Optimist Hill Opens

Diefenbaker Park becomes winter wonderland

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Saskatoon snowboarders now have a place to go to hone their tricks. (Photo by Cam Hutchinson)

Congratulations to everyone involved in the project that gave us Optimist Hill at Diefenbaker Park.

It was an amazing accomplishment, especially at a time when there are so many other organizations raising money for various projects. 

Look at the last few years. We now have a world-class art gallery and two new bridges. We are not far from having a children’s museum and a children’s hospital. Friends of the Bowl are doing wonderful things at the south end of Avenue P.

These are big-time projects, and there are others that are fuelled by volunteers and generous people.

I had my doubts about Optimist Hill becoming reality. I should have known better; we live in a city where things get done. Rob Letts and Joe Van’t Hof, co-chairs of the project, were relentless in getting the hill ready for winter fun. Their reward — and all Optimist club members in Saskatoon — was the many smiling faces last week at the official opening. 

Nathan and Anthony Thoen were the faces of the project. These two cool cats, no doubt, had a huge role in Mark McMorris paying a visit to town to promote the project. 

The Thoens point to McMorris as an example of not having to get your start on a mountain to become a world-class skier or boarder. We are all world-class tubers, methinks.

I spent an hour at the base of the hill on opening day. It was wonderful to see so many people there on such a cold afternoon. I chatted briefly with the parents of a four-year-old skier and said hello to a frosty-faced tuber who had to be pushing 50. He was about my age.

Optimist Hill Facts

  • Skiing and snowboarding equipment can be rented. Rentals include skis,boards, helmets and boots. The cost is $16 for a day and $10 for a half day.
  • For people 16 and older a weekday pass is $14, and a weekend pass $20. For those 15 and under, a weekday pass is $10 and a weekend pass is $13. Season passes are available as well.
  • The hill will be open from Monday to Friday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. 
  • It is a 70-foot hill with approximately 400 feet of slope.
  • 154,000 cubic metres of dirt was moved from the floor of the hill to the top.
  • There is a temporary chalet on site, with a permanent one part of the second phase. 
  • Still to be completed in phase one is a toboggan run and a second lift. The first phase cost approximately $2 million. The second will cost about $5 million.
  • One of the plans for the summer is to turn the hill into a mountain bike terrain park.

More information can be found at optimisthill.ca.

Photos — at least mine — don’t properly capture the added length of the courses for skiing, boarding and tubing.  Tubers come down the hill so fast that there is a padded safe zone for them to use for stopping. Boarders have a course for tricks and skiers can, well, ski.

There is a temporary chalet. The permanent one will be part of a second phase.

This isn’t the old Diefenbaker Hill. What has been accomplished is amazing. 

Thank you to one and all associated with this project. You done good.


I wasn’t too happy to learn that I can’t be an Uber driver unless I get a newer vehicle.

I thought the 2000 Lincoln Town Car I inherited would be perfect. It’s in mint shape inside and out, and has fewer than 130,000 kilometres on it. Turns out an Uber vehicle can only be 10 years old or newer. 

Even though I won’t be driving, I was curious about how much Uber drivers make.

One article I read was incredibly detailed. The writer — Will Preston of rideshareguy.com — has done 4,000 rides in the San Diego area. He broke down his costs including depreciation of his vehicle and such things as fuel, tires and general maintenance. 

Preston gave an example of a weekend when he did 25 rides in approximately 12 hours. He put 400 miles (645 kilometres) on his vehicle. 

When he shut his car down, Preston had $430 in his pocket. Preston received $265 of this, which included $40 in tips, while Uber received $165. It should be noted that Uber’s total included $69 in booking fees. 

With expenses of almost $100, Preston made $176 — $14.70 an hour. Uber put $165 in its coffers.  He was driving a Prius, so he was getting much better mileage than the vast majority of drivers would. 

Preston wasn’t complaining about the amount of money he received. He pointed out that Uber has incredible costs in terms of research, development and marketing the company. 

And let’s remember that Uber drivers are playing a role in keeping impaired drivers off the road. That’s worth plenty.


We have tickets to give away for a performance by Canada’s Pink Floyd tribute act. The show will be held March 3 at the Broadway Theatre. Tickets for show are available at broadwaytheatre.ca or by calling 306-652-6556. To enter our draw, email editorial@saskatoonexpress.com. Please put Pink Floyd in the subject line.