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Revelstoke’s all right

Businesses positive despite last month’s reports of financial crisis



With one week to opening day, businesses owners in Revelstoke, B.C. are fired up for the winter season, despite the recent financial fumbles of Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

In the heart of town, Norman Langlois from The Coast Hillcrest Resort Hotel said bookings look good so far, and he is not worried the mountain resort operator will fold.

“I am very positive about everything going ahead,” said Langlois, who is the hotel’s general manager as well as the past president of the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce.

“We recognize that they (Revelstoke Mountain Resort) had some challenges, but my bookings are still coming in.

“I think it will be a quieter year than normal perhaps, in some aspects, but for other aspects — like the ski hill — I think it is going to be a very positive year for our business.”

The future for the one-year-old Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) did not look so cheery last month, when stories spread that the global financial crisis was affecting construction of a crucial million-dollar hotel complex named Nelsen Lodge.

Rumours suggest Revelstoke Mountain Resort was having a hard time paying contactors to finish the job, although Ashley Tait, spokesperson for the resort, could not confirm this.

Since then the Northlands Property Corporation, operated by the Gaglardi family, has poured in extra funds to keep the hotel project afloat. Ownership of the resort shifted to give the billionaire family more control, and the resort’s board of directors also decided lay off several full-time employees.

Now RMR management seems confident that skiers and snowboarders will be able to start sliding down Mount MacKenzie on Nov. 27 as planned. And Langlois said the ski hill could actually be Revelstoke’s blessing in the midst of the world’s economic blizzard.

“In my estimation, the things that may have happened because of the world economy right now might not hit quite as hard because of the excitement on the hill,” he said.

“The whole world will get hit somehow, but it has always been my feeling that we will not get hit as hard as a result of some of these big projects underway — like the new ski hill and the Olympics that are coming up.”

Across town, at the Swiss Chalet Motel, Eric Scarcella shared the same sentiment. Bookings for the motel are on schedule, and Scarcella is hoping for a busier season than last year.

“The transition (of ownership for Revelstoke Mountain Resort) has been pretty smooth,” said Scarcella.

“Yes there is a lot of debt to deal with, and we have to do business in different ways… but everything that I can see looks positive. There has been no talk about the ski hill shutting down. Absolutely not.”

Revelstoke Mountain Resort opened for business last winter season, with the dream of eventually becoming an internationally recognized ski resort. The inaugural winter season was a hit. According to Tait, business was double the resort’s expectations, and guests came from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, Iceland, and Sweden.

Tait said they hope to continue the successful trend this season, adding that the lift-accessed terrain will double in size when three new mountain features open in mid-December: an extension of the Revelation gondola, The Stoke gondola and The Ripper high-speed chair.

She said the recent media attention to Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s finances carries some “misinformation,” and Revelstoke is in as good of shape as any other ski resort.

“Lots of ski resorts are experiencing a different mindset right now,” she said.

Tait added that a quote from Alan Mason, Revelstoke’s director of economic development, that the “worst case scenario would be if it had to stop operating all together” was taken completely out of context.

“Yes of course that would always be the worst case scenario” she said.

“The worst case scenario for Fortress and Intrawest with their October deadline was that they would file Chapter 11. That is not the situation we are in.”

Nelsen Lodge is now expected to open to its condominium owners in mid-January, and the lodge is taking guest reservations for mid-February.

RMR is not the first ski hill in B.C. to feel the crunch of the world’s economic situation.

Close to home, Whistler-Blackcomb’s owner, Fortress investment Group LLC, only managed to refinance a critical $1.7 billion loan at the last minute in October.

Also last month, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies owner Murray Edwards announced a deal to sell half of his Lake Louise Ski Area to Charlie Locke, a former owner of Louise. News reports suggested Edwards wants to concentrate on real estate development at some of his other resorts, including Fernie and Kimberley.

And Yellowstone Club, an exclusive private ski resort in Montana, filed for bankruptcy last week. Other resorts, like Snowmass Village in Colorado, have also had trouble financing construction projects.

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