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Jumbo Creek ski proposal plods on The pitchman for a proposed year round ski resort on the Jumbo Glacier in the northern Purcell Range hopes new environmental legislation and a record breaking season at Whistler/Blackcomb will give new life to the plans. Vancouver architect Oberto Oberti says an announcement last month by former Environment Minister Moe Sihota gets the ski resort proposal in the Jumbo Valley, 50 kilometres west of Invermere, "back on the front burner." "We are entering the final review process, which is very good news," says Oberti, who has been flogging a high alpine village and year-round ski resort on Jumbo Mountain and Glacier Dome since 1991, on behalf of a secret consortium of investors with headquarters in Tokyo and a subsidiary in Vancouver. The announcement last month puts the ball back in Oberti's court as he is now charged with the task of gathering detailed environmental assessments and data under the direction of the B.C. Lands office. Oberti says the public input process for the plan took place from July to September of 1991 and was concluded by two days of public meetings hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks in Invermere. With annual snowfall of three metres at the base village area, lift elevations reaching 3,000 metres on Glacier Dome and 3,400 metres on Jumbo Mountain and views rivalling Zermatt, Switzerland, Oberti says the plan will complement the slopes of Whistler and Blackcomb. But where Oberti sees perfect terrain for ski lifts, runs and a high alpine village, groups like the New Denver-based Valhalla Society and Invermere's East Kootenay Environmental Society sees mountain goat habitat and one of the East Kootenays' wildlife migration corridors. Situated outside the northern boundary of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, the Jumbo Pass is an integral part of the natural wilderness being fragmented by development and logging. "Almost any project is controversial these days because environmental groups have a philosophical difference on what is an appropriate development," Oberti says. "The fact remains that we have very strong support in the community of Invermere and the recommendation from the CORE report was favourable to this type of development." Bill Irwin, regional director B.C. Lands, Kootenay Region, says the Commission on Environment and Resources finished a consensual process on the East Kootenay and CORE commissioner Steven Owen delivered his recommendations for the area in October of 1994. Owen's report recommended the Jumbo Valley be deemed a Special Management Zone, in which a ski resort is an approved use. "We have cranked up the process once again and moved into the detailed environmental assessment," Irwin says. Also, any environmental work that will be done in the area is going to be transferred into the realm of the Environmental Assessment Act, due to be proclaimed by Cabinet in mid-June. The environmental impacts of ski resort proposals will be integrated into the Environmental Assessment Act and B.C.'s Commercial Alpine Ski Policy will continue to deal with the bureaucratic side of the plans, says Irwin, adding B.C. Lands officials will be "working very closely" with the environmental assessment office. Irwin says the resort proponent will have to foot the bill for any environmental studies which the government assigns for the area and gathering this round of environmental impact data could take anywhere between "12 and 18 months." The focus will be on data gathering, but by no means did the public input process end when the CORE recommendations were made, Irwin says. Meanwhile, other ski resort proposals — Brohm Ridge, Powder Mountain, Al and Nancy Raine's Cayoosh Creek — all continue to plod along at various stages in B.C.'s Commercial Alpine Ski Policy. Will the face of skiing in B.C. change greatly over the next decade? As more bureaucracy and studies are added, don't bet on it. "I can say up to this point the process has been very complex," Oberti says. "It (Commercial Alpine Ski Policy) could be less complex, that would work to everyone's favour."

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