The first snow fall of the year may be dreaded by drivers, but it’s celebrated in Batawa; it means the small community’s beloved ski hill will be ready to go.
With the weather getting colder, snow making operations began at Batawa Ski Hill recently, ahead of the planned opening day for the 2017-18 season, on December 16. And more snow than ever before will be needed this year. A new trail, called Detour, has been added to Batawa Ski Hill, bringing the total number of trails to 10 on the roughly 12 acres of land that cover 180 vertical feet.
“Every opportunity we have to give our guests something more is great,” said Batawa Ski Hill general manager Brian Diedenhofen. “We’re hoping this will be well received.”
The new Detour trail will be to the right of the T-bar line, if looking up from the bottom. The ski hill is also working to include a new terrain park on the top left side of the property; an ideal place for beginners to get comfortable on their skies. Work to renovate the chalet at the bottom of the hill is also expected to get underway mid-season. That will include renovations to make it more accessible and to improve the restrooms and kitchen area.
All of this work will allow Batawa to continue as a thriving tourist destination. Batawa is located off Hwy. 33, about a five-minute drive north of Hwy. 401 as it moves through Quinte West.
The history of the skill hill and the Batawa community is legendary. From the era of the Second World War until the end of the early part of this century, the community was home to a Bata shoe factory. At one time, more than 1,000 people lived in Batawa and the vast majority would have been employees under Thomas J. Bata’s vast shoe empire.
In time, a community grew around the Bata factory, with support from the Bata family. The company built the ski hill in the late 1950s, plus a community centre, which now operates through the Batawa Development Corporation.
The shoe factory ceased operations more than a decade ago and is now being developed into condos and retail space, but the ski hill remains as a popular attraction and it contributes to the greater community by providing snow school programs for youth, a competitive Batawa Ski Racing Club and other programs, such as summer camps.
The people of Batawa take pride in the ski hill, just as they did generations ago when it operated as part of the Bata Shoe company. That’s an observation Diedenhofen has made since coming to Batawa recently, following time as a manager at Mansfield Ski Club and a lengthy career as a ski instructor at Mount St. Louis Moonstone before that.
“It’s a really nice hill. There are a lot of passionate people around this hill, a lot of local community members have taken ownership of the place,” he said.
Many regular ski hill visitors are members of the Batawa and Quinte community; that makes it a great, family-friendly place to visit on any winter day. But Diedenhofen said Batawa staff are trying harder to spread the word about the hill to communities outside of the Quinte region.
“Driving from downtown Toronto to Batawa is not that much different than driving to Horseshoe Valley,” he said, explaining that Batawa recently sent out a Groupon promotion to target the G.T.A. “We’re trying to get people to think, instead of going north, look east.”
The Ski Hill is also marketing to communities east of the region. “In Kingston, there’s a surprising number of people who don’t know about Batawa. We’re tying to improve our exposure there,” he said.
But any skier who visits Batawa – regardless of where they’re from – will enjoy the trip. The course features challenging trails, such as Smokey and Old Smokey, and easier more scenic ones, such as Long John. The only thing skiers need to do is keep their fingers crossed for a good cold winter, with lots and lots of snow.