Written by: Angie McLeod Video by: Tennille Barber
Thanks to: City of Revelstoke, Revelstoke Museum and Archives (newspaper clipping from 1972), Steve Olsson
This is the first segment of Get Rad’s “Snow Series” which will seasonally explore the diversity and fun surrounding our favourite flakes!
Reasons that many people are drawn to this majestic mountain town include the rush of sledding on rugged terrain, first tracks on secluded slopes, building whimsical winter sculptures, or simply hearing that distinct crunching sound under your boots on a frosty night. The common thread that makes it possible to experience so many adventures here is that sweet simplicity we live for…snow!!
On average Revelstoke receives nearly 400 centimetres of snow each year. This provides an ideal setting for a world class winter playground however it also requires strategic planning to manage that champagne powder. Snow removal in this area has been a constant challenge that has inspired very innovative methods over the years.
In the winter of 1971/72 the Revelstoke Highways District used a jet-powered snow plow called the “5,000”. This cutting edge machine powered by a United Aircraft ST6 engine was the first prototype of its kind in the world. Though it had been tested in other parts of the province, it arrived in Revelstoke just in time to be used in what would be the biggest recorded snowfall in Canadian history (779cm). This mammoth plow was able to push through a foot of snow at a speed of 72km per hour. As it cruised along the highways its spray was powerful enough to break signs and had an arc of snow trailing behind it that reached 7.62 metres.
During this epic winter the the “5000” worked alongside over 80 other pieces of road equipment used in the area. At the time, Revelstoke Highways District maintained over 520 km of road and employed 113 people. This coverage included going east to Glacier National Park, west to Perry River, south to Trout Lake and reached Boat Encampment to the north. The annual operations budget was $1,171,000 of which an estimated $300,000 was used specifically for snow removal. Despite the fact that this is one of the most challenging snow areas in the country the highway crew strived to balance their work with access to emergency services, ferry schedules, and community events.
Jumping ahead 41 years to this winter, I decided to take a closer look at how snow removal operates within town. Right now the City of Revelstoke maintains over 130km in the streets of town as well as more than 35km of sidewalks. I spoke to Steve Olsson who has worked for the City of Revelstoke’s Public Works Department for 18 years to get an insider’s perspective. Steve works alongside 30 other city employees that plow and remove the snow within our city limits. There are 15 pieces of equipment used to clear paths for vehicles and pedestrians. Most of the employees work the night shift when there are not as many cars parked in the downtown core and less traffic to maneuver around.
Steve pointed out that despite the job having its challenges, he finds it rewarding to see the work he has done during his shift. He adds, “especially when you start with nearly 4 inches of ice and manage to get it down to the bare pavement.” He also reflected on incidents during the job that are unexpected like having someone latch onto a big grader for a bumper tow!
This hard working crew work around the clock using a priority based schedule in order to assure that the most essential services are accessible to the community. When there is a heavy snowfall the city often has to hire private contractors to keep up with the fresh pow! The City of Revelstoke has developed a snow removal plan that is reviewed annually. This plan aims to ensure that the needs of the community match the services provided.
Check out the video below for a better idea of all the city’s hard work!
Notice all the happy drivers as they wave at Tennille taking the video, they’ve probably been up all night in some cases!
There are so many people behind the scenes that help us to get around town and safely drive through this snowy valley. Next time you see a loader or grader in your path give them a big smile and wave as they are rarely given the credit they are due for providing such an essential service to our community!