In 1966, they drove to the fork where the Duthie Mine Road is, parked at the gravel pit, put skins on their skis and trekked almost two hours to reach the "prairie." In those days, everyone had to hike in, and everything was brought up the slopes using manpower -- the gas for the tow line motor, the doughnuts and hot chocolate ski club members sold in their cafeteria. Even the Chrysler motor that powered the tow line was hauled up. These were true-blue skiers. It took three men and a boy to start the motor. About 25 people of all ages gathered to ski, shelling out $1 for the day, riding the slow, 600-foot rope tow to the top. But the people skied all day.
By 1969, the Smithers Ski Club had convinced the Rotary Club to donate several thousand dollars to help build a road right to the ski area. There were other public donors and with help from the highways department, construction began. Cabins were being built now that access was assured and the upper-most parking lot was created. The year 1969 also heralded the purchase of a "French contraption," a portable ski lift know as a baby teleski.
The baby teleski was traditionally used so skiers could reach glaciers and distant climes. Powered by a Volkswagen engine, the 2,000 foot long lift featured a quarter inch aircraft cable and movable metal tripods anchored on metal plates. Located in the vicinity of today's green T-bar, the lift hauled skiers uphill after they hooked themselves to a flexible T with a cable. They kept the cable with them for the day, depositing it in a pile after their last run.
By 1969, rates had risen to $3 per day with a season pass costing $35. By 1972, lineups at the overworked baby teleski were 25 minutes so a second baby teleski was bought. Costing around $7,000, the Ski Club once again had to get a loan, again guaranteed by ski club members. This teleski was 2,600 feet long and was in the area where Parliament now is. Once there were two commercial lifts more people came from afar. Skiers from places like Kitimat and Terrace journeyed to Hudson Bay Mountain.
On Christmas Day 1975 the first person rode up the present day Panorama T-Bar (formerly know as the Orange T-bar now painted green). Skiers became so numerous that in 1978 the Prairie T-bar (formerly known as the green T-bar) was inaugurated. As word spread in the Northwest, more and more skiers flocked to Smithers. Its growing popularity boosted the need for increased uphill capacity. A chair lift was required, but the Smithers Ski Club couldn't secure the necessary million-dollar financing alone. To secure financing, a corporation had to be formed. The town of Smithers was approached and they agreed to form a partnership with the Smithers Ski Club. It took a bit of convincing on both sides. A 50-50 split between the ski club and the town seemed to be fair, but the provincial government said the town had to be the major shareholder. Even though the town had not put any money into the ski hill up to that point, they were poised to become 90 per cent shareholders. If you wanted to continue skiing at a reasonable rate, you needed to get the chair. To get the chair you needed to get the town. The ski corporation came into being because of a matter of finances. So, in 1980 the triple chair lift (skyline chair, formerly known as the blue chair now painted black) became a reality, as did the Smithers Ski Corporation.
Excepts from an article posted on an outhouse wall. Source and author unknown.
Arial image of ski hill cabin colony with lot number overlay.
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