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From the ground up

Excitement, apprehension greet the birth of Revelstoke Mountain Resort Alison Lapshinoff discovers

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By Alison Lapshinoff

Comfortably situated between the Selkirk and Monashee mountain ranges, flanked on all sides by lofty peaks, Revelstoke sits neatly on the banks of the mighty Columbia River, eagerly poised for change. As the morning fog clears the way for a new day, the small town sputters to life. On a prime piece of real estate, Mountain View School, that distinguished pile of bricks, regally takes in her captivating river view. Beyond, Mount Begbie proudly commands respect. Children frolic on the remnants of winter’s towering snow banks, oblivious to the natural beauty of their surroundings while young parents stand in clusters, hot coffee in gloved hands, amicably chatting as the nearby river flows lazily on its course.

Listening closely, one can make out the distant roar of sleds traversing Frisbee Ridge and Boulder Mountain. Overhead, a Canadian Mountain Holidays helicopter is taking its first group of European skiers for their morning heli-drop.

In town, an assorted collection of shiny, full-size pickup trucks, complete with sleds in tow, are warming their engines, preparing for the day’s adventures in the backcountry. A train’s whistle pierces the frigid morning air and soon the hulking beast is seen snaking its way over the trestle spanning the broad Columbia River toward the centre of town, Rogers Pass and beyond. It will be the first of many.

Neatly tucked away in the corner of Revelstoke, central but unobtrusive, the timber mill is busily producing lumber, the town’s bread and butter for years. And preparing for their climb over the mountain passes to come, truckers driving the Trans-Canada stop for a brief cup of coffee and perhaps a plate of eggs and bacon from the strip of chain restaurants flanking the highway.

All is as it has been for years. Except this spring there is a palpable vibe of anticipation coursing through the town, an energy felt by young and old, as the fruits of a decades-old plan are finally coming into being.

After extensive review by the provincial and municipal governments, the public and First Nations, Premier Gordon Campbell announced on March 17, 2005 that agreements had been signed, giving the go-ahead to a massive undertaking: the construction of a billion dollar, all-season resort at the base of Mount MacKenzie in Revelstoke. However, skeptics and nay-sayers remained. Until now.

On Jan. 16 this year, over 1,000 community members braved the frigid temperatures and lightly falling snow to gather downtown, gratefully accepting free hot beverages and hamburgers, while waiting to hear the announcement that would change the face of their home forever. The mood was one of jovial excitement as music played over the loudspeakers. At the fringes of the throng, handing out small flags adorned with the brand new logo of Revelstoke Mountain Resort, were a new breed in town: the smiling, snappily dressed public relations type.

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