Local ski hill workers driven by their passion for the sport

Staff Reporter

BARRY’S BAY – For some local ski hill workers, dedication to their work goes well beyond a job description.

For those who recognize them, they are the friendly faces who greet and guide you at the start of the tee-bar lift at Madawaska Mountain. They probably call you by name, or make one up for fun. Easy-going but always professional, they’re just so darned likeable.

The friendly faces belong to T.J. Thompson of Palmer Rapids and Tim Baklinski of Rockingham.

But it turns out their work at the Mountain is more than what you see in their day-to-day efforts. In fact, it’s what goes on behind the scene that deserves recognition as well. The slopes and mechanisms that preserve Madawaska Mountain’s reputation for a family fun destination are kept in top shape thanks in large part to the efforts of this dynamic duo that put their all into the business of keeping folks happy in outdoor recreation.
They have known each other seven years, and worked together for five of those years. This is their fourth season working at the hill which recently changed names from Radcliffe Hills to Madawaska Mountain.

T.J. grew up in Palmer Rapids, while Tim is originally from Purdy. T.J. told the Gazette how locals referred to the Baklinski family of 14 children.

“I remember they were known as the big family at the top of the hill,” T.J. said.

T.J. started out in outdoor operations. The hard-working pair was an integral part of the big job of fixing the lift that was shut down shortly after the ski hill opened in 2008.

Both had the necessary qualifications. T.J. had earned his Ski lift Mechanics License through the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (T.S.S.A.) after three years of study and apprenticeship. Tim is also qualified for working on surface lifts, currently holding the Ski Lift Mechanic Training (S.L.M.T.) ticket, and plans to continue attaining higher levels of training.

But it turns out both men went over and above the call of duty that first season, working many long nights and putting in 96 hours between Christmas and New Year’s to ensure the ski hill could re-open New Year’s Day 2009.

The two also worked together under T.J.’s business Stoneview Developments to re-build the tow lift at Tri Town Ski and Snowboard Village in New Liskeard this past year. They were part of a complete tow overhaul, including everything from the safety of the system to wiring upgrades.

Over the seasons, T.J. and Tim have carried on doing whatever needs doing at Madawaska Mountain. This includes operations and maintenance, and switching roles when needed. On a given day they can be ski lift mechanics, liftees and groomer operators. T.J. even calls in ski conditions to a local radio station.

There are many more examples which demonstrate the pair’s loyalty and tenacity. Over the next three seasons they continued to show up and do whatever it took to ensure the hill and the lift were in tip-top condition.

Grooming can only be done at night when the ski hill has closed, and typically they are working into the wee hours twice a week. That can mean ripping tracks off the groomer, working in the elements under the spotlights, at a time when most of us are tucked away cozy in our beds.

While they are employed through the Madawaska Valley Township, Tim and T.J. clearly put in more than what’s expected. But when asked why he does it, T.J. isn’t looking for recognition. Instead he responded humbly with a down-to-business work ethic combined with a passion for what he does.

“I love it, the work itself. Otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. We just want to see the hill go. There’s a lot of people counting on us,” Thompson said.
Story continues in the March 8 issue of The Valley Gazette.