Home sweet home

Feb 21, 2006, 22:19

When Michele Ford was a teenager skiing at Candy Mountain, she never dreamed she’d one day be calling the picturesque ski area her home.
“Who would’ve thought 20 years ago that I’d be living here,” Ford said with a smile. “It’s really weird, but it’s nice.”
Ford and her spouse Charlie Clair have created their own bit of paradise thanks to a leap of faith and a lot of hard work converting the vacated ski hill and chalet into a dream home.
The couple were looking at selling their Westfort home and building on rural property over a year ago when they heard about the possibility of acquiring the Candy Mountain property.
It happened during a game of poker between Clair and a friend who worked at Loch Lomond for ski hill owner Ward Bond.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you just buy Candy Mountain?’ and I said ‘yeah right,’” Clair recalled.
The couple took a drive to the property, which had been badly vandalized since the ski operation closed in 2001.
Despite the obvious challenges, they decided to take the next step. Clair struck a private deal with Bond, who worked with Oliver-Paipoonge to change the zoning on the 48-acre property to residential.
The couple took ownership Nov. 2, with a promise to Bond not to turn the property back into a commercial ski hill.
“He didn’t want competition, so we basically made an agreement,” Clair said. “I wasn’t interested in having a ski hill, I was interested in making a house here.”
The 4,000-square-foot former restaurant was too big to convert into a residence, so the couple made plans to turn the A-framed former ski shop and bar into a home for themselves and their three children.
The triangular windows had been smashed and the floor had heaved, leaving a daunting project.
But now, a few month later with the help of friends, relatives and neighbours, they’ve created a one-of-a-kind home — complete with a view of the entire Nor’Wester mountain range from the outdoor patio and hottub.
“You work all your life for a crappy little house on a crappy street,” Clair said. “You come out here and it’s beautiful all around you.”
Clair’s brother jokingly refers to the hill as Charlie’s Mountain.
The ski hills are used to the fullest by the couple’s three daughters Jasmin, 17, Samantha, 15, and Alexis, 10.
“The two oldest just love snowboarding and skiing, so they bring their friends out, and off they go walking up the hill,” said Clair.
The family’s snowmobile serves as transportation up the hill for skiing, as the old chairlifts are permanently dismantled.
The one downside the family has encountered is constant trespassing by snowmobilers and snowboarders, who think the area is still open to the public. They’ve posted a sign at the entrance to their driveway which reads: Private residence — no longer operating as a ski area.
“The message I want to get out is respect our privacy,” said Ford. “If they want to go snowboarding, they can go to Loch Lomond.”
The couple has received requests to use the property, including the A-framed solarium at the other end of the property, for weddings and other social events.
The former restaurant may one day become Clair’s garage and workshop, although Ford is toying with the idea of using the space for an addition to the home.
Bond has committed to remove the hill’s chairlift infrastructure over the next two years as part of the sale agreement. Other details of the sale remain confidential.
Bond maintains ownership of about two-thirds of Candy Mountain, including the peak and the west side of the hill.

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