If Dave Mayer could travel through time, he’d go back to 2016 — the day he opened his forest skating business Patinage en Forêt.
He would relive all the memories he helped create with his three-kilometre ice trail that winds through the forest at Lac-des-Loups. He would relive every late-night Zamboni ride, every -20 C morning and every single smile he helped bring to over 150,000 people over the past seven years.
“It’s tearing me apart,” said Mayer, fighting back tears in his workshop in Lac-des-Loups. “It’s killing me.”
Mayer is selling the business for personal reasons and although he said the decision has “devastated” him, he’s trying to reflect on the memories that made the place so special — the scores of people who went skating for the first time in his forest; the many school trips and visits from both the old and the young alike and the many marriage proposals that happened on his frozen ice labyrinth.
“Oh, there have been many proposals here,” said Mayer, fidgeting with his phone to show The Low Down a photo of a recent proposal last year. He couldn’t find it, though. “We’ve created a lot of memories here, and it’s going to be tough to go. I just hope it's the right person to come along and they want to continue the forest skating, and they have the same passion.”
That passion began over seven years ago when Mayer had his “crazy idea” to build a three-kilometre skating path. When he first opened in December 2016, he thought perhaps the trail would see 3,000 people over his first season. But 3,000 showed up the first weekend, and he said he quickly knew that he was onto something special. Since then, more than 150,000 people have come through his skating labyrinth from all over the world: Asia, Germany and many U.S. visitors. “We have more American plates in the parking lot than we do Quebec,” said Mayer. “Because it's unique. It's special. It's magical.”
Since then he’s had media visits from the Washington Post, The Ottawa Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a couple of interviews by the New York Times. Mayer said, at times, he had to pinch himself.
“But before anybody, it was actually The Low Down. That was the first [interview] that got this whole thing going,” said Mayer. The Low Down reported it. And then the next day the Ottawa Sun called and then there's The Citizen, then TV started. Wow. But The Low Down was the first.”
Mayer said part of what has made his business so successful is that skating is highly inclusive and doesn’t cost a lot of money. He said he’s always operated the business with that mindset and if anyone ever showed up without money, he would set them up with a pair of blades and let them loose in the forest.
“Nobody should ever be excluded from skating,” said Mayer. “It’s not a rich man’s sport. I remember when we were kids, the poorest people I knew around us had skates.”
The business is for sale for $2.3 million and includes 85 acres of land, multiple outbuildings, a canteen and skate shop, and all the equipment needed to run the business. The sale also comes with a separate three-bedroom home with a detached garage and office. The business brings in sales of over $400,000 per year, according to the Remax listing. The equipment list includes: a Zamboni, multiple tractors, and 150 pairs of rental skates. The business mascot, Loupy the Wolf, also comes with the sale.