Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Bob Hamilton’s been singing that Christmas favourite non-stop for the past three winters—and is keeping the faith that this year Mother Nature finally will listen.
The owner and operator of the Little Beaver Snow Park, just off McIrvine Road near the town’s landfill site, has had no end of trouble trying to get his hill up and running—mainly due to a lack of fluffy precipitation around here.
“We’ve been trying to get it going since 1999/2000,” said Hamilton, for whom the park has been both a labour of love and a quickly mounting financial nightmare.
“We had less snow than we do now. But I’m past the frustration point. I just acquiesce to whatever happens,” he reasoned. “I’m not the only businessman in town hurting because of a lack of snow.”
Hamilton purchased the land four years ago with the purpose of providing a snowboarding and snow tubing area for local families to come and enjoy.
“I wanted to give the community something it didn’t have,” explained Hamilton, who logged a 35-plus year career as a mill worker for Abitibi-Consolidated here.
“I lived in Prince Albert, Sask. for a few years and even on that flat land, they had one there, and they’ve gone on to send a couple of kids to Olympic team tryouts,” he noted.
After the first winter was a washout, Hamilton pushed forward and built a warm-up shack that now has blossomed into a full-service “aprés ski” facility, including a seating area, fireplace, satellite TV, ping-pong and pool tables, and a bar area where both food and drink are available for purchase.
“I had more time on my hands so I cut out the walls, installed the windows, and put in the rest of the amenities as time has gone on,” said Hamilton, who added the facility also has the capacity to host social gatherings, parties, weddings, and even business meetings.
With enough snow, Hamilton also plans to establish a smaller sliding hill for younger children, although he says insurance concerns regarding that idea still need to be dealt with.
And if the white stuff won’t come to him, Hamilton has designs to produce it himself. He’s looking at possibly buying a snow-making machine, although he admitted it could take some number crunching to make that a reality.
“I don’t know if I can round up that kind of money,” Hamilton admitted, referring to the roughly $100,000 price tag the machine carries.
“I may have to do some refinancing. My financial people are pretty scared right now because of the weather situation.
“They would like to see an income before they give me more money. But without the snow, that’s hard to do. It’s a Catch-22 right now,” he remarked.
An open house out at Little Beaver Snow Park last weekend also drew poorly, although Hamilton knows his timing wasn’t the best.
“A lot of people had a lot of Christmas stuff to get done,” he reasoned. “But once we get enough snow, I’ll be holding a grand opening for the public.”
A less patient person would have packed up his snowplow and gone home by now, but Hamilton isn’t about to sit back and watch his dream fade away.
“The last thing I want to do is shut it down,” he stressed. “I’ll find a way to keep it going, somehow.”
Admission fees are $15 per day for snowboarders, with deductions available for half-day usage, while a four-hour snow tubing session costs $12.
For more information, contact Hamilton at 275-7680 or 274-8782.