Valemount Resort proponents shooting for ski lifts in 2016
Developers of a major ski and sightseeing resort an hour west of Jasper are suggesting chairlifts could be spinning by Christmas 2016.
Tom Oberti of Valemount Glacier Destinations admits the timeline is ambitious but based on the support shown by the stakeholders involved, he is optimistic that the group can meet their targets.
“So far we’re on track for making that happen,” Oberti said on July 30.
In 2012, together with Valemount council and other Robson Valley individuals, Valemount Glacier Destinations identified Mount Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the tallest peak in the Cariboo Mountains, as the location on which to build a 2,000-bed, 20,000 acre, year-round ski resort.
In the beginning, Valemounters were skeptical, having had first-hand experience with bold development plans going awry. (In 2003, Canoe Mountain Resort was trumpeted as the answer to the village’s economic woes when president Gerry Levasseur announced his company’s intention to build a $100 million, four-season resort. Housing prices shot up; media outlets were in a frenzy. However, in 2010 the company called it quits, blaming rising construction costs and investor disinterest.)
Oberti, who’s been through his own development debacle with the 24-year Jumbo Glacier Resort saga in the remote heart of B.C.’s Purcell Mountains (the recent decision to pull the resort’s environmental assessment is being appealed) says the $85 million Valemount project is different.
“This really is a cooperative environment,” he said. “It’s rather amazing to be working on it because there’s so much desire…there’s a consensus on the vision.”
The Simpcw First Nation, which has traditional land claims on the proposed resort area, has been supportive of the project, as have the regional district authority and the village council. Nearby heli-ski operations have given the project their blessings, as well.
Robson Valley Goat publisher Laura Keil said her read of the community is that Valemounters are cautiously optimistic.
“I think people are actually realizing this might happen whereas a year ago they were saying ‘I’ve heard this before,’” she said.
Oberti’s market research tells him that not only will visitors—notably, American visitors—travel for world-class skiing, but there is a huge demand for the type of sightseeing Valemount Glacier Destinations will offer.
“This is an opportunity to get to the top of a glacier,” he said. “There’s no experience like it in North America, I guess the closest comparable is at the Columbia Icefields…but with the Columbia Icefields you’re looking at the dirty toe of a glacier from a bus. The experiential factor is far better from the top of a mountain.
“There’s a huge appetite for this kind of project.”
With a 2,000 m vertical drop at build-out, an incredible annual snowpack and the ability to ski year round, Oberti said the resort would be the first of its kind outside of Europe.
“There’s nothing comparable in North America,” he said.
The company—which is backed by Toronto investors—is currently in the process of finalizing their Master Plan for submission to the province. That submission will trigger a public review process.