Mark Arendz Provincial Ski Park

Skiing Prince Edward Island Style

Ski Hill: Mark Arendz Provincial Ski Park
Map: Location
Vertical: 76.2 m (250 ft)
Snowfall: 285 cm (112 ft)

For most Canadians, Prince Edward Island conjures up images of Anne of Green Gables, rich red soil yielding delicious PEI potatoes, sprawling sandy beaches and incredible seafood feasts. Yet for Islanders, PEI is also home to one of Canada’s greatest skiing legends and, perhaps even more surprising, one of its most vibrant and colourful ski areas. Fittingly, both bear the distinguished name of Mark Arendz.

Community Ski Areas: Stories from The Heartland of Canadian Skiing is an ongoing series that looks at the often small and remote ski areas where most Canadians learned to ski and now share their passion for the sport with their children and grandchildren. This is the latest in our growing collection of stories. || Creative Director: Gordie Bowles | Writer: Dave Fonda

The Birth Of Skiing On Prince Edward Island

Mark was just a fresh-faced, five-year old farm boy when he first skied at what was then called Brookvale Provincial Ski Park. P.E.I.’s premier ski area came about when five inspired locals made a dream come true with a helping hand from the provincial government. 

It all began when Ken Judson, Lloyd Miller, Laurie Coles and Cleeman MacArthur convinced Rose Curley that her farmland would make a fine ski area. If she let them develop it and it drew enough skiers, then the provincial government would match their investment and take over the ownership and day-to-day operations.

Photo courtesy of the Mark Arendz Provincial Ski Park.

[from left] Frank Curley, Leonard Toole and Vernon Curley. Photo courtesy of the Mark Arendz Provincial Ski Park.

From Fallow Farmland To Thriving Ski Park

In 1966, the first trails were cut and a bunny or beginner’s slope was cleared. Next, a double rope tow running up to the 250-vertical-foot summit was installed. Premier Alex Campbell came to Brookvale and officially opened the hill. Alpine skiing had made its debut in PEI. And success was sure to follow. Even though selling off the family farm broke Rose’s heart, seeing her land blossom into a vibrant ski park that provided winter recreation, created jobs and reinvigorated her community was a dream come true. Especially when her sons, Frank and Vernon, chose to stay and devote their lives to looking after their families in Brookvale. Vernon’s daughter, Erin, is equally committed and has spent her career promoting the ski area’s continued growth and measurable success.

A Local Legend

Prince Edward Islanders immediately embraced the new park, and skiing soon became a cherished winter pastime. Avid non-skiing parents and grandparents often spent the day in their cars parked along the access road, and watched their progeny learn to ski. In 1967, Alan Holman, of Summerside department store fame, opened the Prince Edward Island’s first ski shop. Meanwhile, Brookvale trained and then sent a ski team to participate in the Canada Winter Games in Quebec City. Legend has it that when PEI’s finest ski racers arrived at Mont Ste. Anne, they were so overwhelmed by its sheer immensity that half of them fainted on the spot. Luckily, they recovered and finished fourth overall. How’s them potatoes?

Photo courtesy of the Mark Arendz Provincial Ski Park.

Yes, Virginia: The Government & The People Can Work Together

In 1968, locals Tom and Pat Richardson opened the Nancy Greene Ski school here. The following year, the Campbell government took over the park, added a toboggan run and a new T-bar before going on to cut more trails and acquire vital snow-grooming equipment. To maximize Brookvale’s full potential, neighbouring landowners were asked to volunteer some of their property for cross-country skiing. Every single one agreed. PEI’s first official X-C trail network opened in 1974. Nordic skiers throughout the Maritimes have skied here ever since. In 1994, the Brookvale Nordic Centre opened in time to host the Canada Games. Then, when Brown’s Volkswagen Snow School opened here, Erin Curley was named its director. Every year, about 400 schoolchildren discover the joys of snowsports here. The Paralympic skiing legend Mark Arendz is proud to be among them.

That Indomitable Maritime Spirit

When Mark Arendz was seven, he lost his left arm in a farm accident. Undaunted, he went to work as a junior counsellor for the War Amps Amputees. Armed with his trusty prosthetic, he began competing head-to-head against able-bodied skiers in both Nordic and biathlon events.

Named P.E.I.’s male athlete of the year in 2013 and 2014, Mark was also an 11-time, Canadian Biathlon & Nordic Paralympic medallist, a World Cup Crystal Globe Winner, a Biathlon World Champion and a member of the Order of PEI. And, during the 2018 Paralympic Games in 2018, Mark did something that’s never been matched. He rose to the podium in every event he entered, winning one gold, two silver and three bronze medals. 

Mark Arendz skiing to another gold medal event at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. Photo courtesy of the Canadian Olympic Association.

“For us a community ski area means beginner friendly terrain at an affordable price for families.  We might not be the biggest hill but what we lack in vertical we make up for in passion for winter sports. Having a ski area in the community provides activities for families and employment for the area.” 

– Erin Curley, Acting Superintendent of Ski Operations

Brookvale Today

In 2018, Brookvale was renamed Mark Arendz Provincial Ski Park at Brookvale. Mark still enjoys visiting, skiing and socializing here. His humble attitude and determination are an inspiration to everyone he meets. 

Chris MacDonald, who also grew up skiing and now works here, tries to meet-and-greet every customer one by one. His enthusiasm for the park and all things skiing is as impressive as it is infectious. This is no small feat when you consider 30,000 alpine skiers and snowboarders, 10,000 cross-country and biathlon skiers visit the ski park every year. Oh, and come summer 2,500 mountain bikers ride its trail network.

Some Things Never Change

Since it first opened in 1967, Prince Edward Island’s premier ski park has grown in size and scope and stature. Over the years, more and more alpine, nordic and biathlon trails were opened.  Old lifts and chalets were removed and replaced with newer, bigger and better ones. Yet one thing has resolutely remained the same: Rose Curley’s family is still as passionately involved here as ever. Having graduated from snow school instructor and director, Erin Curley now serves as Acting Superintendent of Ski Operations. In the winter, she oversees the park’s nine alpine trails, three terrain parks, one tubing park, 27 km of groomed X-C trails, 5 km of competitive biathlon trails and 10 km of fatbike and snowshoeing trails. Come summer, she watches over the growing number of cyclists who flock here eager to discover and ride the park’s exhilarating mountain bike trails. 

Team Alberta marches through the closing ceremonies. Photo by Lind Schoenfeldt and courtesy of the Canada Games Council.

The Dream Goes On

Vernon Curley’s lifelong dream was to one day draw skiers from all across Canada to his winter playground and put Prince Edward Island on every skier’s map. Last winter, Vernon’s dream finally came true when PEI hosted the 2023 Canada Winter Games. Naturally, Mark Arendz Provincial Ski Park at Brookvale was one of the featured attractions. In addition to hosting all of the Nordic skiing and biathlon events, Vernon’s otherwise seemingly modest park became the proving ground for Canada’s top snowboarders and alpine ski racers. And every single skiing event was staged at ‘Mighty Brookvale’ except for the moguls and the slalom. Rose Curley, Lloyd Miller, Laurie Coles, Ken Judson, Cleeman MacArthur and Premier Alex Campbell would be justifiably proud. As were the good people of Prince Edward Island. 

If you have any photos, videos or anecdotes that youd like us to add to this story or if you have a story about any other ski area is your province or territory that youd like us to add to this collection, please contact: [email protected] 

Brookvale Provincial Ski Park