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B.C. ski areas on developers’ minds

Plans for Jumbo, Smithers, Red starting to move forward

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It’s not just skiers and snowboarders that have their eyes on the mountains, now that Labour Day is behind us and preparations for winter have begun. In recent weeks plans for resort development, acquisition and expansion plans across the province have been unveiled.

The Calgary Herald reported this week that proponents of the Jumbo Glacier Resort in the East Kootenays have submitted an updated master plan to the provincial government. Glacier Resorts Ltd. hopes to have approvals and begin work on the proposed $450 million resort a year from now.

"We are really seeing the light at the end of the tunnel," Oberto Oberti, president of Glacier Resorts Ltd., told the Herald. "If the government wanted, we could see something beginning to happen by next summer and we could possibly still provide Canadian athletes training for the Olympics. That’s our immediate goal."

The Canadian Alpine, Freestyle and Snowboard teams have all trained on the Farnham Glacier, which is part of the Jumbo area, in past summers. The national teams have used helicopters when training on the glacier but hope to see permanent lifts installed.

The proposed year-round ski area, 55 kilometres west of Invermere, received an environmental certificate from the provincial government last October.

The master plan has to be reviewed by a number of government agencies and a master development agreement negotiated. A spokesman for Land and Water B.C. said those reviews and the agreement could be completed by next summer.

However, in addition to provincial approval of the master plan and master development agreement, the proposed resort also still needs approval by the East Kootenay Regional District.

There is also the matter of a lawsuit filed by RK Heli-Skiing Panorama Inc. The heliskiing operation has tenure in the area and alleges bias in the granting of Jumbo’s environmental certificate.

Environmental groups also oppose the resort development.

The Jumbo proposal first came forward more than 15 years ago.

Meanwhile, Al Raine’s request for a renewal of the environmental certificate for his proposed Cayoosh Resort is on hold.

After a decade of studies and planning Raine received an environmental certificate for Cayoosh in 2000. However, if work on the resort, in the Melvin Creek drainage between Pemberton and Lillooet, did not begin within five years the certificate expired.

Members of the St’at’imc Nation claim the area as their traditional territory and have expressed strong opposition to the project, with some vowing never to let the development happen. The St’at’imc Chiefs Council also vowed to oppose renewal of Raine’s environmental certificate.

Raine has maintained that First Nations’ concerns about aboriginal title and traditional territory must be addressed by the federal and provincial governments. He has not attempted to develop Cayoosh while those concerns remain.

Last month Environment Minister Barry Penner announced that further consultation with First Nations is required before a decision on renewing the certificate is made. In the meantime the certificate remains in effect but no construction can take place.

Further north, the Smithers ski area, Ski and Ride Smithers, was recently purchased by Vancouver-based 20/20 Resorts Inc.

"Ski and Ride Smithers is one of B.C.’s best kept secrets," John Dalton, vice president of acquisitions for 20/20 Resorts told the Prince Rupert Daily News. "The long-term potential for this resort is very exciting, and we have every reason to believe this mountain will become one of British Columbia’s hottest winter recreation destinations."

The Daily News reported that 20/20 Resorts’ immediate plans for the resort include improvements to the lodge infrastructure. Future plans are undisclosed but a series of project update announcements is expected during the coming months.

Ski and Ride Smithers has 1,750 feet of vertical and 300 acres of skiable terrain on Hudson Bay Mountain, serviced by two T-bars, a triple chair and a handle tow.

20/20 Resorts Inc. is a division of 20/20 Group, a real estate investment company.

Finally, construction of the first condos in Red Mountain’s long-awaited modernization began last month.

Slalom Creek, a 67-unit condo project, is the first of 1,400 slopeside units and 70,000 square feet of commercial space that will be built at Red over the next 15 years.

San Diego entrepreneur Howard Katkov and his limited partnership, Red Mountain Ventures, acquired the venerable B.C. ski area last fall. The purchase included 680 acres of private land plus 3,600 acres of ski terrain under Crown lease. At least half of the ski terrain is currently undeveloped.

Katkov told Business in Vancouver he expected the real estate would attract interest from American, Canadian, British and Australian buyers.

Last winter Red began a daily shuttle service from Spokane airport.

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