Medicine Lodge Ski Hill has plenty of untapped potential as a year-round tourism destination, believe its supporters.
Central Alberta Economic Partnership (CAEP) undertook a Tourism Opportunity Assessment this summer that identified the ski hill just west of Bentley as ripe for upgrades that would draw more visitors to central Alberta.
Besides expanding the downhill skiing options available, such as extending the season with snow-making equipment, the site could be expanded to include cross-country ski trails, and in the summer, mountain biking and hiking routes.
The town of Bentley owns the quarter section the volunteer-run ski hill sits on and wants to get an expert opinion on the options available to upgrade the site. Club volunteers run the ski hill, provide ski patrols and staff food and beverage and equipment rental services.
CAEP’s assessment recommended a master plan be developed to guide future development at the site overseen by the Medicine Lodge Ski Club, which has been active since the 1950s and was incorporated in 1962.
The town of Bentley hopes to line up $100,000 to hire consultants to prepare a master plan. It is applying for a $50,000 grant from the Federal Tourism Relief Fund, which requires a matching contribution.
Lacombe County was asked to provide up to $25,000 for the project, which was unanimously approved by council on Thursday. Additional in-kind support is expected from the town, CAEP, the ski club and Lacombe Regional Tourism.
Coun. Dana Kreil gave her enthusiastic support for exploring the ski hill’s potential.
“This ski hill is a gem. It’s a gem in Lacombe County,” said Kreil. “I would certainly like to see us work with (Bentley) and capitalize on this.”
In a letter of support for the grant application, Ski club president Ross Moore said the master plan “will provide the necessary foundation to move the Medicine Lodge Ski Hill into the future and identify opportunities for future partnerships and multi-sport recreation that will continue to preserve the uniqueness of the hill.”
Moore said the club will dedicate the necessary time and resources to partner with others “to create a plan that respects the residents who live in proximity to the hill, supports our neighbouring communities such as Bentley, looks to the future to create a recreation destination that is sustainable and considers multiple activities, and is respectful of the significance and longer-term history of the area.”
If the grant is approved, it is hoped a consultant can be hired and a report completed by the end of next March.