First-year students C. W. Weinfield and Dave Sidio said that the idea behind building a mini ski hill next to their residences was for a fun activity to keep them and their friends occupied and get some “mad cardio” during the winter months. But where students see a fun activity, the university sees a dangerous mound of snow.
Concordia forbade students from using the hill for skiing and snowboarding, prompting the students to circulate a petition asking the university to reconsider.
The hill was built in about six hours by a few first-year students living in residence on Saturday, Feb. 5. It measures about 15 feet high and is situated between Hingston Hall residence and the back parking lot at the Loyola campus.
The students say that Loyola residence life manager Rich SwamiNathan did not give them the permission to build the hill, but said “‘Just don’t kill yourselves.’” But on Thursday morning, they were told to stop.
SwamiNathan said he was not available to comment on the situation, but university spokesperson Chris Mota said the decision was made because of liability issues and a concern for safety. Not only were they concerned about students, but also the safety of neighbourhood children who come to play on the campus. The fear is that there might be dangerous objects packed under the snow which could harm children. “We’re not in the business of running a ski hill,” she added.
Weinfeld said that students were willing to sign a waiver liability form in order to free the university of responsability. As for the safety of local kids, he reported seeing a parent and two children playing on the mountain one morning.
While the students acknowledge that liability is an issue, they can list a number of reasons why they should have a ski hill. For one, they consider the space their own backyard. They also malign the lack of campus life in the residential neighbourhood during winter beyond monthly cultural nights at the Hive.
Sidio and Paul Amiel said that campuses in British Columbia set up rails for students to snowboard on campus; they feel that something similar should occur every year at Concordia.
Mota added that the university believes the mountain was partly built from a pile created when snow was cleared from the parking lot. To deter future ski hills, facilities management will now move the snow out of the way and then spread it out.
Weinfield and his friends have stopped using the hill, but are continuing to circulate the petition. At the moment, a little over a dozen students have signed their names, but Weinfield remains upbeat. “They’ve all been positive about it,” said the film studies student. “We haven’t had a single person say no yet.”