A popular ski resort in Kimberley, B.C., has been left scrambling after a suspicious fire destroyed the electrical system for its main chairlift, less than 24 hours after opening day.
The fire at the Kimberley Alpine Lodge broke out about 3 a.m. on Dec. 18, according to RCMP Cpl. Christ Manseau, who said police and firefighters are still working to determine the cause.
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“It was total destruction to the controls of that ski lift,” he said.
“At this point we’re going to treat it as suspicious until proven otherwise.”
Resorts of the Canadian Rockies vice-president Matt Mosteller described the fire as “really horrible,” particularly as the ski hill had been able to open earlier than anticipated amid excellent snow conditions.
With the primary chairlift out of commission for the foreseeable future, Mosteller said staff got creative to ensure the mountain can still have a ski season.
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Two additional lifts on the mountain’s back side remain functional, which can be reached on foot in about half an hour.
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Mosteller said the resort is arranging to transport people’s equipment to the other lifts, and will be deploying snow cats to transport families or others who can’t make the walk.
“Really, the walking experience is quite magical,” he said. “It warms you up, it’s kind of the old-school skiing style, and then you take a cat road down to the bottom of the tamarack lift to begin your day.”
The resort is also looking at moving its ski and snowboard park to the base area, he said, and is looking at adding other amenities to the base as well, such as a skating rink.
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The fire on the mountain came just days after another suspicious fire at a gymnastics club in Kimberley, prompting a swirl of rumours in the community that the two events could be connected.
Manseau said investigators have seen nothing so far to suggest a link.
“There’s a tendency to think, ‘Oh my goodness what’s happening to us?’” said Kimberley Mayor Don McKormick.
“But they are independent, and I think, as with all difficulties, it’s not what happened but how you deal with it that counts.”
To that end, he said the community has rallied around both affected businesses to help them get through a difficult season.
“Small communities are like that,” he said.
“The truth is there are a lot of other communities that have it worse than we do, so it behooves us to kind of pull our socks up and do the best we can with what we have to work with.”
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