High hopes: optimism of ski resort operators raised by Cape Smokey gondola

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INGONISH – Things are looking up at both Cape Breton ski slopes.

Ski Ben Eoin and Ski Cape Smokey are now gearing up for the upcoming season and management at both resorts is optimistic about improving business this winter.

The big news on the island’s ski and snowboard front this year is the new gondola at Ski Cape Smokey. For those who haven’t heard, Atlantic Canada’s first gondola opened at the end of August at the all-season resort in the Ingonish region.

Its eight-person carriages take just minutes to whisk passengers to the top station where they enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the Cape Breton Highlands and the cool waters of the Cabot Strait of the Atlantic Ocean.

Destination Cape Smokey CEO Martin Kejval reported this week that the operation’s new snow cannon platoon is now operational and producing snow on the mountain.

With the installation of the new gondola and the snowmaking system, the station has set an opening day for December 26.

“We can’t guarantee we’ll be skiing that day, but we’re shooting for that date – otherwise it will happen a bit later,” said Kejval, a member of a Czech Republic-based consortium that bought the hill in 2019 to the Government of Nova Scotia with the intention of making it an all-season resort.

“We will still open that day even if the hill is not open for skiing and snowboarding. The gondola will operate and there are plenty of other activities.

In fact, Kejval said the success of the operation depends on it becoming a popular all-season resort destination.

“Obviously we focus on our skiers, but we also focus on our non-skiers because after all, for every skier there are a million non-skiers,” he said.

“We want to make sure that people have access to other activities such as snowshoeing and other outdoor activities. We want to become known as more than a ski resort. We want to be a destination that offers a lot of different activities. And this year, we are really promoting snowshoeing. People can ride the gondola to the top and use the trails at the top of the mountain where they can also enjoy the great views.

Kejval also noted that the resort promotes accommodation operators throughout the region.

“We’re a little bit remote, so we have to show the rest of the world, especially people across Nova Scotia, that there is housing here,” Kejval said.

“We want them to know that they can stay here, that they can come and have fun and that we’re not really isolated in the middle of nowhere.”

Ski Cape Smokey is 127 kilometers from Sydney.

This Cape Breton Post archive photograph shows three young people riding the chairlift to the top of the mountain at Ski Ben Eoin. For those who make it to the top, one of the rewards is the view of the East Bay part of Bras d’Or Lake. DAVID JALA • CAPE BRETON POST

SKI BEN EOIN

Unlike its northern neighbor, Ski Ben Eoin is located near a large population and only 27 km from Sydney. The hill, which overlooks the east bay of Bras d’Or Lake, has long been a popular destination for school groups, a director of demographic operations, Darcy MacDonald, would like to see a comeback after last winter’s COVID restrictions.

He said another draw for those interested in snowboarding is the hill’s new line of gear.

“We’ve just upgraded our full line of rental snowboards with boards, boots and bindings so it’s exciting for riders and anyone looking to try it out,” said MacDonald.

“We also had a lot of people who came to pick up gear at our annual ski swap we had at the end of November and that’s a great indicator of what the season will be like for us.”

MacDonald said Ski Ben Eoin will once again offer night skiing, a snow park, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and tubing.

“We would love to open between Christmas and New Years – we just need Mother Nature to cooperate and bring us continuous cold temperatures to help our snowmaking,” he said.

CONTINENTAL HILLS

Nova Scotia’s other two ski resorts, both on the mainland, are also gearing up for a good season. Like their Cape Breton counterparts, Ski Martock and Ski Wentworth have their snow cannons ready for the low temperatures that will allow snowmaking.

Guests of the Wentworth Valley seaside resort will have a new quad chairlift to wait for next season. The hill announced in November that a new Doppelmayr fixed-grip quadruple chairlift will be installed in time for the 2022-2023 season. The new lift will work with another quad chairlift (built in 1987) and a T-bar dating from the late 1950s. The new lift will double the capacity of the hill.

There is also good news from Martock Ski Resort in Windsor. The busiest resort in the province, and the one located closest to the large Halifax area population, averted a potential crisis after being granted permission to continue drawing water from the Avon River near. Earlier this year, the hill was unable to draw fresh water as river levels fell after the gates of the river causeway were opened more frequently to reduce obstacles to the river. migratory fish. The problem was resolved with the approval of the watercourse modifications that will allow the hill to acquire the water it needs for its snowmaking operation.

MOTHER NATURE

Ultimately, the weather will once again dictate the success of the upcoming outdoor recreation season.

According to SaltWire weather specialist Allister Aalders, forecast models suggest temperatures in the last two weeks of December could be near or below seasonal averages.

“It is possible that blocking high pressure systems, one near Greenland and one near Alaska, would force arctic air south and east over much of the country towards Atlantic Canada,” Aalders said. .

“It is likely that the coming winter will be warmer than normal, not to say that there will be no cold periods, but it is more likely that on average we will be above the season when we combine the winter months. Precipitation should be near normal or even higher than normal, but the position of the jet stream will be critical in determining whether we are dealing with more snow than normal or these are mixed weather events.

It is generally accepted that snow cannons are turned off when the temperature reaches around -2 C. Of course, snow conditions improve with cooler and drier air.

David Jala is an economics reporter for the Cape Breton Post.

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