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Letter to the editor: Clearing the air on White Hills

White Hills - file photo

Dear Editor:

Re: Packet Article Jan. 14, 2019

We are writing to respond to recent media coverage of White Hills Resort, specifically:

• “White Hills ski resort only profitable in two of past 10 years”; The Packet, Jan. 14, 2019.

• “Clarenville Taxpayers on the hook for White Hills bills after sour year on the slopes”; CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, Jan. 23, 2019.

It is unfortunate these were the headlines the volunteer board of the Alpine Development Alliance Corporation and dedicated staff of the White Hills Resort were met with as they launched the 2019 season. It was difficult to read negative headlines when the White Hills Resort has been such an amazing success story. We believe it is important to respond to these headlines and highlight some important facts regarding White Hills Resort.

White Hills Resort is a sustainable operation.

While ADAC does borrow money from the Town of Clarenville through an operating line of credit each year to help cover the costly start-up of the operation, this operating line is a loan, and the expectation is it will be repaid at the end of each season. There is no provincial operating subsidy given to White Hills Resort.

• At the end of 2017, after 17 years of operations, ADAC owed no money to the Town. ADAC not only paid back the operating lines of credit advanced over these years, it also paid the Town the original purchase price of the resort and other loans used for capital purchases over the years. Unfortunately, 2018 was an exceptionally challenging season due to the weather, and ADAC was not able to pay back the operating loan at the end of the season. However, it is still expected that over the coming years, ADAC will once again be in an even position with the Town.

• White Hills Resort has had a positive cash flow in the vast majority of the 18 years since the operation was converted to a community owned social enterprise.

White Hills Resort is a significant economic generator for the region.

White Hills has approximately 40 full-time seasonal employees every winter. Over the 18 years of operations, the Resort has generated over $9 million dollars in revenue to the benefit of the region.

• In addition to the direct job creation and economic activity, the Resort offers some of the best winter tourism experiences in the province and attracts approximately 12,000 skier visits each year. Over the past 18 years, Resort visitors spent approximately $9 million at the Resort and an estimated $30 million at local businesses on goods and services such as food, beverages, accommodations and gas.

• White Hills Resort is an important tourism generator at a time of the year when many businesses have lower visitation, lower sales and lower occupancy rates.

White Hills Resort is a unique and important community asset that contributes to the quality of life residents enjoy.

White Hills Resort is not just a downhill ski facility. Through a series of great partnerships, White Hills Resort offers a unique and strong mix of winter adventure products all available from one location.

• The Clarenville Nordic Ski Club (400+ members and growing) maintains over 40 km of world class, groomed cross-country ski trails (including a lighted 3.5km trail) a chalet and four huts. There are also several dedicated snowshoe trails. The sharing of facilities by White Hills and Nordic results in families visiting the area being able to ski and snowboard the 28 thrilling downhill runs, cross country ski, and snowshoe from one location.

• The White Hills Resort and Nordic Club both run various events which attract visitors such as Eat the Hill, Brewtine, Brewski, snow dances and provincial races. In fact, on Feb.9 2019, Nordic hosted its first snowshoe race and welcomed the fat bike community as it hosted its first “Tour de Summit”. Both events received numerous positive comments.

• The Resort also partners with the East Coast Snowmobile Association which houses its groomer at White Hills. Snowmobilers can access the beautiful backcountry of this area from the road going to the Resort where there is a drop off facility. Snowmobilers can also access the food and beverage facilities and entertainment provided at White Hills Resort via a trail from the Resort to the drop off facility.

• The White Hills Resort hosts various community functions such as Clarenville’s “Wintertainment” events, Power to Hope, graduation ceremonies and many more.

This collection of winter adventure activities is part of our community’s fabric – it is something that truly sets Clarenville apart from other communities in this province. The opportunities for outdoor adventure White Hills provides make Clarenville a great place to live, raise a family and retire. It encourages healthy active living, and it helps with recruitment of key skills we need in our community.

White Hills Resort is not just about skiing, it is about community. It is an incredibly important community asset valued by many more than just the ski and snowboard community. The thousands of hours of volunteer time put in by hundreds of volunteers over the years are a testament to the value of the Resort to the residents of Clarenville. The support shown by the business community and the Town of Clarenville demonstrates a recognition of the importance of White Hills to the region. While last year may have been an exceptionally challenging year, most years this unique, community owned, not for profit Resort works extremely well, and the benefits to the community and businesses justifies the support provided by the Town of Clarenville.

Sincerely,

Gregory Pittman, Q.C.

Chair Alpine Development Alliance Corporation

Frazer Russell

Mayor Town of Clarenville

Joseph Twyne

President Clarenville Area Chamber of Commerce

Keith Barrington

President Clareville Nordic Ski Club

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