Original Published on Jun 29, 2022 at 14:19

By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — When Daniel Kardas advertised on a government website that he wanted to hire a goat herder to maintain goats on his ski hill, he didn’t expect the response he received.

“I guess people around the whole country thinks it’s hilarious,” he said. I just put it on the government site and someone at CBC got a hold of me, then Global News and then The National. My phone’s going off the hook.”

Kardas, who has skied on the Canadian ski jumping team for years in many parts of the world, trained with his father and coach, Slavomir, who was born in Zakopane, Poland. Along with their business, The Ski and Board Exchange, Kardas and his brothers Jason and Kristof purchased Mount Baldy Ski hill.

“No matter where we trained, there was always a goat or a cow on the country mountains,” he said. “Now I have a ski hill, I thought, ‘why am I paying all these guys to cut this grass that costs me so much money when I can just have goats?’”

Kardas decided to try out his theory for two seasons with the use of goats from Fred Hortis’s Giantview Farm. The plan worked well and Kardas began purchasing his own goats.

“I guess you could say Freddy (Hortis) became my mentor,” he said. 

“I learned how to take care of (goats) and during those first few seasons, I decided, ‘this isn’t so bad. I enjoy this and it’s fun.’”

Today, Kardas has more than 33 goats, most of which he has befriended and named.

“Basically, I’m the goat master or goat herder or even the shepherd,” he laughed. “They all listen to me and when I walk around the yard they all come around me.”

Kardas says Hortis taught him everything he needed to know about caring for goats which influenced him to purchase his own. And goats multiply. Every couple of weeks he gets another goat with four babies born over the winter.

A portable shelter is easily moved around the mountain along with almost 1,000 square feet of solar-powered electric fencing to keep the goats safe from predators while allowing free range of the hills.

“The perimeter (encasing the goats) is huge and we just keep moving those squares up the mountain,” he said.

When Kardas isn’t maintaining ski lift equipment and preparing the hill for the next ski season, he is spending time with his new friends. The goats are fed rationed grains and corn to supplement their diet to keep them healthy.

Kardas has also built an insulated and heated barn that has access inside and out for the goats to shelter in over the winter months.

“They’re pretty hardy. They’re pretty strong and pretty amazing,” he said, adding that this was the first winter with his own goats. 

“I did ask a lot of farmers, ‘Hey, can I pay you to take my goats?’ and when I told them how many I had, they said, ‘No, thank you.’”

He said his first winter went well, all things considered. Babies were born in February, which is a busy time of the season for the ski hill. Kardas says things became extremely busy keeping the new goats warm and comfortable in the cold winter temperatures. Ideally, he says goats should be born in the spring and have the summer to strengthen to make them hardy for the winter.

“We ended up having a maternity ward in the barn,” he said. “We had all kinds of little stalls and baby goats. They’re super cool.”

Meanwhile, the goats are definitely earning their keep. They have become a huge hit for visitors to the hill where Kardas hosts weddings and other events through the warmer months. They knock down and destroy all of the shrubs and thicker brush that overgrows on the edges of the hills which is rejuvenated by fresh, fluorescent green growth that returns from their droppings.

“It’s fertilizing the whole mountain so now I’m getting a lot better grass for them to (eat) and if we have to cut it, it will be easier than before,” said Kardas, as he loaded his truck with pieces of poplar trees that appear to be a favourite meal for the goats.

“They will take a poplar tree down just like a beaver which is hilarious,” he said. “Who needs a ski hill when you have goats?”

This item reprinted with permission from The Chronicle-Journal, Thunder Bay, Ontario