There’s snow place like Shames.
As skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts eagerly await the first snowfall to strap on their gear, those new to the sport have a reason to get excited too.
After receiving positive feedback and an increase in first-time riders this past season, Shames Mountain will continue with their decision to keep the bunny hill free of charge for learners.
“We want to make the sport more accessible, we always want to grow our skier base, and the only way that will happen is by making it easier for people to try skiing and snowboarding,” says Christian Theberge, general manager at Shames Mountain.
Shames previously charged $14 to use the 400-ft bunny hill, but they found that many users were parents with young children who felt pressured to get the most of their pay.
The co-op wanted those guests to have a more positive experience and leave on a high note.
“Sometimes those children would only last one or two runs before it was hot chocolate time,” says Theberge. “By not feeling like they have to stay because they bought a lift ticket, makes it much easier to come back.”
With the free bunny hill last season, Therberge says the numbers tripled for beginners. There were 480 entries, compared to the year before with 150.
And the bunny hill is not just for families, it’s for anyone that doesn’t feel ready to go down the big slopes yet.
“When somebody jumps up to the chair before they’re quite ready, it can be a bad experience,” says Theberge. “Hopefully it gives people more of a chance to hone their skills before they head up to the mountain.”
Currently, the only other ski hill in B.C. that has free beginner entry is Mount Baldy in the Okanagan.
The co-op is also aiming to make the first beginner lesson free of charge and have even considered initiating a Prince Rupert Port Authority day where all lessons would be free.
“Suddenly when the first lesson is free and your bunny hill experience is free, then all you’re looking at is your equipment rental — it makes trying the sport a lot more available.”
New this year, Shames Mountain is extending their youth pricing to anyone 21 and under, instead of 18 and under in the past. Theberge says a lot of young adults tend to drop out of the sport as they start their career, are still in school, or have other new expenses at that age. By treating them young, he says they hope to help boost low digits.
To level up with other modern ski hills, the co-op will be holding fundraisers this year to introduce a “magic carpet” conveyor lift for beginners. The project may take up to three years to install.
Although Shames is forecasting a milder winter, Theberge says he expects it to be another great season come December.
“The view is one of the most scenic ski areas in the world, the terrain and the snow is one of the best snow paths you’ll see anywhere.”