We seek support to keep Shames Mountain a sustainable outdoor recreational facility in Northwest BC.
About Your Organization
My Mountain Coop
Country where this solution is creating social impact
Region in BC where your solution creates social impact
Northern British Columbia.
Is your organization a
Non‐profit/NGO/citizen sector organization
How long has your organization been operating?
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Select the stage that best applies to your solution
Established (past the previous stages and has demonstrated success)
How long have you been in operation?
Operating for 1‐5 years
Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your solution addresses? Choose up to two
The Need: Describe the need for your solution and the size and characteristics of the community(ies) your solution is engaging
MMC has acquired a formerly privately owned ski area, Shames Mountain Ski Corp. The facility was about to shut down for fiscal reasons. The local ski hill is not an attractive venture for a large profitable business; rather it is a precious asset of recreation to local residents. The hill is located near the communities of Prince Rupert, Terrace and Kitimat with a total pop. of 45,000. The facility was acquired via an initiative that mobilized over 1,000 members including a number of corporate contributors. This accomplished the purchase of the facility and we have successfully operated the first season in winter 2011/12 with just under 20,000 skier/boarder visits. The financial needs are numerous: The facility needs a number of improvements to stay sustainable for decades to come.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
We need to finance upgrades to the chair lift system (new haul rope, grip attachments for chairs, snow sheds for bow wheels, electric motor overhaul); the lodge needs renovations; an additional building needs to be constructed to safely house the generators. These improvements are necessary to assure a sustainable operation of the facility.
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include the primary activities involved in your solution.
Without financial support from public sources, our members and contributions from local businesses, Shames Mountain would have closed down last year, after serving the region for 21 years. The ski area is a jewel of healthy winter recreation in the region. It provides access to world renowned back country winter activities. The nearest ski area is b/w 220 and 380 km (depending on the hometown of the residents) away outside of Smithers, BC. This does not offer a safe one day return travel during the winter months. Shames Mountain has provided winter sport recreation to the region for the last two decades and contributed to the attractiveness of the region. The long, Northern winters are in need of such a facility to make use of the abundant snowfall at Shames. The hill runs busy ski schools for children, has a ski club involved in racing development and free style skiing/boarding. The fact that we have this facility employs not only people at the ski hill, but spin off businesses in town. Winter sport keeps many young people busy with a healthy activity in our region which lacks some of the more abundant recreational opportunities in larger centers.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others working to address the same needs as you and indicate what sets you apart from them.
We really do not have a competitor who would offer what MMC does provide. Simply put, without MMC there would be no downhill ski or snowboard sport available within a reasonable distance. Our nearest competition would be ski Smithers, but this hill requires overnight stays, long and hazardous road travel in winter and the expense is prohibitive for many residents. What sets our hill apart from most is that we do not have to operate as a profit making venture for a corporate owner. We as COOP members own the facility and are responsible for a sustainable and not for profit operation. We will try to make the lift tickets etc. as affordable as possible to allow as many people as we can to enjoy this great outdoor sports facility.
This Entry is about (Issues)
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world.
Since Shames Mountain began operation in 1991, there have been countless families and individuals enjoying this facility. It is not only a place for healthy, outdoor recreation, but also serves as a great community builder. Our communities are relatively small and many skier and boarders do know or get to know each other at Shames. The facility has forged many friendships and when we were about to lose it, the "Aha" moment came when some of us decided that we can run this place successfully and sustainably on our own as a COOP. This initiative in itself was another community forming process. Countless volunteer hours went in the membership drives; work days at the hill, media relations etc. And we did it. We gathered over 1,000 members by now and are growing after just the first year of operating. And what an inaugural year it was, for a while Shames Mountain had the highest snow pack in North America.
Please describe the goal of your initiative; outline what you are trying to achieve
We are trying to make Shames Mountain a sustainable ski area for the region. Our first goal is to carry out needed upgrades and renovations. The next big goal is to connect the facility to the power grid. There is no electricity at Shames Mountain and we rely on Diesel generators. We have begun efforts to change this. On the long term a connection to the grid will provide us with more sustainable, less expensive power to operate as well it will be more environmentally clean. We are engage with a small independent power project and the Northern Transmission line endeavour to make the power line to the hill happen. Once we succeed with this, a great step in the long term sustainability is achieved. To have this ski hill for generations to come is really our ultimate goal.
What has been the impact of your solution to date?
We ran a very successful first ski season as MMC. Just under 20,000 skier/boarder visits were recorded. We held family day weekends, downhill races, BBQs, ski schools, avalanche courses, local schools used the hill for field trips, College classes conduct snow studies at Shames. This all happened despite our last minute success in putting the COOP together in the fall. Now that we are preparing for the second season, we are confident that it will be even bigger and better.
What is your projected impact over the next five years?
We want to assure that Shames Mountain stays viable and sustainable. Although we have succeeded in year one there is no guarantee that the hill will just motor along without further dedicated work by the MMC membership. Within the next five years we want to see all upgrades and renovations completed and have Shames tied into the BC Hydro grid. If we accomplish this, we have a facility for our region that is functional and sustainable for decades ahead. Despite our success thus far we will have to prove to all residents in the Northwest that we as MMC can make this project work. There are always some doubts, especially in the business community that a COOP can run a facility like Shames Mountain successfully. We as MMC have every intention to prove that we can and will.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
In one word: complacency. A ski hill operated by a for-profit corporation has an ongoing incentive to make things work - they must make a profit. Our organization does not operate like that. Most users of a ski hill simply enjoy their sport without having to be concerned whether or not the hill may operate next year. In our case, we all need to be and stay aware of the functionality of the COOP. We as board members have to look after the financial viability and provide all information on the needs of the hill to the membership. That requires good communication with the membership and whole community. So the barrier of complacency is well known to us and through this awareness we will not let it get in the way of success.
Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
Sell more than 20% extra season passes than last year. Increase skier's visit over 25,000/annum.
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
By November have the new haul rope and grips in place.
House generators in new building for uninterrupted power to lifts.
Run a successful advertisement campaign - starting in August with the early bird season pass sale.
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Due to the seasonal nature of winter sport, the following six months are used to further work on renovation projects.
Work on the ski lodge cannot be done during the ski season, as well as other required maintenance that needs to take place in th
More maintenance on actual ski runs require manual brushing by our volunteer crews in summer/fall.
Tell us about your partnerships
Most employers in our region appreciate the presence of Shames Mountain Ski area. It is an asset that helps recruit and retain employees. For this reason, we have developed a strong partnership with some large employers in the region including Rio Tinto Alcan and the Prince Rupert Port authority, to name just two. That partnership will be nurtured and the benefits will work both ways.
Are you currently targeting other specific populations, locations, or markets for your solution? If so, where and why?
We do have wide public exposure on the internet due to the uniqueness of MMC and the world renowned back country skiing in our area. This attracts people from afar to use our facility. As well we have residents from more Northern; remote communities come over Christmas and Spring breaks (Dease Lake, Iskut, Haida Gwaii, and Alaskan Islands).
What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?
What binds all of us together is the passion for winter sport. From the General Manager, through the board of directors (8 elected members), through the seasonal staff, volunteers and entire membership we are proud to make Shames Mountain work. The atmosphere on the hill was grim two years ago when the end of operation was looming. That has changed 180 degrees to an enthusiasm and positive energy when the lifts opened last year under our new My Mountain Coop banner.
Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list
Shames Mountain is a valuable asset for the region and for tourism in the Northwest. The ski area and its back country have been featured in many media worldwide (e.g.: Powder Magazine, Teton Gravity Research) we are networking with other BC ski areas in reciprocal pass discounts. We attract pro-bono volunteer help that benefits the whole community.