The Progressive Conservatives are raising questions about how much money will be spent at the Crown-owned Marble Mountain ski resort when it reopens this weekend to attract new customers.
The Steady Brook-based resort had originally planned to shut down at the end of March once its budget was exhausted, but the governing Liberals responded to public complaints by announcing a reprieve: free skiing over the Easter weekend.
At the House of Assembly on Monday, Tory MHA Barry Petten questioned why the government was planning to offer a three-day free-for-all on the backs of the taxpayer," at a cost of $11,000 per day.
Skiers who take advantage of the offer over the long weekend can obtain passes and equipment rentals for free.
Offer good for boosting customer base: Liberals
However, Liberal MHAs defended the move as being in the long-term interest of Marble Mountain.
"We want to attract new people to come in and experience the hill, so that as next year goes forward we'll have more people who will likely take advantage of the hill and add to their ski experience," said Terra Nova MHA Colin Holloway, the parliamentary secretary to Tourism Minister Christopher Mitchelmore.
Advanced Education Minister Gerry Byrne, who represents the district of Corner Brook, said the government wants to help Marble Mountain reach its "full potential," and noted that the customer base of the resorts has been declining.
"In order to grow Marble Mountain you have to get new skiers, you have to get more people interested in the sport ... and the way you do that you give them an opportunity," Byrne told the legislature.
"On one weekend, one weekend a year, you come out and say, why don't you take up the sport for a weekend? We'll offer you free lift tickets and free rental equipment and that … is how you grow an opportunity."
The offer marks a change of tune from a few weeks ago, when Mitchelmore said it would cost too much for the hill to remain open past March.
The provincial government later walked back that decision and decided to terminate the majority of Marble Mountain board members and reopen the hill to appease season passholders.