Snow making plant coming to Otway

B.C. Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson announced $350,000 in funding for the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club on Friday.

The ski club received $175,000 to purchase a snow making system for the Otway Nordic Centre, and $175,000 to assist hosting the 2019 World Para-Nordic Skiing Championships.

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"I see the kids having fun out there. It's a fabulous sight to see. You are very lucky to have this facility," Robinson said. "It's important for the people of British Columbia to support these groups. Our government is putting people first."

The Caledonia Nordic Ski Club is one of 60 groups which received funding through the new Capital Projects Community Gaming Grants program, she said.

"A snow making system will guarantee an extended skiing season from November to April," Robinson said. "Sustainable snow making will allow (the club) to bid on hosting major competitions."

The funding for the 2019 World Para-Nordic Skiing Championships, taking place at Otway in February 2019, came from the provincial Tourism Events Program. The grant will support communications and marketing of the event -such as livestreaming video of the competition and engaging with world media.

The funding will help promote Otway, and Prince George, to the world, she said, as well as promoting the abilities of some of the world's top para-athletes.

Caledonia Nordic Ski Club president John Huybers said the provincial funding is just the first stage of a the club's $1.5 million snow making plan.

Phase one will see the digging of two deep wells, installation of the snow making plant in an existing building and some plumbing of the courses, he said. The first phase will provide artificial snow for the stadium area and several frequent trouble spots on the courses.

"We're breaking ground this spring. The plan is to be complete by fall 2018," Huybers said.

The final goal is to have Otway's competitive course and para-skiing course fully plumbed for snow making, Huybers said.

"The competitive course has some fairly steep sections. What's nice about the para course is it is good for recreational skiers, like you and me," he said.

Having snow making capacity will allow the course to go after more and bigger events, Huybers said. Last year the course was slated to host the 2017 National and North American biathlon championships from March 6-12, but was forced to move the event to the Canmore Nordic Centre because of lack of snow.

"Our goal is to become a competitive training centre. Right now young athletes are having to go to Canmore to train," Huybers said. "We've got UNBC and CNC here. Young athletes will be able to train and go to school. They don't have that in Canmore, they have to commute to Calgary. It's unique in Canada."

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