Fortress Mountain water could be sold infused with cannabis

Fortress Mountain wants to sell 50 million litres of water per year to a Calgary-based company that aims to, among other things, bottle it infused with cannabis. 

Would-be ski hill says deal to sell 50 million litres a year will help fund operations

This satellite image shows Fortress Mountain ski resort, which is in Spray Lakes Provincial Park in Kananaskis Country, west of Calgary. (Google Maps)

Fortress Mountain wants to sell 50 million litres of water per year to a Calgary-based company that aims to, among other things, bottle it infused with cannabis, according to documents obtained by CBC News. 

The controversial move to sell a portion of its water lease was pushed by the would-be ski hill as a means to help finance its launch and operations. 

Fortress was shuttered as a ski hill in 2004 and the new owners have been trying to reopen since 2010. Agreements in place mean it must open by December 2020. 

The 50 million litres is approximately half of the water the mountain resort is allowed to draw from a creek for its drinking water licence. However, the ownership stresses in submissions to the provincial government that it needs significantly less for its operations. 

Fortress estimates it will require approximately 1.75 million litres of potable water in its first season for operations. 

Cannabis-infused water

In emails with Alberta Environment and Parks staff, the company consistently stressed that time was of the essence in approving the water licence amendment so that it could finalize a deal that would contribute significant financing to Fortress. 

The resort also provided a signed memorandum of understanding with CRX Health Inc. — now called Emprise Inc. — which says it will bottle it to sell as "natural water, water-based products or cannabis-infused water products."

CRX was described in the memorandum as a company that makes "consumer products using active ingredients derived from cannabis and/or hemp."

The operation will see an average of nine trucks per day hauling water to a facility in either Calgary or Olds. 

It's not clear whether a final contract has been signed between the two companies. 

Thomas Heath with Fortress Mountain declined an interview request and said the company would "not discuss confidential customer information with anyone, including the media."

In an email to CBC News, Heath attached a fact sheet on the proposal to sell the water. The fact sheet says the resort is "developing partnerships and are in discussions with breweries, distilleries and makers of health beverages," and that it intends to find a buyer that will not sell its product in single-use plastic bottles. 

Plan faces opposition

The deal is opposed by the Alberta Wilderness Association, which worries about the precedent of selling water upstream of Calgary and the challenges that would bring for government management of the water supply. 

Fortress said in its application for the licence change that it would restrict shipments in the case of low water flow and that shipment sizes will vary based on seasonal flows. 

The government received 246 "statements of concern" regarding the plan, ranging from increased traffic and emissions to impact on wildlife and the loss of water as climate change threatens the region's glaciers. 

Alberta Environment found none of the complaints to be valid because none of the people who submitted them would be directly affected. 

There were also 13 letters submitted in support of the project.