News » Whistler

Whistler voices opposition to Squamish ski resort

Concerns abound over scope and size of proposed Garibaldi at Squamish project



The resort municipality is not mincing its words when it comes to its opposition of a proposed new ski resort on its doorstep.

In a five-page letter to the Environmental Assessment Office, Whistler’s Mayor Ken Melamed outlined his serious concerns regarding the large ski/golf/real estate development proposal just north of Squamish.

“Whistler’s position obviously expresses concern for Whistler’s interests but also for the corridor and for British Columbia,” said the mayor this week. “We don’t think this resort is viable. We think that it’s potentially very risky financially and the worst thing you want to do is create financial challenges in one area which could then spill over into other jurisdictions.”

At issue is a multi-million dollar four season resort development with a ski area similar in size to Big White, two golf courses and more than 5,700 units of housing just outside Squamish’s northern boundary.

The president of Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) Mike Esler said their studies show the resort is financially viable and takes issue with Whistler’s contention that the project is simply a real estate grab under the auspices of a resort development.

“In my opinion it is financially viable and the provincial government’s privy to our numbers,” Esler said.

“For somebody to suggest at an existing ski resort who has all their infrastructure paid for by government where our resort has to pay for all of its own infrastructure, to suggest it’s a real estate grab is quite frankly… ludicrous and ill-informed. It’s just not the case.”

The company, he added, is building two golf courses, 25 ski lifts and investing roughly $300 million into ski infrastructure.

Among the resort municipality’s list of concerns is the sheer size and scale of the development, the potential impacts it will have on the already challenged occupancy levels in the resort, the fact that the submission does not address mitigation efforts for climate change, and the risk to the billions of dollars already invested in Whistler.

In his letter the mayor writes:

“The scale of the proposed GAS development is shocking. The proposal indicated in excess of 15,000 skiers at one time… as the carrying capacity of the mountains. There is no credible explanation of where GAS intends to get 15,000 additional skiers for every day of the ski season. We are thus left to believe that, if approved, (the) government would be endorsing the notion of new resorts stealing the market share from existing B.C. resorts.”

Esler said information will be made public shortly but essentially GAS believes it can capture the growing segment of the ski industry in B.C., particularly as the provincial government continues to invest in infrastructure as it works to its goal of doubling tourism by 2015.