While the pandemic has beaten down many businesses and sporting clubs, The Duck Mountain Ski Area is one recreational enterprise that has escaped the COVID-19 clutch. In fact, the season has been so successful, long-time staff say things haven’t been this good since back in 1990s.
A combination of favourable weather, good amounts of snow, and plenty of space to ensure social distancing is maintained, having contributed to the ski hill’s banner year.
“It has been an incredible season,” said general manager Craig Brock, as he was ordering up a special burger from the secret menu at the T-Bar café. “We are so fortunate that our lodge is a good size. We have plenty of room to space out guests on two levels. A number of other ski hills haven’t been able to make it work this year, because they just don’t have the space to satisfy safety protocols.”
Guests who arrive at the Duck Mountain Ski Hill area will immediately see the signage to check in with staff at the lodge. Anyone visiting the ski area is asked to provide their name and phone number upon arrival. In the case of a COVID positive situation, records of all visitors’ dates and times on the hill are kept to ensure best efforts for potential contact tracing.
Visitors who don’t own their own equipment can head to the rentals department where J McLachlan and Kelsey Rauckman stand ready to prepare guests for a fun day on the hill. In addition to skis and poles, the rental shop offers snowboards, snowshoes, snow tubes, and helmets. Once McLachlan and Rauckman have clients suited up, they keep busy throughout the day, offering services like fixing broken bindings or waxing skis.
It’s not unusual to find McLachlan wearing his signature hoodie – designed with contributions from fellow staff.
“The first hoodie was suggested from a buddy of mine,” explained McLachlan. “Chef Sarah helped design a little fluffy duck on a snowboard. It says Fluffy Ducks Go Further. It refers to my size. I tend to whip really fast down the hill – us fluffy people really do go faster and further. We have these hoodies for sale in the lodge now, but they are only available in sizes above large. Obviously, they don’t come in small sizes.”
The Duck (as the ski hill has been nicknamed for many years) hosts 22 runs on all-natural snow, two T-Bar lifts, and one magic carpet lift. Wind is seldom an issue, and skiers enjoy little to no line-ups at the lifts.
After working up an appetite on the slopes, guests have been flocking to the fully licenced T-Bar full concession cafeteria and Lookout Lounge, which provides additional seating on the second level of the lodge.
“This year has been amazing,” explained lodge manager and head chef, Sarah Burrows. “Thanks to a very generous donation by Madge Lake Developments, we were able to beautifully renovate and extend our kitchen in time to service our guests during one of the busiest seasons in recent memory.”
Burrows proudly gave the Kamsack Times a tour of the newly updated kitchen that featured a sizeable extension, a gleaming new grill, and numerous upgrades. Employees Victoria Henderson and Ronan Connell were hopping with getting out Chef Sarah’s creations to the steady stream of hungry customers looking for a stack of the famously loaded “skier fries,” hot burgers off the grill, or tasty nibbles like wings or mac and cheese bites.
“Duck Mountain Ski Area is very thankful to our long list of sponsors, without whom we could not be where we are today,” detailed Burrows. “The burgers were generously donated by the Scott Tibble Family. Lorne’s butcher block has supplied our delicious wings. Our baskets were donated by Fields in Kamsack. And of course, a long-time supporter has been Saskam Sportsman.”
“In fact, there are just so many sponsors to acknowledge,” added Burrows. “Affinity Credit Union, Sask Alpine, Rosowsky Law, Matt’s Furniture, Duck Mountain Motel, Co-op Foods Kamsack, Kam-Crete, Duck Mountain Ambulance, Richardson Pioneer, Pattison Ag., Cottenie & Gardner, Veregin Co-op, Lloyds Tractor Repair, Town of Kamsack, Prairie Soil Service, Ski Lake Louise, P&J Plumbing, D&M Accounting, Gateway Coop, Kreg’s OK Tire, Kamsack Ski Club, and Full Throttle Event Solutions.”
A lift ticket for an adult to enjoy a full day on the slopes will cost $34, while students pay $28. The tube run is $5 per hour or $10 for three hours. Children ages five to 12 can get a full-day lift pass for $22, and children four and under can enjoy the mountain lifts for free. Half day lift passes are also available for visitors at a reduced rate.