All aboard! (23 photos, video link)Sunday, December 22, 2013 by: Donna Hopper
As families gathered at the ACR train depot adjacent to the Station Mall bright and early Saturday morning, anticipation mounted for the inaugural Searchmont Polar Express event which sold out in record time when tickets went on sale at the beginning of November.
Jill Thatcher, community outreach representative for Searchmont Resort, told SooToday.com that the speed with which the first-time event sold out shocked and pleased organizers.
"It shows the demand for such an event in the community," she said. "We're hopeful that next year we'll be able to continue with this event and offer more of them."
A collaboration between Searchmont Resort, White Pines OnStage theatre group, the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains (CAPT), and the Sault Ste. Marie Library, the first annual Polar Express transported participants from Sault Ste. Marie to Santa's Workshop at the 'North Pole' via train as riders enjoyed carolling, stories, and helping Santa's elves conceal the stowaway hobos from the train conductors.
Once at Santa's Workshop, children partook a number of activities and crafts, had the opportunity to give their Christmas list directly to Santa himself, and were given the chance to take advantage of Searchmont's spectacular slopes.
The idea originated a number of years ago as a means to highlight the area's passenger rail service and bring people out to Searchmont Resort that may not normally visit the winter activity facility.
"It's a great way to bring the community together and give people the opportunity to ride the train to Searchmont to ski, all the while themed around the Polar Express movie," Thatcher told us.
With six months planning and 40 volunteers behind the event, 136 passengers journeyed on the Polar Express, approximately half of those taking advantage of the skiing at Searchmont Resort.
Thatcher told us that many of the Polar Express skiers were first-timers, so the bunny hill was especially busy saturday afternoon.
With the success of this year's event, organizers expect next year's Polar Express to expand with additional seats available and more activities.
Keep an eye out for event announcements and details here.
For more information about Searchmont Resort, please click here.
To see video highlights from the day shot and edited by Adam Gualtieri, please click here.