Overcoming Adversity – Landslide Recovery at Nitehawk

On May 19th 2020, Nitehawk Year-Round Adventure Park, located in the Wapiti River Valley South of Grande Prairie, suffered a catastrophic natural disaster.  A large landslide significantly affected their chairlift, leaving it inoperable, as well as some of their ski runs. This landslide will go down as one of the largest challenges the Non-profit recreation facility has ever faced. However, Nitehawk’s dedicated Team, led by GM Johnathan Clarkson, took on the challenge; utilizing their significant experience in fundraising, problem solving and programming to adapt their organization.


As a Non-profit community facility, Nitehawk has frequently involved the community with creative fundraising ideas. From their 26th Annual “Drive-In” Comedy Nite, Annual Golf Tournament Fundraiser, 50-50 Raffles, and countless ongoing sponsorships by local businesses; Nitehawk’s community involvement has been at the core to ensuring its sustainability & viability. Following the landslide, the fundraising has been extended to support the rebuilding efforts with the development of the Nitehawk Landslide Recovery Fund in partnership with the Community Foundation of Northwest Alberta. The Nitehawk Team has also worked hard to secure grants from their three Municipal Partners, Alberta Environment & Parks and the Province of Alberta.  While the fundraising is still underway to aid with the recovery, the ski area is nearing a major milestone that will provide an interim solution and allow more runs to open this season, with the return to full terrain operations in future seasons.

New Summit T-bar

For the 2020-21 season, the ski area operated without the chair lift and serviced only by their three surface lifts (a platter, 100ft & 800ft carpet lifts).   Some of the runs were adapted to provide more terrain, such as a new cut across from the top of Show-off to the Platter Lift and Will-o-Way. Will-o-Way was also widened by 30 per cent, to add much more skiable area for the 2020-21 season.

To provide access to more terrain for the 2022 season, they have purchased a T-Bar that will be installed on the westside of the Show-off Run. This lift is expected to open in February 2022.  While the T-Bar will provide an interim solution, the installation is permanent and part of the long-term project which includes bringing back the Triple Chair, damaged in the landslide.

Nitehawk has received much support from the Community in providing equipment and services to support the installation, which began in the Fall of 2021, led by Maintenance Manager John Gibson. With much of the work taking place during the extreme cold weather conditions in December and January, and the cold forcing temporary closures at ski area operations across much of the province, the Nitehawk Team persisted through the challenging conditions to keep the project moving forward.

John is no stranger to the small ski area community and has kept the lifts running at Nitehawk for over a decade.  He has also created partnerships with several small ski areas to support each others lift maintenance programs, making trips to Whispering Pines, Misery Mountain, Bear Mountain, and others over the past few years to lend his expertise.

Nitehawk’s Operations Manager, Drew Rogers, takes us behind the scenes on the milestone day flying in the Summit Lift towers in this video.

Innovative Programming

Nitehawk Year-Round Adventure Park is one of the first small ski areas in Western Canada to focus on year-round operations.  Their unique programming, creative use of spaces and community involvement has made Nitehawk a key facility in the Grande Prairie Region.  Mountain Biking, a 100 Site RV Campground, an off-site Par-3 Golf Course (with 40 additional RV sites), Running/Hiking Trail Race Series, Tubing, & School Programming are just some examples of how GM, Johnathan Clarkson and his Management Team keep several of their staff employed year-round and diversify revenues for the Organization.   More about how Nitehawk diversifies its revenues was featured in CWSAA’s Places & Faces in 2019.

When CWSAA reached out to GM, Johnathan Clarkson, to share a draft of this article, Johnathan’s leadership and pride of his team was evident when asked to ensure we recognize his whole team for the efforts in the recovery.  Congratulations to the entire Nitehawk Team on their ongoing drive & determination to support healthy outdoor activities & lifestyles in Northwestern Alberta, including, but not limited to:

  • John Gibson – Maintenance Manager
  • Drew Rogers – Operations Manager
  • Nicole Penner – Human Resources Manager
  • Kylyna O’toole – Accounting Technician
  • Mike Trace – Adventure School Director
  • Stephanie Bell – Bear Paw Golf Course Manager
  • Johnathan Clarkson – General Manager
  • & countless others who all deserve to Thanked for their dedication during these challenging times.