“There’s an amazing amount of stuff that goes on behind the scenes at a ski hill,” says Norm Daburger. His family has owned and operated Harper Mountain since 1973, which he now runs with his wife, Lisa. “We wear a lot of hats,” he says, and he doesn’t mean just toques. “We maintain a small staff, so we do a lot of things ourselves.”
Catering to the local community, Harper Mountain is a 20-minute drive from Kamloops. With 16 named runs and 400 acres of terrain, it’s smaller in comparison to other North American ski resorts.
The small scale is part of the attraction, making it more laidback and easy for people to meet up between runs. “You can go out as a family and do your own thing but you’re still together,” Norm explains. A terrain park and lift-operated tube park add to the fun.
Norm’s father grew up in Europe, where there were a lot of small ski hills, and his parents built the resort in Kamloops when he was about six years old. He grew up on the ski hill, and his teenagers now work at the resort.
“There’s an amazing amount of planning so that when people come, everything runs smoothly,” Norm says. That includes plowing the access roads, stockpiling firewood, handling insurance and driving into town for supplies, as not everyone delivers up the mountain.
Lisa came to Harper Mountain with her two boys in 2000 to work as a ski patroller. When Norm’s dad passed away in 2003, she took over the ski school operation. Now, she heads up most of the inside operations, such as directing the ski school and handling marketing and human resources.
“We get to spend a lot of time with our family, even though we’re working all day,” Norm says. Lisa’s adult children now have their own families that ski, and Norm’s siblings and extended families often visit them on the hill. “There’s a great energy that comes from kids being happy and having fun.”
“It’s a happy, healthy environment,” Lisa agrees. She loves the positive energy of both kids and adults who are excited to accomplish something new at the ski school.
Even though most of her work is now indoors, Lisa tries to get out outside every day on the snowshoe trails or ski runs for pleasure. “There’s nothing like being out in nature,” she says. Often when it’s cloudy in town, it will be clear on the mountain. “When you come through the cloud layer, it’s blue sky and white snow. It’s absolutely gorgeous.”
Lisa wonders why everyone doesn’t get up into the hills to ski, snowboard, snowshoe or tube, rather than hunkering down for winter. “To live in Canada and not learn how to ski, it doesn’t make sense,” she says laughing, and adds that absolute beginners can take day lessons and rent gear including jackets. “You’re never too young or too old to learn.”
Harper Mountain’s season is set to open December 10 (snow permitting) and runs through the end of March. Don't miss their New Year's Eve event, which features fireworks and night tubing and snowshoeing.