MANITOUWADGE — Are you living in or near Manitouwadge and looking for some winter excitement?
Thanks to the work of volunteers and staff, the Kiwissa Ski Hill officially opened on Feb. 3.
Just three of the usual 13 runs are open so far: the main, pine, and practice hills.
Brad Law, ski and trails supervisor, expressed his enthusiasm about the turnout, saying it was great to see – particularly for an opening weekend.
He said they had more than 30 people out on Saturday and around 50 on Sunday.
He also said things may look a little different than people are used to when they visit Kiwissa Ski Hill.
“We’ve changed our usual layout around. It’s a little bit more hill-friendly and we’ve turned it into more of a ski hill resort environment with nice wood benches, a fire pit, the trailer’s looking up at the ski hill itself, so I think that’s also helped out a lot,” Law said.
The ski trailer continues to operate in place of the original chalet, which had to be closed about two years ago due to maintenance concerns.
Law said having the ski trailer there to act as a temporary chalet – with washrooms, a concession stand, and rental shop unit – “makes a big difference.”
He mentioned there are grant opportunities that he is hoping to work with municipal staff to apply for and, although it may still be a ways off from happening, he’d like to see the chalet return to its former glory during his tenure as ski and trails supervisor.
“It gives the full experience by having a larger area, a whole kitchen, and rental shops all in one area, so we’re definitely looking forward to it and it’s not off the table,” Law said.
Another challenge that Kiwissa Ski Hill faces this season – much like other ski hills across the province – is the unseasonable weather.
Law acknowledged almost every hill across Canada is facing the same issues they’re facing in Manitouwadge, but he remained optimistic about the hard work of staff and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to generate enough artificial snow to keep the hill open.
“We didn’t get hit by any big storms. The roads in town are bare. I think what probably has the most snow is our hill and that’s just with the good fortune of being able to make it,” he said.
“The colder it is the more snow you make, so even that alone has been a challenge. We’re trying to hop on cold days as they pop-up.”
According to Law, a crew from Loch Lomond in Thunder Bay visited Kiwissa Ski Hill around 2010 to setup the artificial snow machine and train staff and volunteers.
He said having the ability to make snow has been a “game-changer.”
He stressed that it really is down to the help of volunteers when it comes to making the snow, without which the hill would not be in operation.
Despite weather conditions and the need for more artificial snow than usual, Law expressed his excitement about some upcoming events at Kiwissa Ski Hill, including their first annual Snowmobile Hill Climb – which involves a snowmobile drag race – during Family Day weekend on Feb. 17.
“Initially, it was a two-day event but with registrations it's going to take place on Saturday now. We’re hoping for a really good time,” he said.
The event is held by the Township of Manitouwadge, in partnership with the Manitouwadge Skatepark Committee and the Hill Climb Project Team.
Law thanked the sponsors of the event, including Barrick Hemlo, Manroc Devlopments Inc., and Zaiser Firewood.
Racers can register online through the township’s website or by contacting the township directly for more details.
The competition is limited to 200 competitors, with registration closing on Feb. 15.
“We’re looking forward to this. It's hopefully going to be the start of hosting this event for many years to come. It’s going to be a great experience for everyone and a great addition to the town,” Law said.
Funds raised from registration and attendance will be put towards the construction of a new chalet.
Law said it’s been a pleasure to work with the township and that it will be “all hands on deck” at the hill come Family Day weekend.
Kiwissa Ski Hill will be open every Saturday and Sunday from 12-5 pm until the end of the 2024 ski season.
Due to limited runs, lift tickets are $10 for the main hill and pine hill, while the practice hill is $5. If more runs open over the course of the season, lift tickets will return to their usual price of $25.50.
The Kiwissa Ski Club is also offering free rentals for the season on a first-come, first-served basis.
And for those who prefer to toboggan rather than ski or snowboard, the Kiwissa Ski Hill does allow you to bring a toboggan and use the designated sliding hill.