New York-based developer has lofty goals for Ski Cape Smokey
'We would like to turn this into one of the major destinations on the Cabot Trail,' says Joseph Balaz
A New York-based developer plans to breathe new life into a Cape Breton ski hill and turn it into a year-round destination.
Part of the plan for Ski Cape Smokey in Ingonish includes the construction of a treetop walkway, which the developer believes will cost upwards of $12 million.
"We would like to turn this into one of the major destinations on the Cabot Trail where people would stop, take the gondola, go up and spend a couple of hours walking around a tree walk," said Joseph Balaz.
The walkway will give visitors an eagle-eye view of the area and Balaz promises it will be both educational and accessible.
The province is selling Ski Cape Smokey to Cape Smokey Holding Ltd. for $370,000.
Over 162 hectares were included in the purchase, as well as the lodge and chairlift. Construction will also include taking down the chairlift and putting up a gondola.
The winter facilities, including the ski lodge, will also require refurbishment.
Balaz said the treetop walkay will become a tourist draw.
The company plans to employ up to 300 people full time and Balaz said there will be spinoff jobs as well.
For over 10 years, the Cape Smokey Society has worked to keep the ski hill open for community use. Their agreement with the province was due to expire next year.
Warden Bruce Morrison expressed his gratitude to the volunteer society, particularly deputy-warden Larry Dauphinee, chair of the society.
"[Dauphinee] was the eternal optimist and I'm very pleased for him today that we were able to move forward with the development of the ski hill," said Morrison.
'They're winners,' says business minister
Business Minister Geoff MacLellan was also at the Thursday announcement and expressed confidence in Balaz and Cape Smokey Holding Ltd.
"There's investment and planning and design that has to happen, but dealing with Joseph [Balaz] here, they're serious about this and they're winners and everything they've done has worked out positively from a book-value perspective," said MacLellan.
The Department of Business has been responsible for paying the power bills for the lodge building, which cost around $20,000 per year, but it will no longer be on the hook for that.
Balaz said the purchase of the ski hill will be finalized within the next few days and they plan to have at least part of the treetop walkway, as well as the gondola, open by 2021.