By ROY WOOD
A foot or two of snow is all that the keen-but-fairly-new management team at Mount Baldy is waiting for to get the ski season under way.
“We’re lacking snow, but other than that we’re all ready to go when it does arrive,” operations manager Caroline Sherrer said Tuesday in an interview with ODN.
Sherrer signed on with the Vancouver-based Mount Baldy Resort investment group in late October. She spent three years as general manager at Mount Timothy, a smallish family ski area near Lac La Hache. Similar to Baldy of a few years ago, Mt. Timothy was closed last season because of financial difficulties, but is planning to re-open this year.
Sherrer described her current role as “more of an interim GM … taking over for Andy Foster and Matt Koenig.” She said owners are amalgamating some of the positions as a cost-saving measure.
Asked about the scattering of senior staff, Sherrer said that as far as she knows those who left did so for personal reasons.
She said general manager Foster has left the ski industry.
Facilities manager Koenig, who had been at Baldy for more than 20 years in various capacities, has taken over as operations manager at Apex.
Long-time lodge manager Kevin Rand has moved into a job running the Phoenix Ski Area, a one t-bar hill between Grand Forks and Greenwood that calls itself “the best little mountain in BC.”
The departures have left the ranks a bit thin on Baldy-specific experience. Besides Sherrer, the top staff include: lift and building maintenance supervisor Austin Boake; guest services manager Christine Cuttle; and ski school and rental shop supervisor Dan Campbell.
Colleen Aven moves up to head the ski patrol after one year patrolling the slopes.
Food and beverage manager Faron McDonald, Baldy Bar boss Melanie Zane and marketing manager Andrew Zwicker are all in their second year on the hill.
As for folks with extended experience, long-time head groomer Will Pedlar will be back on the slopes and finance and human resources manager Tina Hesketh is entering her fourth year.
As for when the hill will open, Sherrer said the current estimate is December 20. She said a weather system with some potential is forecast for later this week. If the hill doesn’t get a dump, “We’ll have to reassess, probably on Monday, and go from there.”
She said the hill needs a foot of snow to begin “machine-track packing” the runs. The snow cats are serviced and ready, she said, and the lifts have been inspected and okayed.
Looking ahead, Sherrer said one of her priorities is to get the t-bar running again, after two years out of service. She said she would like to look at night-skiing on the t-bar.
Another of her priorities is to urge the local MLA and provincial tourism minister to do something about the road to the hill. “We don’t have markings for sharp corners. We don’t have barriers. … To have 30,000 people come up that road, it’s just not great.”
In the longer term, Sherrer would like to develop the mountain for summer hiking, using the Eagle chairlift to get hikers up the hill to as yet-to-be created network of trails. “(Hiking) is the easiest way to get us into summer operations, which we really need to do, just to keep staff.”
She has also suggested a campground somewhere on the hill, but hasn’t received head-office approval yet.
The group of Atco trailers that serve as the ticket and other offices is due to be replaced next summer, including plans for rental accommodations on the second floor.
To keep Baldy skiers and boarders up to date, Sherrer said, the hill has ordered new web cams and a new weather station to provide real-time weather information.