Winter fun and sports are something that Northern Ontario has always been known for and Sault Ste. Marie is no exception. Out of all the winter activities, skiing is probably one of the most enjoyed winter sports for the people in Sault Ste. Marie and area.
Perhaps the best-known ski resort in Algoma is Searchmont, located in the community of Searchmont, Ontario. The community was named after T.C. Search who was a Treasurer for the Consolidated Lake Superior Company. Founded in the 1950s, the ski resort boasted 18 downhill slopes, which would later be increased to 21. One of these slopes named the High Plateau, has a 700 foot vertical. This particular slope is one of the highest in the mid-west. A quad lift capable of carrying 2,000 skiers per hour was eventually added.
Over the years the resort has changed ownership many times and has experienced the threat of permanent closure at times.
In 1985, local hotelier and businessman, J.J. Hilsinger formed a group of local investors and with their $15 million investment, an expansion plan for the area was developed, which saved the Searchmont Ski Resort from bankruptcy. Hilsinger wanted to promote tourism and recreation but he also wanted to protect and preserve the natural environment of the area so that everyone could enjoy it.
In Heather Ingram’s book, Views of the Sault, J.J. Hilsinger is quoted as referring to the resort as, “Searchmont is the Rocky Mountains of the mid-west”.
Although Sault Ste. Marie usually receives a lot of snow during the winter season, sometimes it is still not enough and more snow may be needed. Using high-pressure snowmaking machines about 90 per cent of Searchmont’s land can be covered with man-made snow. This same system was designed by the professionals that were in charge of snow-making at the 1988 winter Olympics. Snowmaking ensures that visitors can enjoy skiing regardless of how much snow the season brings.
Over the years, Searchmont has offered more than just skiing, in the summer season people can enjoy off-road cycling, canoeing, kayaking and mountain biking. Perhaps the most unusual summer program was one that began in 1992 with circus workshops.
With each new owner, the property underwent improvements and changes. On Nov. 1, 2018, the ownership of the resort changed when Wisconsin Resort Inc. purchased Searchmont for $2 million. One of the first changes planned was investing $750,000 in new snowmaking equipment. This investment would increase Searchmont’s snowmaking ability from 1,000 gallons per minute with 20 guns to 5,000 – 6,000 gallons per minute using up to 100 guns.
In addition to the slopes, Searchmont boasts both Villas and Chalets for overnight accommodation. These accommodations are located at the base of the main slope and provide a picturesque view of the mountains and surrounding landscape.
Searchmont has had its share of loyal and legendary supporters - one of them being John Shuchkewich, who earned that status for his loyalty to skiing at Searchmont. This senior citizen enjoyed the slopes almost daily for a number of winter seasons. The minutes of the Searchmont records actually documented one 14-day absence when he was vacationing with his wife in Cuba in the early 1990s as a notable exception to this schedule.
Herbert Lederer and others were instrumental in ensuring that the ski hill was established and continued to grow and develop. Another character was Searchmont’s very own mascot, Searchmont the St. Bernard, who wore a rescue barrel around his neck and would roam the grounds greeting visitors.
Since the 1950s, Searchmont has provided the community with both winter and summer activities and we hope that the residents of the area, as well as visitors, will continue to be able to enjoy this wonderful and picturesque corner of Algoma for many years to come!