By Steve Hubrecht
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Earlier this month the District of Invermere was hit with the kind of snowfall more typically associated with other Kootenay towns such as Revelstoke or Rossland than with the Columbia Valley’s famously dry climate. Over a period of several days in the first week of January, snow came down in buckets, leaving Invermere and the surrounding area looking like a true winter wonderland and giving local kids endless amounts of snowman construction material.

The snowbanks and snowdrifts were piled high all over town, but were not fun for everybody however, as the Pioneer received several calls from local residents unhappy at what some termed unusable sidewalks and what one called a potentially dangerous situation, with people forced to walk on the streets. None of those calling in were willing to go on the record and be quoted, but the Pioneer did observe, on the morning of Monday, Jan. 10, what appeared to be a father and very small daughter walking on 13th Avenue near John Woods Road, seemingly heading in the direction of the back entrance to Eileen Madson Primary school, and the large snowbanks did in fact leave the pair walking right on the road as vehicles drove past. 

Invermere Mayor, Al Miller, explained to the Pioneer that he too has had several complaints, but that district staff had been working as hard as they could, even pulling extra shifts and working overtime, to get as much snow cleared as possible, and that he has in fact had multiple residents and businesses call to compliment him on the district’s snow removal efforts. “We’ve had a tremendous amount of snow come down in a matter of just a few days. Quite a bit more than we’ve seen in some time,” Miller told the Pioneer. “I understand the complaints and I feel badly. Our intent is to have our sidewalks usable. But with the amount snow, it was difficult to clear everything. Public works pulled extra shifts, and came in early to deal with the sheer volume of snow.  But there are priority areas that have to get done first, of course, and then we can get to the other areas.”

The district staff did the best they could under the circumstances and have top notch snow clearing equipment, added Miller “But when it comes in a big volume like that and just keeps going, it keeps our crew flat out. Almost as soon as the priority areas were cleared, they had to go back and start clearing those areas again, because it continued snowing.”

Miller noted that few residents would be happy with the district hiring a large number extra staff and spending many thousands of dollars on extra snow clearing equipment (which would come at taxpayer expense) just to have these staff and equipment sit around waiting for the type of snowfall that occurs once every several years.

“On the Saturday morning, after the public works crew had done an early shift to make sure the downtown core was cleared before any of the shops opened, I did have a number of people call in to compliment the district on its snow clearing,” said Miller, adding that as a point of comparison, he had been down in Cranbrook on Thursday, Jan. 13 and Friday, Jan. 14 and “their streets, particularly their back streets were in far worse shape in terms of snow clearing.”

Miller added that the big snowfall is great news for Panorama Mountain Resort and the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort ski hill. “They have excellent conditions now, and that will serve the entire Columbia Valley well,” he said. “When the ski resorts have a good winter, that flows back into the local communities.”