When the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) announced their plans for Wabush 3, the new pit, many people had concerns about the future of Smokey Mountain ski hill.
The facility has been in operation for more than 50 years.
President Toby Leon told The Aurora there was an obligation by the company to keep Smokey whole.
That even meant looking at considering a whole new location.
“IOC did studies, and hired the best in the world in my opinion, and a decision was made for a plan that would keep the operation at Smokey with modifications,” Leon said.
The civil engineering work has been basically completed and the next step will be replacement of electrical components.
Leon says the biggest change will be the installation of all new lifts. The blue, red and chair lifts will be state of the art, and in basically new locations.
The new blue, will be in the location where the chair was, and will be a double detachable Poma lift.
“That lift will give skiers and boarders access to all of the bottom of the mountain,” Leon explained.
The red, another similar Poma, will go to the bottom of the face.
The new chair, to the left of where the original chair was, will take people to the very tops of the mountain.
“We’re very excited,” says Leon. “The new lifts will make maintenance much easier and safer, and will enhance the experience for people at Smokey.”
The new chair, for example, will have an improved area for people to get off the lift, something some skiers found intimidating. And skiers will be able to move from lift to lift and run to run, which will give them a much longer time on the hill before taking a lift up again.
In addition to the lifts, work is being done on a number of ski roads. Those are basically trails that will make it easier to connect from one area to another and one lift to another. The work should mean access to areas where they couldn’t ski before.
Work has just started as well on electrical installations. Older cables and poles will be removed. Previously there were 27 poles, with about 20-30 lights. Now 120 new poles will be installed with about 80 LED state of the art lights.
There’s still a lot of work to be done, but Leon told The Aurora they hope to have the lifts installed by sometime in November. They have to run for a while for testing and then be signed off. Then it’s just a matter of waiting for snow.
As work progresses The Aurora will have more detailed information and photos of the plans and other improvements in the making for the facility.
Meanwhile for those who would like a souvenir or a keepsake from Smokey, the old chairs from the original chair lift are for sale. The Aurora recently saw how the town of Mont Tremblant, Quebec repurposed old chairlift seats into benches, placed in public areas in the town.