It’s been a long time coming but outdoor enthusiasts in Nova Scotia have a new adventure that’s finally ready for the taking.
After several delays mostly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlantic Canada’s first gondola opened on August 26 at Cape Smokey resort in Cape Breton — just in time to offer stunning views of the autumn colours.
“We’re trying to be as transparent as possible,” admits Anna Solomon, chief marketing officer of Cape Smokey. “The top isn’t fully perfectly landscaped yet and we are still a construction site, but the community has been so supportive all the way through, which is just incredible and it’s exciting to hear people from Halifax and New Brunswick commenting on our social posts and saying they can’t wait to come.”
Currently an eight minute ride each way, the gondola takes visitors to the summit of Cape Smokey where two viewing stations will provide expansive views of the Cape Breton Highland National Park, the Atlantic Ocean as well as Ingonish Beach below.
“Right now we do have what we are calling a summit shack so it has beer and other beverages and other snacks,” says Solomon, who notes they also recently hosted live music events at the summit during KitchenFest. “(And) there are some options to start adding some nature paths that we want to incorporate.”
By next year, Cape Smokey hopes to have even more options for outdoor explorers as well. Although its progress has been delayed due to the pandemic, Cape Smokey will be opening mountain biking trails as well as a tree walk attraction that is thought to be the first of its kind in North America.
“We are working on it. We thought we’d be further along of course,” says Solomon about the highly anticipated tree walk. “We are hoping to have downhill mountain bike trails completed for the summer.”
In the meantime, Cape Smokey's new owners hope the gondola will attract visitors with its unique vistas throughout the fall. Having purchased the property in 2019, the group is also anticipating that the gondola will enable them to restore skiing in the region by late November.
“The last couple years we basically only had four runs,” says Solomon, noting that Cape Smokey’s ski lift had been intermittently in operation for a decade under the direction of community volunteers.
With the gondola providing reliable transportation to the summit and new snowmaking equipment on order, Cape Smokey aims to attract tourists in the winter as well. “Now we open back up to all ten (ski runs) and everyone’s looking forward to that.”
While the gondola is currently operating with only 27 cars (from a possible 48), Solomon insists that number of cars is suitable for the time being.
“The reality is we don’t need all 48 yet — we don’t see that kind of tourism yet,” she adds, saying that more cars will be added as numbers of regular visitors increase. However, she also notes that for those who don’t like being around crowds, the autumn may actually be the ideal time to visit Cape Smokey and ride the gondola.
“The less snugly the cars are together,” says Solomon. “The more of a spaced out view you will get.”
For more information on Destination Cape Smokey’s gondola, visit the website.