Fortress Mountain ski hill reboot planned by group of investors
Group running cat-skiing on Kananaskis slopes hopes to rebuild resort closed since 2006
Fortress Mountain in Alberta's Kananaskis Country could soon be open for business again.
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The little ski hill south west of Calgary on Highway 40 was closed in 2006 because of an unsafe bridge and the province cancelled its lease agreement with the operator in 2007, citing various concerns.
Now Fortress Mountain Resort — which leases the site and has run a cat-skiing business there for five years — hopes to reopen the resort and entice skiers with a short drive to the slopes.
"Over half the skiers in Alberta actually ski elsewhere, other than Alberta," said Thomas Heath, the managing director of Fortress Mountain Resort.
Group president Chris Chevalier also believes the hill's location will be a big selling point.
"When you leave the west edge of Calgary, you're literally at our road at the river in just over an hour," Chevalier said.
Joe Pavelka, an ecotourism expert at Mount Royal University in Calgary, says the location could also pose some challenges.
"I think today, and certainly [with] ski tourism, you know, you have to have a lot of amenities," he said.
The group wants to build new lifts and a lodge at first, with accommodations and more access to back-country skiing to be added later.
Heath says the hill's past troubled history does not concern him.
"The perception is it's not a strong performer financially, but the reality is it's not bad at all," he said. "And if it's done correctly, and we've got the right emphasis on guest experience, things change quickly."
The Fortress group hopes the provincial government will make a decision on its development application by February.
If the plan is approved, the group would like to open the new resort by December 2017.