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Moving mountains o' real estate

Editor Bob Barnett hits the road to check out B.C.'s developing mountain resorts.



Story and photosy by Bob Barnett

It’s an inauspicious introduction to what is supposed to be another all-season mountain resort in B.C. There is no one in sight at the base of Revelstoke’s Mount MacKenzie in the middle of September, and little indication that anyone is working on the $1 billion development. The end of the gravel road is marked only by an old Mueller double chair, a weathered barn of a day lodge and a pickup truck.

There’s nothing more to see.

The buzz of a chainsaw breaks the silence long enough for someone to buck a log and a few moments later a gregarious lumbering man in overalls wanders into view. He is TJ, a lift mechanic — perhaps the lift mechanic, as there is currently only one lift at Mount MacKenzie.

That lift, the Mueller double chair, was installed about 1990 he says, after it was rescued from a Lower Mainland ski area. He unlocks the door to the building that serves as the cafeteria, equipment rental centre, ticket sales office and ski patrol quarters. Inside, a map of the development concept plan for the future Revelstoke Mountain Resort shows 20 lifts servicing 6,500 feet of vertical terrain and 110 runs. Single-family and condo developments straddle the road leading up to the base, where the lift and the day lodge now stand.

TJ shows us out and locks the door. Standing in the autumn sunshine surrounded by the peaks of the Selkirk Mountains, we all agree it’s a beautiful area. And TJ is optimistic about the future.

“I’m glad I got my house before the real estate boom hits,” he says.

Someday there may be a boom in recreational real estate at Revelstoke. Heli-ski and cat-ski operators have been based in the town for years, including CAT Powder Skiing, which currently operates on Mount MacKenzie’s upper slopes. There is no doubt the skiing and boarding can be great.

The question is, when will the resort development happen. New runs have been cut in the trees above the lift, providing new terrain for clients of CAT Powder Skiing, and a road is being built to the top of the mountain. But the promise of an all-season resort with 16,000 beds, announced nearly two years ago, seems a long way off. Speculation about a boom in recreational real estate is a little premature.