Fresh off celebrating its 75th anniversary last year, Ski Vorlage is kicking off 2023 with a new name and new owners.
The newly rebranded “Centre Vorlage” will expand its offerings to include mountain and fat biking and alpine touring as well as bike-in/ski-in cabins. The new investors aim to transform the Wakefield ski facility into an all-season, multi-sport tourism hub, with an emphasis on cycling.
Alexandre Gaboury leads the four-member ownership team, which includes his brother, Guillaume Gaboury, as well as Joey Brunet and Christopher Brice.
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Together they plan to make $2 million in upgrades over the next five years. Up to nine new employees will build trails from April to October, with the goal of establishing 30 to 40 bike routes over the 330-acre property. Centre Vorlage will continue to operate as a ski and snowboard facility as well, and will offer alpine touring this season.
Gaboury admits he is a little surprised how positive the initial reaction to the plans has been.
“We are coming into an institution of Ottawa, something that has been there for 75 years, and how people would react to that news is something that we were concerned about,” he says. “We were expecting a little bit of people not being happy about this. But, right now, this is not what’s happening.”
The change of ownership was announced in a post to the Vorlage Facebook page that says the resort hopes to build on “its previous success” and thanks previous owner Dave Saunders and his family for their continued support.
Gaboury aims to establish at least two natural bike trails at Centre Vorlage for a “soft opening” this July. One of the trails would be intermediate level and the other would be advanced.
“It’s going to be a minimal core operation, but it’s going to be the perfect time to start testing the chairlifts, testing the bike-washing system, and just making sure that the operation is starting and going smoothly,” he tells OBJ.
The official opening will be in May 2024, with all bike infrastructure expected to be in place by the following summer. Around that same time, construction of up to 30 off-grid cabins on the mountain will begin.
“The cabins will be as small as possible to minimize the potential impacts on nature,” Gaboury says. The short-term rentals should fit four adults or two adults and three children and would be accessible by ski, snowshoe or bike.
Gaboury says the bike park is just the first step towards establishing a year-round recreation destination.
“We see it as a multiple outdoor sports centre,” he says, noting that an alpine touring event is already scheduled for later this month, followed by a trail run in May and a bike race in September.
The idea for an all-season multi-sport facility first came to Gaboury more than 20 years ago while he was working in Gatineau Park.
“At that time, I was looking at the ski hills and thinking these people are running three to four months per year and the rest of the year everything is just sitting there and waiting for the next winter,” he explains.
Gaboury, an avid mountain biker and outdoor enthusiast, thought ski hills could diversify how they used their land and wrote a business plan outlining what he would do if he owned a ski hill.
“I was not looking, like, officially looking, but that was always in the back of my mind,” he says.