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‘Complete mayhem’: Icy road conditions, maintenance a concern for Larch Hills residents

Business owner urges AIM Roads to respond in time for weekend loppet
A truck was stuck in the ditch early on Jan. 13 as the road leading up to Salmon Arm’s Larch Hills cross country ski area has not been maintained and is once again a sheet of ice. (John Thielman photo)

Residents are once again sounding the alarm about the dangerous icy roads leading to the Larch Hills cross country ski area.

Robert Gignac and his family have lived on Rosemont Lake Forest Service Road, branching off of Edgar Road leading up to Larch Hills, for many years and he said that icy road conditions have never been as poorly maintained as they have been this season. He has resorted to contacting Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo in a letter detailing the road maintenance inaction he has seen, documenting the date and time when snow accumulates and the time when the province’s contractor, AIM Roads, responds.

“In November and December we went 27 days without snow removal,” said Gignac said, adding snow removal has become progressively worse over the past three years.

Gignac explained there are six houses along the road he lives on, including four people over the age of 70 and a family with a baby. He said often there would be no way for an ambulance to make it up the road or for residents to get down.

“I just went down the hill this morning coming in and it was complete mayhem,” said Gignac. “People who live up here have studded tires and still I have never seen so many people getting towed out up here.”

READ MORE: Calls for action after Shuswap’s Larch Hills nordic area inaccessible for over 24 hours

Gignac also mentioned the Larch Hills trail system is used year-round by horseback riders, outdoors clubs, mountain bikers and more, and that the state of the road is not good even in good weather. He said people come here for international events and he feels the road gives a bad impression.

“It’s a sad disgrace when people come out here and say, ‘This is your road?’” said Gignac.

John Thielman, owner of John’s Ski Shack on Edgar Road about two kilometres from the ski area, is concerned about the stretch of road past his shop.

“Half the cars can’t get up,” said Thielman. “There’s a truck in the ditch already and they’re supposed to have the Loppet there tomorrow.”

The Reino-Keski Salmi Loppet event is scheduled to go ahead on Jan. 14. Thielman said the event could see up to 400 vehicles in the parking area at Larch Hills between 5:30 and 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.

An AIM sanding truck went up the road at 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 13, and the Larch Hills Nordic Ski club posted on its website at 11 a.m. that road conditions were being reported as good.

Thielman sent a text to AIM Roads Friday morning detailing the event and the need for a quick response. His message mentioned that large groups attending the Loppet will be arriving in buses that will need to be able to make it up the road.

“I would advise plowing and sanding be finished by 5:30 (Jan. 14) to avoid the trucks meeting the cars coming up,” Theilman’s text reads. “There will also be heavy traffic on the road Friday, January 13, as skiers will be checking their courses.”

Theilman expressed his frustration with AIM Roads and their lack of response in a timely manner.

“You try to contact them and it just ends up exactly the same as it was.”

READ MORE: North Okanagan neighbours trapped by icy road


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Rebecca Willson

About the Author: Rebecca Willson

I took my first step into the journalism industry in November 2022 when I moved to Salmon Arm to work for the Observer and Eagle Valley News. I graduated with a journalism degree in December 2021 from MacEwan University in Edmonton.
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