Ski club members want Canyon to remain open

The potential loss of Central Alberta’s largest ski hill would be deeply felt by recreational users, athletes and the community at large, say representatives.

The potential loss of Central Alberta’s largest ski hill would be deeply felt by recreational users, athletes and the community at large, say representatives.

Rochelle Oakes, alpine chair of the Red Deer Ski Club, said on Wednesday that Canyon Ski Area has become a great venue for alpine training and racing because of its terrain, conditions and its location.

“The current owners have provided our club with many years of great service and we look forward to that continuing with whoever (takes over),” said Oakes, whose club has 54 athletes. “We need to have an area here so we can compete in provincial races.”

The hill has also become popular with snowboarders and the Central Alberta Freestyle Ski Club.

Oakes said the club remains hopeful that Canyon will remain open.

“We’re confident that the members of the community, whether it be private investors or through the city and county, that they will realize the important of the Canyon ski hill,” said Oakes.

On Tuesday, Canyon operator Lorraine Martinek announced the 42nd season, which will end in late March or early April, would be the last one for her and her family.

The hill was put up for sale in March 2008 and one year later, the City of Red Deer and Red Deer County had made a conditional offer to buy the 240-acre property 10 minutes east of Red Deer. In September, the municipalities told the operators that more time was needed to pull an offer together.

Martinek said there is no offer at present and that the hill would permanently close at the end of the 2009-2010 season if a new operator/owner isn’t found.

City and county officials say they are still working on a deal.

Tourism Red Deer executive-director Darren Kuz described Canyon as an important winter attraction.

“People come from all over Alberta to ski it and it’s an important part of local residents’ lives,” said Kuz. “When I was in junior high, I learned to ski there.”

Dom Mancuso, president of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, said Canyon has become a selling point for families who are considering moving here.

“If they see that the ski hill is part in parcel of what the community can offer, that’s a big plus,” said Mancuso. “That’s the shame — we need the ski hill here.”

Red Deer’s hill is affordable too for many area residents, compared with having to drive to the mountains to ski.

Mancuso said he’s convinced that the city and the county are continuing to find a solution for keeping the hill open.

It first opened in 1968 and has since become Alberta’s largest non-mountain ski hill.

“I am hoping that a private developer or a citizen who has a passion for skiing will take it over,” Mancuso said. “There’s an opportunity there.”

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