Red Deer’s Canyon Ski Area sold to local investors

Canyon Ski Area appears to have been sold.

Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff

Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff

By PAUL COWLEY

Advocate staff

It looks like Canyon Ski Area has been saved.

A local family has come forward with an offer to buy the popular recreation area and run it as a ski resort, long-time co-owner Lorraine Martinek said Wednesday.

She declined to name the buyers at their request and terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Martinek is confident Canyon will be in good hands. “They’ve got a lot of energy and they’re enthused to be able to keep it as a winter resort, which is fantastic, because that is one of the criteria we were working toward so Central Alberta wouldn’t lose this great ski and snowboard facility.

“They plan on running it very similar to what we have.”

The new owners already have some ideas for the off-season, which is the natural next step for the ski area, she said.

“I think they’ll be successful there. They’re realistic and excited and enthused and young. Those things all help,” she added with a chuckle.

The deal, which will be finalized in early June, ends nearly two years of uncertainty over the fate of Canyon. The City of Red Deer and Red Deer County announced a conditional offer to purchase last April and a three-month deadline set to review various conditions. But the deadline passed and a sell agreement appeared elusive. At one point, the property had been listed for sale at just over $3 million.

Red Deer County Mayor Earl Kinsella greeted news of the pending sale with enthusiasm.

“I think that’s great. It’s really good for the community to have that ski hill.”

Buying the recreation area was always a second-best option from the municipality’s standpoint because of the potential financial risk to ratepayers and the difficulty in running a complicated seasonal operation.

“We don’t know anything about running a ski hill, for starters. It’s a whole new ball game. It would be a huge challenge and we’re not looking for new challenges.”

City of Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling echoed the preference for a private buyer. Jointly owning a ski hill would have been a challenge for the two municipalities.

“It’s just a very cumbersome thing to work through. The whole concept of buying a ski hill and trying to find some way to operate it was pretty complex.”

Keeping the hill in the hands of a local family is an added benefit. “That’s a bonus because a local family understands the local situation.”

For the Martineks, the sale will mark the end of a four-decade-old family business. Karl began operating the ski area in 1968 and Lorraine started helping out two years later. The two had been fixtures at the hill, also owned by four other local people, ever since.

Their oldest daughter Sonia Hand eventually joined the family business and is Canyon’s general manager.

Martinek was pleased the future now seems secure.

“We’re quite happy. We’re finishing out great spring skiing here and looking forward to moving on.”

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com