“The idea is for Calabogie Peaks to evolve into an authentic little Ontario town,” says Paul Murphy of his sprawling ski resort property in eastern Ontario. For now, his plan is to create a master-planned community on the prime piece of real estate, while honouring the picturesque landscape – an idea that’s been in the making for decades.

“It’s been part of the plan since the 1990s; it’s been a long time coming,” says Murphy of the decision to build a residential development on resort property, which remains a hidden gem for many Ontario residents. “The first phase of the resort was in the late 1980s, when hotel accommodations were built in four different buildings. Three of those buildings have since been converted to condos and townhomes and were sold in 2020. We’re now embarking on our first new residential build since then," he continues.

Sitting just 80 kilometres west of Ottawa, Calabogie Peaks is a natural go-to weekend escape for the active set of fresh air-seekers from Ottawa and Gatineau – and even as far away as Toronto, says Murphy. As Ontario’s tallest public ski hill (fun fact), Dicksons Mountain features three lifts, 27 runs, and 80 acres of terrain for snowboarders and skiers. With the Dicksons Mountain and pristine Calabogie Lake – and the resort’s half-mile of shoreline – Calabogie Peaks is best enjoyed in any season. Of course, skiing and snowboarding may be the stars of the show in the colder months, but the property also offers activities such biking, hiking, kayaking, fishing, boating, beach volleyball, and golf long after the snow melts for the season.

With the Juniper Ridge at Calabogie Peaks development, a group of new part-time, seasonal, and year-round residents will enjoy this lifestyle at their doorsteps – from retired snowbirds to young, year-round weekenders. “They can ski in and out of their residence in the winter, and leave a boat at the dock in the summer,” says Murphy.

Ski resort

Currently, the property houses a 25-room boutique hotel, a nine-hole golf course, a fitness centre, an indoor pool, and an outdoor hot tub. A handful of onsite eateries include the gourmet Canthooks Restaurant (located inside the hotel), the dock-side Boathouse Bar and Grill, Black Donald’s pub, and The Mountain Cat Cafeteria. This is all backed by dreamy rolling hills, scenic trails, and the glistening lake. Notably, Calabogie Peaks is surrounded by thousands of acres of Crown wilderness lands that will remain untouched for years to come.

“That land is forever wild,” says Murphy. “You could go for a walk for three days and practically not see anybody else. It’s sort of like our non-official Algonquin Park, with trails that go everywhere. People hike, cycle, and ride ATVs. This massive playground is there to enjoy and it always will be. You just don’t see that in central and southern Ontario – having that right at your doorstep. We do everything to respect the history and heritage of the Ottawa Valley as we develop it. Giannone Petricone Associates designed these residences with a mountain contemporary aesthetic that fits into the rugged roughness – the trees, rocks, and water – and history of the Ottawa Valley. It both fits in and respects the local geography.”

The new master-planned community will see 700 acres redeveloped and the introduction of 418 easy-on-the-eyes townhomes, stacked townhomes, and condo units. Five floorplan options will range in size from 645-square-feet to 425-square-feet and from one-bedroom or one bedroom + flex room, to two-bedrooms, 1.5 baths + flex room. The largest unit in phase one will be a 1,425-square-foot, three-bedroom townhouse. The project will launch with ski-in, ski-out stacked townhomes.

ski resort

The common denominators of all suites, regardless of size, are clean geometric lines, tiered shapes, and naturally-aged wood and stone materials that blend seamlessly with the surroundings. “The architectural design follows the contours of the surrounding countryside,” says Murphy. Other common elements include fresh air and light. Each suite features a balcony and large windows that highlight the natural, warm colours and materials used in the design elements. Furthermore, each unit will boast large bathrooms.

“These homes have a trifecta of geography that’s incredibly rare: that a combination of mountain, the lake, and the land,” says Murphy. “We are blessed with a ski mountain that is right on the shores of a lake; that’s a coincidence of geography that you don’t see anywhere else in Ontario. So, immediately, we have a very active winter season – with skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing – but, also, all this summer activity right on the lake. So, residents can enjoy the best of both worlds, which I think is unique in value. Furthermore, the initial townhome residents are going to be ‘ski-in and ski-out’; they’ll be right on the ski trail.”

Murphy says there are currently some year-round residents at Calabogie Peaks. As for the new homes, however, he anticipates more of a blend of full-time and part-time. “There are many people who would like to own a secondary residence and use it when they can on the weekends – or many days at a time, thanks to our newfound remote work culture,” says Murphy. “But I do think we’ll see more full-time residents. The people who live here year-round can enjoy a cottage lifestyle in a home without the maintenance and responsibilities of a home. Our stacked townhomes are turnkey.”

Refreshingly, these prices are relatively low compared to some resort residences. Prices range from $569,000 for the smallest condo-style unit, to $899,000 for a three-bedroom townhouse. “We see buyers from Toronto who find the price point attractive – much more so than the Collingwood or Muskoka markets,” says Murphy. “It’s an extra hour and a half drive [from Toronto], but it’s a spectacular drive – as opposed to the traffic heading north – and also, todays’ remote work culture means owners can stay for longer than the two-day weekend. Our internet is super high-speed. Each residence has a strand of glass fibre directly into the residence. We have one resident who’s an architect, and he could not rely on other services to upload all of his files, but ours does.”

Given the year-round attractiveness of the resort, it won’t likely be a challenge to generate rental income to offset the cost of carrying a recreational property – even in our climate of sky-high interest rates. Murphy says some people rent their properties out directly or through the hotel management program when they’re not in use. In addition to the 25-suite boutique hotel, the manages about 13 condo units for residents who own them on the resort site. “Owners are confident that there’s an active rental market,” says Murphy.

While the residential expansion seed may have been planted for years, it wasn’t until 2017 that the real planning started. “The area feels really Muskoka-like in terms of its typography, but the density of people and housing is way, way lower than what you’d see in central Ontario,” says Murphy. “In many ways, it’s still a very virgin area in term of its development. So, the greatest challenge was starting a community plan in an area that doesn’t have any municipal services or any kind of infrastructure to plug into. So, we’ve had to not only design the community but also created all the infrastructure that services it, including the waste water, the propane distribution, electricity distribution, and internet as well. So, it’s a large civil project as well as a large development project.” While he doesn’t know exactly how it will be phased (it will depend on the type of homes people are interested in, he says), Murphy says later phases could involve single-family residences.

Ski resort Image: Calabogie Peaks Facebook

Ross Halloran is a successful Ontario realtor who specializes in in resort properties and has experience in ski resort developments. He says he’s impressed with the vision and thinks it will become a quick success.

“Blue Mountain is a great example, where they took an initially outdated but well-established resort area and added more amenities, more rooms, and condos, etc.,” says Halloran. “When you’re this close to a city centre – and this is just one hour west of Ottawa – and at the highest peaks in Ontario, having those townhomes designed the way they are to fit into the typography will resonate with young, affluent skiers and snowboarders in their late 20s to early 40s. They’re already urban dwellers and are looking for urban amenities, so this development looks like it will fit the bill perfectly.”

Halloran sees buyers as those looking for more of a recreational property as opposed to a year-round one – whether that be a one-bedroom condo or three-bedroom townhome. “People looking for a home away from home with zero maintenance and year-round activities will latch on to this,” says Halloran. “There’s just so much to do in this development – from skiing and snowboarding to hiking, mountain biking, canoeing. The half a mile of shoreline is a major draw. I see this appealing to many people.”

While a secondary residence may appeal to many people, our economy may put a damper on any plans for purchase. Halloran, however, says that the recreational market is coming back to life after an interest rate-influenced slump. “The market is coming back and interest rates are coming down and we’re going to see a lot more activity in the recreational market,” says Halloran.

ski resort Image: Calabogie Peaks Facebook

Despite his dreams of an evolving “town,” Murphy has no plans to overdo it. “We’re not trying to animate it with conferences that bring hundreds of people in,” says Murphy. “We’d like it to be a community where people live and enjoy life and soak up this lifestyle. It will be walkable and have a social component, a recreational component, and a little bit of a tourism component as well. We hope that the little village that emerges at the base of the mountain will be attractive not only to the people who live here, but the people in the surrounding community, too.”

As for the neighbouring community. Murphy calls it laid back and rural. “There are a few breweries in town and a handful of restaurants,” he says. This includes a healthy mix of cafes, bistros, and watering holes.

Juniper Ridge at Calabogie Peaks just launched pre-construction sales in early March. Tentative occupancy begins in early 2025. In the meantime, the onsite hotel will soon close for renovations for three months, debuting a fresh new look for summer 2024 – so potential buyers can always test out the water (literally) before taking the plunge and purchasing a property in this hidden gem of a paradise.

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