News » Environment

Developer: Jumbo approval 'good news' for Squamish resort

Twenty years to get province to clear hurdles for eastern B.C. resort



The longtime proponent of a ski resort at Squamish is delighted the province has approved another ski resort in eastern B.C. and hopes it spells good news for his plans.

Wolfgang Richter, the man behind Garibaldi at Squamish, praised the province for approving the Master Development Agreement for Jumbo Glacier Resort this week, paving the way for what could be a year-round, glacier-based ski resort.

"It adds some credence beyond the talk," said Richter of the province's goals of expanding tourism.

"It's good news. We know that the sun shines on tourism in this province."

On Tuesday, the province announced its approval of Jumbo's Master Development Agreement — approval that has been two decades in the making.

Like other ski resort proposals, Jumbo's too has been divisive and difficult.

The resort, close to Invermere, will be in the Purcell Mountains, with up to 23 lifts. At build-out it will have over 6,000 beds, including staff housing.

Whistler Blackcomb's president and chief operating officer Dave Brownlie said it would enhance B.C.'s snowsports offerings.

"British Columbia is one of the leading ski and snowboard destinations in the world and the addition of the Jumbo Glacier Resort will enhance the province's overall snowsports tourism industry by providing a unique glacier-based destination resort," he said.

Roger McCarthy, who has long been in the ski industry, does not think Jumbo will pose a threat to Whistler Blackcomb.

While he hasn't skied there, he said the fact that there may be year-round glacier skiing could add something new to B.C.'s tourism mix.

"I think it adds something to B.C. as a whole," said McCarthy.

The news marks the end of 20 years of uncertainty about the project.

Said Bill Bennett, MLA for Kootenay East: "This project has, for over 20 years, divided Kootenay communities. I am grateful for a final decision. I thank the minister for making it and Premier Christy Clark for creating an environment where tough decisions can be made. No matter which side of the debate you're on, the majority of folks in the East Kootenay will be relieved by the certainty."

Jumbo is estimated to bring up to $900 million in private capital investment and could create 750 permanent direct jobs upon completion, providing 3,750 person years of construction employment.

Some critics, however, did not waste any time denouncing the decision following the announcement nor did they mince their words.

"This is an appalling decision," said Joe Foy, campaign director for the Wilderness Committee. "For two decades no government has been willing to approve this highly unpopular and destructive development."

Among some of the concerns is the impact the resort development could have on grizzly bears and other wildlife.

The Minister of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations will pursue the establishment of a large wildlife management area to protect grizzly bear habitat.

Whistler's Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden would not speak to the province's decision at the end of Tuesday's council meeting.

"I just heard about it," she said, after a full day of back-to-back meetings. I really don't have a comment on it because I just don't know enough about it."

Whistler has not shied away from voicing its concern about the nearby Garibaldi at Squamish resort proposal.

It has actively lobbied against that development for several years. Among the list of its concerns is the sheer size and scale of the development and the potential impacts it could have on the occupancy rates in Whistler.

Richter said his development proposal is still in the process. It has yet to receive an Environmental Assessment Certificate from the province.

"We know what we still need to do," said Richter.

Proposed is a four-season, multi-million dollar resort development with a ski area similar to Big White, complete with thousands of housing units.