The end of a slippery trail
Potton’s mayor Jacques Marcoux’s remarks to La Tribune yesterday were a breath of fresh air on the never ending Orford resort saga. He states quite categorically that the mayors of the MRC have nothing to do with running a ski or golf resort and that, while it was a good idea to give a chance to the project, it may be time to pull the plug on the whole concept of government ownership of Orford.
This has been this newspaper’s position from day one; we won’t change course now.
Mr. Marcoux is also stuck with the harsh reality that, while his municipality is forking over time and money for Orford, it is hurting his own tax base in Owl’s Head, owned by Fred Korman.
Mr. Korman knows a thing or two about ski resorts, even Orford where he was a junior partner in the private venture that operated it for a couple of years. He is also an astute businessman who owns a resort that is not easy to operate. Orford (and most ski resorts in the greater Montreal market) is easily accessible from the highway. Not so is Owl’s Head or, for that matter, the mountain in Sutton, neither having the luxury of a bailout Quebec style.
We would not be so categorical if not for a recent article on the Chic Chocs in the Gaspé. There we are talking about ‘remote’ skiing not seen in the world for ages. The Quebec government, through Sépaq, the same outfit now responsible for Orford, has spent considerable money to open a luxury lodge and promote the region. Let’s admit that a lot of government subsidies have gone to worse places. Now, ski enthusiasts are flocking to the Chic Chocs and the private sector is ready to profit from it, asking Quebec to open the gorgeous mountains up for some development. Sépaq’s answer is a definite no, this time pretending that the Quebec area ski hills, a couple of hundred kilometers away, would suffer from more competition! Don’t we love these bureaucrats?
The fact is that, as is, Orford is doomed. Too far from Montreal by half an hour, Bromont offers a lot more than our local hills and, on the North Shore, ski hills are only half an hour away and then continue for hours up to Mont Tremblant.
Let’s forget about the climate change for a while. That was the “for a while moment”. Now a reality check: Meteorologists seem to agree that we will get less snow over the next couple of years, with more blizzards. A lot of snow falling within a couple of days will make transport almost impossible to a ski hill that would be full of snow. And there will be fewer and fewer cold nights when we can produce artificial snow.
Now, we remember with absolute delight the surrealistic press conference of then Environment Minister and now victim, Line Beauchamp, when this newspaper, refusing to participate in the love fest, asked about the delicate water problem at Orford. Simply put, anybody who knows the situation well will tell you there is not enough water to snow the trails. And if, at some time, the promoters of Jay Peak gets this funny idea of asking why they must go through a thorough environmental review every time they dig a hole or cut down a tree and that a directly subsidised hill just across the border doesn’t, it will not be a fight that Quebec will win.
Now that a major player, Mr. Marcoux, has called for a halt to the folly of spending more tax payers money on this, let’s call a bid for the real estate agent who will dispose of the mountain. And let’s not play the blame game on this. It was an honest try by all involved; it simply could not beat some hard economic facts.