Own your own Mountain
by Sarah Jackson
Are you looking to own a mountain? Well, My Mountain Co-op, based out of Terrace, offers you the chance to do just that. “With everything that’s happening in the world, it’s a nice ray of sunshine,” explains third year International Studies student, Lina Gasser, as she describes her home-mountain’s recent change in ownership, from being run by a corporation to being owned and managed by the local community.
The owner/operator cooperative was created in early 2011, by the non-profit society, Friends of Shames. Friends of Shames was initially formed to keep Shames Mountain open after it was listed for sale by the former owner, the Shames Mountain Ski Corporation.
Research done by Friends of Shames led to the creation of the My Mountain Co-op, which has been operating the mountain ever since. The process was, and continues to be, facilitated by contributions and investments from community members, businesses, and various levels of government. “It’s a real show of civil society,” says Lina, who, along with the rest of her family, is a shareholder in the co-op. According to the My Mountain Co-op website, the grassroots organisation is Canada’s first non-profit, ski community cooperative.
The unique organisation has an equally unique story behind its creation. The Northern Development Initiative Trust states on their website that initial research into the feasibility of the organization was undertaken through partnerships between Friends of Shames, Northern Development, Terrace Economic Development Authority, and the Co-operative development initiative in 2010. The research eventually concluded that the idea of forming a cooperative to keep the mountain open could be effective. According to articles in the Terrace Standard in the spring of 2011, the co-op struck a lease deal with the Shames Mountain Ski Corporation to take on all the unpaid royalties of the ski hill. Then in 2012, the overall sales deal was completed, when the provincial government agreed to forgive the interest portion of the royalty debt.
Lina, who grew up skiing on Shames Mountain, says that the project has really brought the community of Terrace together. Like many small northern towns, Terrace has experienced economic challenges in recent years, so this is an amazing demonstration of what communities can do when working towards a common goal. According to the My Mountain Co-op website, the organisation aims to maintain their “locally rooted but global in reach” guiding principles; affordability for users, long-term economic viability, and “…benefits for skiers and the community.”
“We care about this. We want this to happen,” explains Lina, “This summer they painted the outside of the lodge. A community sponsor donated the paint, and the community painted it.” As people and communities around the world continue to experience economic and social challenges, the success of this community-based organisation stands out as an example of how to achieve goals that benefit everyone through collaboration with all sectors of society.