A gondola cabin has plummeted to the ground in the Canadian resort of Mont-Sainte-Anne. The shocking incident occurred on December 10, 2022, in the early morning, before the resort was open to the public. Therefore the cabin thankfully had no passengers on board, and no one was injured on the ground. According to La Presse Canada, it is the first time a ski lift has just come off its cable to hit the ground in Canada.
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The resort opened for the 22/23 season on Saturday, November 26, 2022, but has been shut down until further notice by the Quebec government. However, the Oie Blanche (White Goose) and La Première Glisse Slopes (First Slide), both beginner slopes that use magic carpets, remain open, and the resort’s 57km long cross-country trails. As recently as December 16, 2022, the resort was host to the FIS cross-country 20km race.
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The resort Mont-Saint-Anne is located in the municipality of Beaupré, Quebec, about 25 miles (40km) from Quebec City and only 3 hours from Montréal. It is renowned for its exceptional snow conditions, with an average annual snowfall of 208 inches. The resort has 71 trails across 2,635ft of elevation, serviced by nine lifts, including the gondola. There are several fun parks and a boarder/skier cross course for freestyle skiers and boarders.
Alberta-based Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, or RCR, manage the resort. RCR also manages the resorts of Fernie Alpine Resort, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Kimberley Alpine Resort, Nakiska Ski Area, and Stoneham Mountain Resort. Stakeholders are denouncing the resort operator for negligence.
The Canadian Premier for Quebec, François Legault, described the event as “frightening,” pointing fingers at the operator RCR. This prompted a local Mont-Sainte-Anne ski instructor, Viviane Drolet, to call out the Canadian Premier for his failings in an opinion piece entitled “Would you entrust me with your grandchildren?” Drolet highlights that the ski lifts at Mont-Sainte-Anne are old and prone to break-downs and lays the failure to oversee the operator RCR squarely with the Quebecoise government.
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RCR acquired the resort in 1994 from the government when it was privatized on a 99-year lease. No minimum investment conditions were stipulated when the resort’s lease was divested. The lease currently runs until 2093, and, according to critics, RCR has not made any significant investments in the resort in the last 20 years.
RCR has now asked the government for a CAD 50 million (roughly USD 37 million) grant to update its ski infrastructure. RCR would also invest another CAD 50 million, taking the total investment to CAD 100 million (or USD 74 million). The public, however, is outraged at the audacity of the resort operator to ask for a grant in light of the alleged decades-long mismanagement of the Quebec resort.
Groupe Le Massif Inc manages Le Massif de Charlevoix Resort, which opened the first Club Med ski resort in North America in 2021 and is only about 35 miles further down the same valley. Groupe Le Massif Inc had offered to buy the struggling resort in October this year, but RCR rejected the offer. However, the Quebecois government could potentially be in a position to force such a sale. Premier François Legault has been reported as saying, ”The operator has not shown in recent years that it can manage properly,” which may open the door to a forced divestiture.
The event is the latest in several incidents and issues at the resort, including defective lifts, snowmaking failures, and neglected chalets. It is the third major incident at the resort in the last four years. In 2020 several people were injured on board the Mont-Sainte-Anne gondola when a cabin abruptly stopped, causing the glass to smash and people inside to be flung around the cabin. A safety certificate must be issued before the Quebec government can allow operations again.
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Public concern and vocal criticism have been growing over the years, and the Quebec government temporarily started legal proceedings to regain ownership of the land around Mont-Sainte-Anne in 2021. Unfortunately, the temporary closure will hurt local skiers the most, so one can only hope a resolution can be found soon. One can only hope the government and the resort manager see this incident as a much-needed wake-up call and take dramatic steps before people come to serious harm.
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