WATSON LAKE SKI CLUB’S BRIEF HISTORY
Over forty years ago, Mt Maichen was developed as an alpine ski area for the community of Watson Lake and surrounding areas. An avid group of volunteers’ (skiers and non-skiers) formed the Watson Lake Ski Club and dedicated their time, energy and personal resources to develop the ski area’s facilities into what it is today. Due to the strong commitment of the non-profit society, the support of the local community and municipality, and support from various funding sources, the ski area has been in continuous operation since it first opened.
Today the ski area serves a population of about 1700. Two lifts service nine runs and one partial half pipe which offer challenges to beginners through advanced skiers and snowboarders alike. A fully service ski chalet houses comfortable viewing and eating area; a concession and lounge; as ski shop offering rental services for skiers and snowboarders; a ski patrol room and a change area. Participation has evolved to include skiers and snowboarders; families, seniors, children and youth; residents and visitors. School programs have successfully introduced skiing to children of all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Groups supporting and using the facility include but are not limited to the local public schools, Liard First Nation, Daylu First Nation (Lower Post BC), Dease Lake and Teslin schools.
The mandate of the Watson Lake Ski Club (WLSC) is to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for all skiers and snowboarders. Those who cannot afford the cost have opportunities to participate through local school programs, through the volunteer ski patrol system, or through local recreation grants. In addition to the recreational experience, the WLSC provides learning opportunities for its volunteers and staff. With only two part-time staff to oversee operations, the WLSC relies heavily on volunteers to run the lifts, maintain the equipment, groom the runs, train as endorsed Canadian Ski Patrol System patrollers, teach lessons and coordinate school programs. This necessitates the provision of formal and informal training.
With generous contributions and voluntary efforts, and night skiing many teens are spending time at the ski area with something to do, rather than simply hanging out. These are some examples o the tremendous volunteer efforts that ensure a fully operational ski area complete with services.
Thanks to the dedication of volunteers, community members, Town of Watson Lake support, and various funding sources contributions, the Watson Lake Ski Club continues to provide great skiing and snowboarding facilities in south west Yukon.
In the summer months the chalet is available for various activities and festivities.
HISTORICAL TIME LINE
1943 – 1952
- American Air Force based at the airport cleared the land for a ski run
- Also built a little 10ft x 10 ft warm up shed
- Ian Gilchrist (a resident of Watson Lake) applied for a grazing land lease for his horses
- Land lease turned over to the newly formed Watson Lake Ski Club
- Hans Maichen, Richard Unruh, Gerry Amann and other volunteers cleared the Face and Bombardier and put in a rope tow run on an old truck motor and started on the A frame chalet with materials donated from the Airport and lumber from the sawmill.
- Community supported this by donations of wiring, installations, lumber, building supplies and labour
- Carl Lofroth also got involved with the building and ski programs
- Had a rope tow, the hill was packed with a snowmobile and a ladder. For racing the runs were packed by skiers and since the rope tow only went two thirds up the face, the racers had to walk to the top before beginning to race.
- Jenny (Waligorska) Skelton, Dan Miller and Hans Maichen involved in training, teaching skiing and supporting the racing program
- Ruth Jamieson ran the concessions and fundraised for various kitchen appliances. Active racing program between Watson Lake, Cassiar and Whitehorse (Heckle Hill)
1978 – 1980
- WLSC received a Yukon Government Tourism Grant to purchase the main T-bar. All towers were built by Hans Maichen.
- nstallation was done a small group of volunteers and Frontier Helicopters.
- Very active racing program between Watson Lake, Cassiar, Whitehorse and Dawson City
- Registered as anon profit society with the Government of Yukon Corporate Affairs
- Purchase of the second T-bar from Whistler glacier
- Took ownership of the new chalet built with a community development grant by the Town of Watson Lake
- Joined the Canadian Ski Patrol System and established the Watson Lake Zone
- Started a ski school, hired a coordinator through a recreation co-op program
- Purchased a hill groomer
- Pro shop operated by a private individual providing rentals and sales
1983, 1987 1991
- Sent Watson Lake Skiers to the Canada Winter Games
- Rental shop taken over by the WLSC