The end of a slip­pery trail

Stanstead Journal - - NEWS -

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.

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