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Ingonish residents say plans for Ski Cape Smokey revamp look promising

Ski Cape Smokey is going to be revamped, redeveloped and revitalized into a four-season resort with a tree walk, gondola and public access trails is what the new owners have told residents of Ingonish who attended a meeting they held in April. The three-year-plan has residents eager and hopeful it will bring more tourism to the area, as well as jobs.
Ski Cape Smokey is going to be revamped, redeveloped and revitalized into a four-season resort with a tree walk, gondola and public access trails is what the new owners have told residents of Ingonish who attended a meeting they held in April. The three-year-plan has residents eager and hopeful it will bring more tourism to the area, as well as jobs. - Nikki Sullivan

'It has to be a four-season thing'

INGONISH, N.S. —

Gordon MacLeod remembers what opening Ski Cape Smokey in 1970s did for Ingonish.

Business owners, ski lovers and families would travel once or twice a week to Ingonish to enjoy the slopes. At that time, shops were closed on Wednesdays and their owners would come to Ingonish to ski.

"It was quite a thing to see the change in North of Smokey (after the ski hill opened)," said MacLeod, who worked as hill operator for a few years in the late 1970s.

"All the children started to ski, then the school program started, then all the parents started to ski. It was so busy, it was amazing."

The former lobster fisherman crossed his fingers when asked his thoughts on plans for the redevelopment of the ski hill by the new owners, Cape Smokey Holding Ltd., who bought the property as is from the province in April for $370,000. He is hopeful everything will go ahead with the company's revamping plans.

"This new proposal, I hope it goes the whole way, they do the whole thing. That tree walk they're talking about at the top and the gondola — imagine if they built those ... Up on top (looking down at the ocean), that's a pretty impressive sight," he said.

MacLeod also thinks the group, under president Joseph Balaz, has good ideas to help keep Ski Cape Smokey open year-round and to attract tour buses.

"I think it has to be a four-season thing if it's going to work," he said.

Coastal Restaurant co-owner Jason Leblanc said "news of the ski hill was very welcomed" in the area.

"We think it is a great idea and their plans, from what I've heard so far, are well thought out and exciting," he said. "We think it will be a huge draw to the area and much needed. To see an outside company want to invest in this area is exciting. As a community, we need to embrace this and grow with it."

However, as a restaurant owner in the area, LeBlanc knows first-hand the struggles of finding staff.

"Some issues will be staff housing and workers. We already hurt in the area for staffing so if bringing in workers, which is a must to Ingonish, as a community we have to think about what opportunities there are with housing, transportation, meals etc,." LeBlanc said.

"Certainly more meetings are needed to continue the conversation or where we are now and where we want to be as business owners and as a community in the coming years."

Rachael Rasmussen has worked customer service at the Bean Barn Cafe for seven years and thinks the opportunity for year-round employment at the new ski hill would be good for the community.

A seasonal worker herself, Rasmussen isn't returning to the cafe next year because she's moving to Grand Prairie, Alta., for year-round employment as a rock truck driver.

"I think if the ski hill is up and running, it would be fantastic for the people around here to have full-time (year-round) employment... It will be great for the younger generation, to keep them in the area too," she said.

"I just can't wait for their three-year plan (to be completed for full-time work)."

MacLeod likes the new owners' plans to open a craft brewery at the location. He also hopes they keep the name Ski Cape Smokey and bring back the slogan "Ski by the Sea."

"It's unique. How many places can you ski with an ocean view?" he asked. "And if they looking for a name (for the beer) why not Ski By The Sea Ale?"

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