up to have a fresh start.”

“People think it’s over. Parks Canada won,” said Rose, who said much of the infrastructure would have been removed if the ski hill reopened. “No. Now we can start from scratch.”

Parks Canada is asking for requests on what to do with the area in the future. But most people believe the best use of the slope is as a ski hill, rally organizers said.

The two T-bars alone are supported by 36 towers, which guide the cables to the top of the hill, Rose said.

The Parkland area has suffered massive cuts from the federal government, although officials have refused to say how much. Riding Mountain National Park has been cut back from an all-season national park down to three seasons. Nor did Ottawa offer to help the ski hill get back on its feet, not even to help the community fund a business plan for the hill.

The former Mount Agassiz ski area operated from 1961 until 2000.

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

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