The ‘reveal’ is magnificent. And it happens in the flash of an eye. One minute I’m deep in the Monashees, negotiating a twisting, turning highway whose steep surrounding slopes offer little chance for natural light to penetrate. The next I’m in bright sunshine and staring across the Columbia Valley at a massive swath of forested mountainside be-ribboned with newly-cut runs emanating from a dazzling cone of ice and snow. It’s a Kodak moment, for sure. A ‘stop the car and feast-your-eyes’ minute for weary travellers. And it’s one that a lot of people around here are hoping will resonate with globe-trotting Snoweaters. Welcome to Revelstoke Mountain Resort…
The ski business lives on hype. Biggest this. Baddest that. Largest. Longest. Greatest. Fastest. Highest. Toughest. Best ever. You know the drill. After a while, the propaganda gets tedious, and the poisonous tendrils of cynicism start to invade your critical faculties. That’s why it’s so much fun when a place actually lives up to its reputation.
I admit it. I love my mountains extra-large. I mean, nothing appeals to me more than big, gnarly mountains that challenge and push me and force me to re-evaluate my own skills.
And Bones knows that. “You should come and see this place for yourself,” the president of Revelstoke Mountain Resort teased me after one of our frequent phone conversations on the state of the current ski business. “I think you might like what we’re doing here.”
How could I refuse such an invitation?
The former mountain manager at Whistler/Blackcomb, Paul ‘Bones’ Skelton is an irascible Aussie rugby player-cum-skier who just happens to be one of the most passionate people I know when it comes to big mountains, big-mountain communities and big-mountain resort design. And right now he’s living his dream. “I’ve taken so many left turns in my life, sometimes I just have to shake my head in wonder,” says the man who first donned skis as a lark when he was 22 years old. “Still,” he says, “you don’t get this kind of an opportunity by just sitting back and letting life pass you by…”
What he won’t dwell on, however, is the blood, sweat and tears that he shed getting this newest of resorts off the ground and running. For the last five years, this project has been his baby. Commuting from his home base of Pemberton in his well-travelled Cessna 206, Bones assembled an operations team, collaborated on the mountain design with Chris Cushing of the world famous SE Group (formerly Snow Engineering), and even managed to land the project’s biggest and most enthusiastic investor, Don Simpson. It was a performance of Herculean proportions.