Sunday, March 24, 2013

Conditions Continue to Amaze - Night Skiing!

Saturday again proved to be one of those special days on the mountain.  Cool morning temperatures mixed with warm, sunny afternoons are making for some incredible spring skiing.  It truly has been an incredible month of March and there are some quality days left.

Snow depths and coverage remain perfect!  Normally we are dealing with covering bare spots that begin to appear as the sun beats down on the mountain and the melt begins.  Not so far this year.  There is not a spot to be found anywhere.

This is the main reason that we had to extend the season one more weekend and will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday March 29th, 30th and 31st. 

We have received some negative feedback regarding our decision to end night skiing as we normally do following the March Break.  There are two main reason why this is done.  The first has to do with visitation.  December through February night skiing draws up to 500 people and is very popular.  For whatever reason as soon as we hit March those numbers drop significantly.  This March we have not had more than 50 people for any Friday or Saturday night.

The second reason for not normally offering night skiing this time of year is that daytime conditions do not bode well for nighttime skiing and riding.  Temperature fluctuations and melting snow make it difficult for nighttime grooming and sloppy conditions.  The warm afternoons and melting snow leave ruts and bumps that freeze as the temperature begin to drop.  If groomers do not get on those areas at the right time (often 5:00 or 6:00pm) it can make for some really ugly grooming for the next day.  Skiing on those same areas during freezing can also make for some dangerous skiing.  In fact these conditions often lead to our largest instances of injury.

Conditions are not normal that's for sure.  That's why we will make decisions like we did Saturday, extending the day to 5:30pm as the Mountain remained firm and everyone was having so much fun.  Let's hope that keeps up.

Let's take advantage of what can only be called the best conditions in years!!!!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mid-Winter Conditions

I know I have said it before but we really have not had conditions this good for a number of years.  It truly feels like mid-february on the mountain and the skiing and riding could not be better.

And it looks like it will stay that way for a while.  Temperatures remain well below the new average and look remain that way for at least another week.  I had the opportunity to set some race courses over the past couple of days and the base is firm and deep.  There is not a bare spot to be found anywhere on the mountain, a far cry from our position this time last year.

Busy weekend ahead with plenty of happenings and events in addition to great skiing.  We are open Wednesday to Sunday next week and a decision is coming early next week on Easter Weekend.  Stay tuned.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Conditions Remain Incredible

It has been a long time, a really long time since we have seen snow conditions like this heading into the March Break.  Night time temperatures remain cold enough to allow the base to remain solid and although daytime highs have been warm they have had very little effect on the base.  There is even close to 11cm in the forecast on Sunday.

All this means that we will have some excellent conditions for the Break and are making plans to continue towards the end of the month.  A lot can happen when it comes to weather but our current plans are to be open through the 24th and a decision is planned for next week regarding the Easter weekend.  As discussed in earlier Blogs that decision will have a lot to do with weather and visitation leading up to that weekend.

Thank you for all of the feedback regarding the Quad Chair situation.  The responses have been most helpful and will be included in the decision making to come.  Not too late to weigh in - .  We are simple out of time for this season but there are many decisions to make moving forward and your feedback is appreciated.  Please visit earlier Blogs for details.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Conditions and Quad Update

After two years of less than ideal weather things sure have improved.  That's not just me speaking.  We are receiving feedback from guests on a daily basis stating that we are experiencing the best conditions in years.  Even better news is that it appears that this winter weather is going to hold on well into March.

Our schedule is to be open right through March 24th but we are actively planning for the week of the 27th and into the Easter Holiday (the 29th, 30th and 31st).  There are many factors involved in the decision to remain open into April.  Stay tuned!

It's pretty safe to say that the Quad chair will not be open in 2013.  This is tough as we hear from a number of people who are anxiously awaiting its opening.  In the end, we are simply running out of time.  We have experienced some unexpected delays in completing some of the work required and at this point it will be difficult to get everything done to get it operational this season.

The debate still rages amongst our various user groups on whether this lift is truly necessary these days.  Even during our busiest days this season (and we have had some busy ones) we have experienced little to no lift lines on the double chair.  Many argue whether or not the terrain is truly accessible from the double and based on the number of people skiing over their I'm inclined to say that it is.

One of the things being considered in our long term planning is moving this lift as a replacement for the aging Double Chair.  This combined with a little work to the bottom of the runs over by the Quad would provide increased uphill capacity and access to the Quad terrain while ultimately reducing operating costs.  Thoughts?  Email me at

U16 Provincial Championships
Searchmont is proud to host the U16 Ontario Provincial Championships next week.  The Searchmont Ski Runners will be putting on the race Wednesday thru Saturday, March 6th to 9th.  180 athletes representing the best 14 and 15 year old skiers in the Province.  Should be a fun watch.  Of course this means the Slalom will be closed for most of the week.  SSR is still looking for volunteers particularly on the 6th, 7th and 8th.  If you can assist please drop me an email.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Quad Chair Update

If you are a skier or snowboarder you know that last season was a tough one.  Searchmont had less snowfall than I can ever remember and that sure resulted in a difficult year with a whole lot of tough decisions.

The toughest was not to make snow on over half of our skiable terrain and not to operate the Quad Chair at Searchmont.

With visitation and revenues suffering due to the late start and lack of snow, the not for profit Searchmont Ski Association Inc. (SSAI) Board was forced to make the decision to ensure the ski areas future.

This season has certainly gotten off to a much better start.  We are wrapping up our snowmaking season this week and expect to have 100% of our skiable terrain open this weekend.  We continue to get great snowmaking temperatures and have experienced more natural snow than we have seen in years.  We are experiencing what can only be called the best conditions in recent memory.

Despite all of the positive momentum this season SSAI is again faced with a difficult decision regarding the Quad Chair. 

In 2006 the Technical Standards and Safety Association (TSSA) and the manufacturer of the lift, Doppelmayr issued a order to replace a part of the lifts sheave wheel (the wheel the cable rides on), the snap ring.  The snap ring in some wheels does not seat properly in a groove in the wheel.

In summary, another ski area had an issue and as a corrective measure Doppelmayr re-machined retaining ring grooves in the sheave wheel or replaced the sheaves but only for a limited time.  In order to have Doppelmayr complete this work, SSAI would have had to remove all of the affected wheels from the lift and ship them to Southern Ontario in the summer of 2007.  For a number of reasons this work could not be completed in the timeline proposed by Doppelmayr.

Since that time the issue has undergone two independent engineering reviews and detailed monitoring of the gaps to ensure that they have not changed or moved.  Application was made to the TSSA to exempt Searchmont from the requirement to repair the rings or sheaves.  These applications have been refused and in the spring of 2012, SSAI was issued an order to have the gaps repaired before the Chair would be allowed to operate. 

Why not just replace the rings and be done with it?  That certainly seems like the easiest approach however estimates to complete this work have exceeded $40,000.  In preparation for this season the decision was made to focus our attention on the other lifts and get them ready for the season and to re-evaluate once the season was underway.

For some time the outlook for the operation of the Quad really did not look promising due to the overall cost of the repair.  However, during recent discussions with TSSA new information came to light which may lead to a less costly repair and the possibility of operation for this season. 

With the good snow we are now experiencing, our outside operations crew will now focus their attention on re-evaluating these repairs and determining the true cost.  This information will be presented to the SSAI Board in the coming days.  If it is work that can be done in house and if the decision is made to go ahead it will begin immediately.

Meanwhile, we expect all of the terrain on the Quad to be opening in the coming days accessed from the double chair.

Stay tuned........

Friday, January 25, 2013

Goulais Opening

For many of us, our favourite run is the Goulais at Searchmont.  There is just something about cruising down that run.  Don't know if it's the pitch, the solitude of the tree-lined bottom section, catching a little air off the bottom roller or just the snow, which always seems to be a little grippier.

It's been a tough couple of years as those conditions we love just haven't been there on the Goulais due to a couple of years of tough snow.

Well, I'm pleased to announce that those feelings will be back as the Goulais will be open this weekend.

Snowmaking wrapped up on the Goulais yesterday and should be complete on the Melville today.  Guns are currently going hard in the Park on the Main and on Cougar Trax on the Quad.

Snow in the Park is something we haven't seen in a while either but things are looking good for a return of some solid features.

Stay tuned and keep the snow coming!!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thank you!

Another season is upon us and I wanted to take this Blog to thank all of those who have helped to get us doing what we all love so much!

Special thank you to all of the staff who have worked so hard through some tough circumstances.  Special thank you to three of our outside operations staff, Dana Bennedict, Jim Mealey and Justin Peters who gave up there Christmas Day with their families to make snow and get the mountain groomed for boxing day.  Weather has been tough and it was quite an effort to pull it off.  Please take the time to thank them if you get the chance.

Thank you to the countless volunteers who assisted us during the off-season to complete a number of projects around the ski area.  From painting, brushing and just general clean up it was a huge help.  Searchmont is operated by a Not-For-Profit Board that has put in countless hours to keep Searchmont operational and moving forward toward a bright future and would not be operating today without such great volunteer commitment.  Thank you.

Finally, thank you to all the supporters who buy their passes early every year, sponsor various events or simply offer words of encouragement and/or support.  That support is essential to getting the facility open every year and following difficult snow years like we experienced last season it really means something.