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Whistler firm designing resorts in China

Mountain planner says resorts could drive destination visits



A prominent Whistler design firm is helping to develop resorts in China, developments that its lead planner claims could help bring destination visitors to Whistler.

Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners Ltd., a firm that has designed resorts including Whistler Blackcomb, Mont Tremblant and Sun Peaks, is now at work on Chinese resorts including Beijing Secret Garden, a $1-billion, four-season project located about 250 kilometres west of the Chinese capital.

Paul Mathews, Ecosign's director and head planner, said the Chinese resort and others he's designing there could drive up destination demand for Whistler.

"Having worked in Japan for 25 years then Korea for 15 it seems that the Asians really like the snow and skiing," he said.

"I think these resorts are going to bring a lot of customers to Whistler in future."

Developed by Malaysia's VXL Group, Beijing Secret Garden is on a site adjacent to the Great Wall of China and it will include ski hills, golf courses and a Whistler-style real estate/commercial area.

Ecosign is taking the lead on the resort's area master plan.

At build-out, the resort could include 22 lifts with capacity for 18,720 skiers at one time and a base lands design shows the ability to develop nine 18-hole golf courses and 138 land use parcels that could accommodate a maximum of 125,366 bed units. By comparison, Whistler's development cap is set at 61,234 bed units.

Once built, Beijing Secret Garden will be nestled between mountains and grasslands, with a golf course flanking both sides of the resort's entry road, making it the first thing that visitors see when they arrive. The project as it currently stands is expected to include seven golf courses in addition to the ski terrain.

Beyond that project, Ecosign has also completed the master plan for the Changbaishan International Tourism Resort, which is now under construction. Located in Jilin Province about 28 kilometres from China's Changbai Mountain, it has a pedestrian village and nine hotels that range from three- to six-star quality.

Once complete, the ski area will have a capacity of 7,000 skiers per day with two eight-passenger gondolas, three detachable six-passenger chairlifts with heated seats and two fixed-grip quadruple chairlifts. The resort is expected to open in November 2012.

"The middle class and upper middle class are growing like crazy," Mathews said of China. "They think that skiing and mountain resorts are a really cool thing. That's a place where they can go show off their style and also meet a lot of people (like them.)

"When you have a new country like that, just like we found in Russia and Ukraine, the first sort of full service resorts in, they just get swamped with latent demand. There is certainly latent demand in China in spades."