Chomedey MNA urges Legault gov’t to help improve snowmaking on Quebec’s ski hills

PLQ tourism critic notes two ski-related fatalities in the Laurentians in January

Chomedey Liberal MNA Sona Lakhoyan Olivier is asking the CAQ government to pay more attention to snow quality at the province’s ski hills, following a relatively snowless winter and two fatal ski accidents in the Laurentians north of Laval in January.

“What’s important is that they do provide good snow,” Lokhoyan Olivier, who is the PLQ official opposition’s spokesperson for tourism issues, said, referring to ski hill operators, in a recent interview with The Laval News.

Ski fatalities in January

A snowmaking “cannon.”

On Jan. 16, a man died after a fall while skiing at Mont Avila in Piedmont, 50 kilometres northwest of Laval in the Laurentians. The incident happened after another one a few days earlier, when a 15-year-old teenager died after falling from a ski lift at a resort in Morin-Heights.

Although the Sûreté du Québec said at the time they were investigating both incidents for possible causes, they dismissed the notion that anything other than accidental factors were at play in either case.

In an exchange with Quebec Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx in the National Assembly in January, Lakhoyan Olivier asked Proulx to shed some light on the Legault government’s current level of support for ski hill operators – including possible assistance to help them upgrade snowmaking machinery (called snow cannons or snow guns in the industry).

Skiing and tourism

“As you know, Quebec’s ski stations are an important player in our tourism industry,” said Lakhoyan Olivier, noting that the province’s skiing industry generates an overall $870 million worth of business annually, while drawing up to 6 million tourists to Quebec.

Pointing out that climate change is changing ski hill conditions and making them potentially more hazardous, Lakhoyan Olivier said hill operators need better quality snow guns in order to remain competitive while continuing to provide adequate service when average temperatures are on the rise because of climate change.

Support for snowmaking

Chomedey Liberal MNA Sona Lakhoyan Olivier, who is the PLQ’s official spokesperson on tourism issues, is urging the Legault government to support ski hill operators with funding for new snowmaking machines, although Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx appeared reluctant to do so in a recent exchange with Lakhoyan Olivier in the National Assembly.

The Quebec Association of Ski Stations has appealed to the provincial government to provide subsidies to help ski hill operators renew their snowmaking equipment. The cost is estimated to be $65 million. It’s worth noting that in neighbouring Vermont, where the ski hill operators compete with those in Quebec, Vermont State officials provided operators with funding for snowmaking equipment renewal in recent years.

After pointing out that the Legault government is aware of the challenges faced by the province’s tourism industry because of the impact of climate change, and that it allotted some funding, Proulx said the government is leaning towards helping hill operators develop a year-around model of tourism, rather than only during the winter.

She said this means developing a strategy to place more emphasis on summertime leisure activities, such as mountain biking. As for the snow cannons, Proulx said the government had previously furnished funding for snow equipment renewal, although she offered no prospects of further assistance for gear replacement.

The Quebec Association of Ski Stations has appealed to the provincial government to provide subsidies to help hill operators renew their snowmaking gear

Towards year-around tourism

“We cannot only invest in snow cannons, we must invest in the diversification of commercial activities on mountains” so that it doesn’t become focused on just on one thing,” said the tourism minister, while adding that the CAQ government hoped to broaden the development of tourism at ski hills so that employment can be provided year-around, rather than just during the winter months as is often now the case.

Despite the tourism minister’s responses, Lakhoyan Olivier insisted to The Laval News that skiing in Quebec remains too important as a sport and leisure activity to be neglected. “Snowmaking machines are at the heart of the industry,” she said. “And the Laurentians are so beautiful, they are like the jewel of Quebec and need to be taken care of.”