Salmo Ski Hill - a beacon of affordable winter fun
With winter’s crisp embrace, Salmo Ski Hill in the West Kootenay unveils a snowy playground for all skill levels. Beyond a top-tier spot for night skiing, this cherished family hill has been at the heart of the community for over six decades.
“Nothing beats a fresh snowfall and that night air — it’s phenomenal,” says Margaret MacDonald, Salmo Ski Club Board Treasurer and a nearly 20-year volunteer with the non-profit society that operates the hill.
From 1,000 vertical feet, the top of Main Run offers skiers and snowboarders a spectacular view of Salmo’s lights at night before they descend the fully lit run, groomed but with mixed terrain. That bird’s-eye perspective captures the essence of Salmo Ski Hill, a community-operated mountain committed to making skiing and snowboarding affordable and accessible for all.
Fresh off the heels of a retrofit project completed in January 2023, Salmo Ski Hill is revving up for the season with upgraded facilities, showcasing a triumph of community dedication. With support from Columbia Basin Trust, the renovation prioritized the lodge and patrol building, breathing new life into original structures from the 1960s and enhancing energy efficiency to cut operational costs.
The value extends beyond an approximate 45 per cent savings on electrical bills during the winter season. The updated appearance and improved in-building comfort will also cement the lodge’s future use with increased rental frequency year-round. The overhaul, led by Herzig Construction, included a new roof, soffits, facia, siding, upgraded plumbing and electrical systems, wheelchair-accessible bathrooms and a covered deck for all-season enjoyment.
“In recent years, we’ve realized how much people love being outdoors,” adds MacDonald. “The newly expanded deck provides more outdoor space and increased visibility and comfort for parents watching their children ski, as it’s slightly elevated from the elements. The space also alleviates congestion inside the lodge.”
Established in 1962, the ski hill is steered by the passionate volunteers of the Salmo Ski Club, with 25 volunteer ski patrollers and 12 core volunteers, some of whom are third-generation enthusiasts.
“It wouldn’t be the same without our volunteers; it’s what keeps us affordable,” insists MacDonald. “Our only paid staff are the liftees and ski/snowboard instructors. We make it a point to hire local youth, offering them their first job, providing employable training like first aid, and preparing them for the real world.”
Boasting its own ski team and school, the hill has been a valuable asset to the region, attracting about 9,000 skier/snowboarder visits per season from across the West Kootenay, all while operating on volunteer power Monday-Thursday evenings and full days on Saturdays and Sundays. The hill not only attracts families for a fraction of the cost of larger resorts, but also the hardcores who head to Salmo for some nighttime laps after a full day shredding at Red Mountain or Whitewater.
“I think the ski hill brings economy into our community as well as sport and physical fitness opportunities,” says MacDonald. “Without the ski hill in Salmo, our kids wouldn’t have a place to learn. It’s one thing if you live closer to a bigger hill, but proximity aside, the affordability ensures kids throughout the region can enjoy winter sport.”
As the Salmo Ski Hill opens its gates for the season, it does so with a renewed sense of pride. The project wasn’t just about renovating buildings; it also revitalized a legacy, ensuring that the spirit of community, inclusivity and recreation continues to thrive for generations.