Bid made on Canyon ski hill

Canyon Ski and Recreation Area’s survival looks more secure after the City of Red Deer and Red Deer County announced they have made a conditional offer to purchase the popular slopes.

Canyon Ski and Recreation Area’s survival looks more secure after the City of Red Deer and Red Deer County announced they have made a conditional offer to purchase the popular slopes.

The surprise announcement was made on Monday afternoon. A 90-day period has been set aside to review various conditions, including environmental, engineering, and occupational health and safety inspections.

The purchase price will not be disclosed during that period, but the 240-acre property was earlier listed for sale at $3.1 million.

The fate of the well-used ski area has been uncertain since March 2008, when it was put up for sale by Karl and Lorraine Martinek, who have operated it for decades on behalf of fellow shareholders.

Local skiers and snowboarders feared the facility, considered one of the best ski areas outside the Rockies, could be sold to developers and turned into high-end housing. The municipalities made it clear their intention is to preserve the ski area.

“In preparation of this offer, the two municipalities worked with the current owner with the expressed interest to ensure operations of the ski hill are continued and further capitalize on the multi-purpose area, providing enhanced all-seasons recreational and educational activities to Central Albertans,” says the city and county release.

If conditions are met, a recommendation to purchase will go before both municipal councils for a vote. A special joint meeting will be held to clinch the deal.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling said he’s “been dying” to tell the community but had to wait until negotiations were over.

“I think that’s what the community was really anxious to know — is it going to be a ski hill or are we going to lose it to housing development?,” Flewwelling said. “I’ve heard all sorts of fears all through this time.”

The last thing the city should be doing is buying another asset, but civic leaders felt this was worth the cost, Flewwelling added.

Flewwelling said the present owners had offered some year-round activities at the hill, but the city believes even more can be promoted to expand its use.

“I think there’s a lot of mountain biking that could be done and I can think of people coming from all over (for that),” he said.

The Martineks were vacationing in the southern U.S. with their family on Monday and not available for comment, said their Red Deer lawyer Christopher Warren, who spoke on their behalf.

Warren said the Martineks have always wanted to see the ski area preserved for local enthusiasts.

“That has definitely been one of their major concerns, that it will continue to be available for the people of Central Alberta.”

Warren said the two municipalities contacted him in February to discuss purchasing the property overlooking the Red Deer River just east of the city. Others had also been looking at the property’s potential.

“There’s been a number of offers and expressions of interest. This was certainly a strong offer.”

The Martineks have been part of the ski hill’s history for decades. The couple met there as co-workers in 1970 and married later that year. Over the years, the pair gradually took on a larger role and are now among a group of about eight shareholders who own the facility. After facing a serious illness, the couple decided last year it was time to retire.

Canyon is Alberta’s largest non-mountain ski area. It boasts 168 metres of vertical, 13 runs and five lifts. In the summer, day camps are offered at the site.

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