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The fate of the defunct Talisman Mountain Resort remains in question a decade later

January 2022

Talisman Mountain Resort is a name that many in the ski and snowboarding community in Ontario remember fondly. Opened on Christmas Eve in 1963, it quickly became a popular winter destination.

Two years later, a golf course and tennis courts were added, with Talisman becoming an all-season resort.

Located in the Beaver Valley area, south of Collingwood, Talisman was once the largest ski resort in Ontario. The Mountainside Lodge, opened in 1968, was inspired by similar ski lodges in Bavaria.

Talisman also has the distinction of being one of the first Ontario skiing facilities to welcome snowboarding, started by Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors (CASI) Hall of Famer Allison “Shred” Church in 1988.

The resort even held international snowboarding competitions in the early 1990s, with the organizational assistance of Talisman snowboard instructor Jeff Hahermeh, who was also instrumental in developing the snowboarding park at the resort.

At its peak, the 200-acre resort had over 200 employees, and facilities that also included a snow tubing park, convention facilities, swimming pools, fine and casual restaurants, the day lodge, which featured a day spa and gym, and 100 guest rooms for overnight stays.

Sadly, the good times wouldn’t last. With competition from the nearby Beaver Valley Ski Club, and then Blue Mountain west of Collingwood, Talisman was struggling financially by the early 2000s.

In 2011, Talisman was shut down by then-owner William Minnis, declaring bankruptcy after a 48-year run. On 20 October 2011, Talisman was officially placed in receivership, under the control of accounting and consulting firm BDO Canada, Ltd.

The Municipality of Grey Highlands bought the entire Talisman property in 2013, which was $2 million in tax arrears, then severed it into three lots for re-sale, the 75-acre golf course portion, the 66-acre resort portion and a 59-acre plot at the top of the ski hills.

In 2014, a Toronto development team, headed by Brian Ellis, Wayne Levy and Phil Calvano and incorporated as 2420124 Ontario Limited, purchased the 66-acre resort portion of the property, with a proposal for re-opening the resort on Canada Day 2015, as an upscale hotel and spa resort, named the Talisman Mountain Springs Inn. Ellis announced that his plans also included re-opening the golf course, which was still owned by the municipality but not the ski hill, owned by Ellis and partners.

Although Ellis didn’t completely rule out having a separate operator run the skiing operation, it was beyond his willingness to invest in it. The snow-making machine, most of the ski lift chairs, and other equipment had been sold off to help pay the tax arrears, so the investment required for new equipment, along with the questionable viability of a ski operation, made it a non-starter for Ellis. Instead, Ellis proposed a partnership the nearby Beaver Valley Ski Club for use of their ski hills for Talisman guests.

Unfortunately, the 2015 target date came and went The golf course did re-open the following year, with a new clubhouse built, but it shut down again in 2018, and has remained closed ever since.

Eventually Ellis would spent around $8 million in renovating and restoring the resort buildings, but by 2021, the resort was still shuttered, mired in financial difficulties. Ellis had been seeking additional capital investment for the past three years, without success to date.

In July 2021, the golf course land and the recreational lands atop the ski hills, both of which were still owed by the municipality, were sold to Toronto-area development company, Westway Capital, who put forth their own plans to develop a resort, plans that included buying the land owned by Ellis’ company.

Negotiations between Ellis and Westway Capital are on-going to potentially collaborate on the re-development plan. Ellis is adamant that he won’t sell his land to Westway if they don’t share his vision for the redevelopment of the Talisman land.

Sources GTA developer one step closer to purchasing former Talisman resort property | Owen Sound Sun Times, Grey Highlands CAO Responds After Biosphere Conservancy Announces Cash Offer For Former Talisman Resort Lands | Bayshore Broadcasting News Centre, South Grey News | Municipality silence deafens, New-owner-spending-millions-on-Talisman-in-Grey-Highlands.pdf (readhilton.com), Occupy Talisman – Mountain Life (mountainlifemedia.ca), Buyers at Talisman sale recall resort’s better days | Owen Sound Sun Times, Former Talisman Resort Lands Conditionally Sold To Resort Developers | Country 93, Hall of Fame – Allison Church (casi-acms.com), Bankrupt Talisman ski resort to become hotel and spa | The Star.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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