Snowboarding, tubing, even a revitalized family tobogganing run: the former Anne Heggtveit ski hill is going to be a happening place this winter, if Rosenthal resident Mark Denault's four-year dream comes true. He faces a cautious welcome from neighbours whose main concern is the shrinking opportunity for low-cost family activities.
His initial inspiration was family, says Denault. “I skied here as a kid, but then when I wanted to take my nephew skiing I found out that there were no buses running to the ski hills any more and that Carlington Park was gone.” Denault, who operates Hog's Back Marina, was looking for a winter business and this seemed like a natural.
Negotiations with recreation staff at the City of Ottawa have taken more than three years. Staff were wary of a commercial deal after a proposed water park was shot down by community opposition. Then they went to tender to let other potential operators bid.
Denault won the contract, however, and signed in August. Long before then, he had also switched the concept to a snowboarding park. “The more I thought about it, from a skier's point of view it's just a little bump in the city and all the kids are snowboarding. It's an Olympic sport now and it's the cool thing to do.”
Snowboarders will thrill to “half-pipes and quarter-pipes, gap jumps, spines and tabletops,” says Denault. To add family appeal, there will be tubing on the west side of the hill. As at a waterslide, staff control take-off for each tube down the fast, medium and slow lanes which slalom down the hill.
One of the key conditions for the City was that the Carlington Snowpark must create a free toboggan run down the east side of the hill facing Lepage, the area known to residents as “the four lanes” or Devil's Hole. “It used to be a good hill but it's grown in a lot and it's kind of bumpy,” says City recreation planner Grant Peart. “Restoring it is part of the deal.”
Denault's heart is obviously with the youth he hopes to attract to the park. He's used to having kids help out at the marina. “They want respect and something to do: they'll get it. I'll be keeping kids busy in the fresh air, expressing themselves and maybe living for a dream of getting good enough to go for the Olympics.”
Prices will be ‘affordable,' he says, starting at $12 for a half-day pass or $6 for an hour of tubing and running up to $24 for a full day on the weekend. Season's passes start at $199. Youth can pick up a kit to sell passes at their school: if they sell ten passes, their own will be free.
OC Transpo route 14 goes almost to the door. Parking will be available at the Dulude arena and on the weekends at the Regional yards at the end of Clyde.
The hill will be open weeknights from 4 - 10 pm, Saturdays 8:30 am - 10:30 pm and Sundays from 8 - 4:30. Too bad for those of you nostalgic for Mike Nesmith songs blaring from speakers on the lift pylons: as a concession to modern sensitivities, there will be no outdoor music.
Denault is hiring now: lift attendants, canteen workers, retail and repair shop help, even instructors are needed. In addition, experienced snowboarders who volunteer to supervise the hill through the Canadian Ski Patrol Association will get free passes and free training, including first aid certification.
The ‘Shredquarters' trailer, which will sell, rent and repair snowboards and accessories, will sit on the baseball diamond area. The outfield fence will be removed to lengthen the run of the hill.
As part of the deal, Denault has taken over the Dulude Arena canteen, donating some of the proceeds to the West End Hockey League whose parent volunteers used to run the canteen.
“The city will be making money off this hill, there will be supervision, lights, and insurance. It's going to be a lot safer,” says Denault.
Families will have plenty of wintertime options within a short distance: the indoor arena, snowboarding and tubing on the main hill, free tobogganing on the east and free outdoor skating at Raven Park. Ironically, skiing will not be an option: the boarders' pipes and groomed tubing runs don't mix with regular downhill skis.
Although he has a mountain of work left to get ready for the season, installing a trailer, two portable lifts and grooming the hill, Denault is excited. “I can't wait for the snow to start falling,” he admits. “It's the community's park and I want it to be there for them.”
You can reach the Carlington Snowpark at 729-9206.
Mixed reactions to snowpark
Neighbours are disappointed there will be no free sliding area on the main hill, and dubious about the lift prices. Some definitely plan to use the new facilities and all are willing to give Denault time to show what he can do.
“He must be in a better income bracket than us if he thinks $12 is affordable,” comments Chatelain resident Dorothy Stoiber, a grandmother and former Carlington Community Association director. “I thought he'd only have half the hill, that was the idea when it was brought up last fall. What's going to happen to the kids that can't afford to pay?”
Stoiber says “I don't mind the idea as long as people don't have to pay. And they have to remove the fence [at the top of the Lepage hill]. I've been living here for thirty years and children always had access to a place where they didn't have to put money out. We pay enough taxes already without paying twice to use City land.”
Removing the fence would be up to the Regional government. Residents with an opinion should call their Councillor, Wendy Stewart, at 560-1223.
Raven Ave. resident Milan Egrmajer is sceptical. “Do we, the public, want to give up our toboggan hill to a private enterprise? Was there an opportunity for public input and discussion? Not to my knowledge.” Although CCA President Mark Lavinskas showed Egrmajer and other interested residents a draft of the City's request for proposals to operate the ski tow in March, Egrmajer had been expecting a more public round of comments on all commercial proposals before one was chosen. “This was not the concept proposed in the draft,” he says.
“The main concern was provision to allow space on the hill for free public use and parking areas other than on neighbourhood side streets.” Now he has some questions, to which he believes City staff owe him some answers:
“Where do I and other rink users park to access the J. Alph Dulude arena to which we have to haul a large bag of hockey equipment?”
“Why was the worst and most dangerous portion of the hill with its cross traffic (two slopes at right angles to each other) designated for free public use.”
“Where will the local snowboarders, tubers and sliders, who don't have the financial resources, go?”
This is the sticking point for Egrmajer. “I remember the city making snow on the hill and the ski tow operation, but I also remember tobogganing and tubing on the premium slope, in off hours, at no charge. I believe that the neighbourhood cannot afford the proposed fees ($24/day) for using the facility that they have been using for free over the previous years. I can't. A neighbourhood asset is being taken from the less fortunate and passed to the more fortunate.”
Audrey Sauvé of Chatelain was surprised to hear about the snowpark. She witnessed at least one serious accident at the previous ski hill. “Is that really a long enough hill for them to be snowboarding safely?” she asks. “We might try the tubing with our grandchildren depending on the facilities and whether it feels safe.”
Daughter Stephanie Sauvé wonders if the hill can be thrilling enough. “It would be useful for the kids who are just starting, a good place to practice your balance. It's hard to see how it would be exciting for snowboarders with experience.”
“I think it's a good idea,” she added. “It's a question whether anyone would be willing to pay $200 for the season. In this area, I can see people using it after hours...”
Think snow: Carlington Snowpark operator Mark Denault wants to make this the best winter ever for local snowboarders. Watch for two new lifts, one for snowboarding and one for tubing, as well as groomed runs for each sport. Carlingwood Shopping Centre will provide the first load of base snow.