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Nita Lake Lodge owners hopeful for train station future

Minority owners pushing new management to sign deal with Rocky Mountaineer



The idea looked good on paper:

The Whistler Mountaineer scenic train would bring tourists from Vancouver to Whistler, where they would disembark at the new train station attached to the Nita Lake Lodge. Some of those visitors would partake in the hotel's amenities, and others would bring their luggage and stay in the lodge for a few days before taking the train back to Vancouver.

So far the only part of the idea that has worked is the train part, with the Whistler Mountaineer - a division of Rocky Mountaineer - bringing over 50,000 visitors a year to Whistler. However, instead of using the train station the visitors have been disembarking on a concrete pad just south of the lodge, which they walk past on their way to buses that bring them to Whistler Village. Some of those guests do stay in the resort as part of a travel package, but not many stay at Nita Lake.

According to a representative of the minority shareholders in the lodge, the previous majority owners - and there have been two of them since the lodge opened in January 2008 - were unable to sign an agreement with Rocky Mountaineer to use the train station as intended.

While unfortunate, the minority owners in the boutique hotel also maintain that the building is in violation of a covenant with the municipality that the train station was to be in operation as a condition for the hotel portion of the lodge receiving its occupancy permits. They have lobbied the local government to enforce the covenant and the previous majority owners to honour the agreement.

Now, with the sale of the lodge to Tumuluri Asset Management Inc. last week, the owners and Rocky Mountaineer are confident that an agreement can be reached.

"We're still in discussions and are very hopeful we'll be able to reach an agreement to use the Nita Lake station for this upcoming season," said Ian Robertson, executive director at Rocky Mountaineer.

"There have been a number of factors in place (to prevent the deal) and not just the cost. But certainly we are working towards negotiating a solution and we're hopeful that an agreement can be reached soon. At the end of the day it's about providing guests travelling on trains and guests of Whistler the very best experience that we can. Obviously, to be able to come into Nita Lake Lodge is important to us."

The Whistler Mountaineer resumes operations on May 14, giving the new owner and Rocky Mountaineer less than two months to reach an agreement. Ram Tumulari said last week he has a relationship with Rocky Mountaineer and will be working with them to bring the Whistler Mountaineer to Nita Lake Lodge.

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