June 4, 2014
2014 and beyond: what's in store?

After 15 years of exuberant growth, the recession-induced calm of the past six years in Mont-Tremblant has left many people in the region wondering what the future holds. Since the suspension of construction of Tremblant resort’s Versant Soleil, economic growth has been flat. Real estate development and sales, a major barometer of economic activity, have been slow. Tremblant maintains that business at the resort has been comparatively satisfactory through the economic downturn. The resort still brings 2 to 2.2 million visits yearly. Still, business owners on the resort site as well as those in Mont-Tremblant’s Centre-town and Old Village districts have had lean years and would like to see more action. So, what’s in store for 2014 and beyond?

Fortress Investment Group is taking Intrawest, Tremblant resort’s parent company, to the New York Stock Exchange to raise investment capital. Intrawest’s draft filing for an initial public offering emphasizes a desire to acquire resorts at depressed prices and no “specific plans for the development of our core entitled land”. Intrawest is “focused on developing strategies for future development of this land…as the economy continues to improve.” Resumption of the Versant Soleil village development, in other words, may have to wait. Recent capital spending at the resort has been limited to the opening of the new Algonquin trail, clearing work on backcountry trails, renovations at the Westin Hotel, additional snowmaking guns on the mountain and a new activity, zip-lines from the mountain summit to the south side base, opening in June. The zip-line is one more activity among a remarkable myriad at the resort that continue to draw visitors.

The Town has taken the initiative, with the introduction of new events and projects, to diversify the tourist industry and the economy as a whole. The foremost is unquestionably the Ironman triathlon races that have already brought thousands of participants, their families and friends to Mont-Tremblant from around the world. This summer, four Ironman events – the 5150 and the 70.3 in June, the full Ironman North American Championship in August and the 70.3 World Championship in September – will bring tens of thousands of people. Monetary injections into the economy through the spring and summer could exceed $60M. The Ironman is also the main impetus behind Mont-Tremblant’s decision to build an Olympic pool complex, an investment of $16M to $19M. Construction will begin this spring.

Mont-Tremblant is also embarked on a tourism strategy designed to enhance and more actively promote its major assets, particularly the Centre-town and the Old Village. The most substantial projects in the master plan are the construction of a Centre-town public plaza and sweeping renovations to clear and open the approach to the beach area on Lac Mercier in the Old Village. That project eventually may include the construction of condos and individual homes in the Old Village though the specifics are yet to be made known. Construction of the Centre-town plaza, according to Mayor Brisebois, is to begin at year end or beginning of 2015. For the necessary expropriations, $780,000 has been budgeted. Concerning the Old Village project, the Town is preparing calls for proposals which should be made public in April or May. Several entrepreneurs are said to be interested. Total investments required for both projects are not yet known but it’s clear that considerable sums will be required, both public and private. Éric Lefebvre, head of the Lefebvre master plan report, says town council has little choice but to follow through if the region is to keep up with the worldwide tourism competition and sustain economic vitality. Meanwhile, other real estate ventures are now emerging. The Town’s Urban Planning Department is processing several substantial residential projects, indicating a resumption of real estate construction activity.

Mont-Tremblant is exploring other avenues to diversify the economy, mainly the establishment of an industrial park near Highway 117. Town council has created a committee to look into the possibilities of attracting tourism-related enterprises, for example, manufacturing snowboards, snow sports equipment and furniture. The Chamber of Commerce, working with the Town, is planning a program to search for investors. Its president, Dominique Laverdure, likes high-tech enterprises which, she believes, are entirely pertinent for the region. This is a long-term project, of course, continuing well beyond 2014.

Written be André Courey

Published the 2014-01-28

Source: Tremblant Express June 2014

credit photo: Jacques Cloutier — IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant 2013

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