Over two decades after the idea was first mentioned, plans for North America’s first year round glacier-based ski area have been approved and are being put into action. Chosen for optimal snow conditions the resort will be built near Invermere, BC on a former sawmill site.
Located high in the Purcell Mountains, the $900 million Canadian dollars Jumbo Glacier project has been green lighted by the British Colombia government. Conditions are expected by be consistently solid up in the mountains where heli-skiing was born. There are huge amounts of annual snowfall, and the area remains protected from the humidity of the Pacific Coast and the cold Arctic air running through Banff National Park.
The plans include a gondola lift up to 3,000 meters above sea level, towering several hundred meters over Canada’s highest existing lift. Over 20 other lifts are in the works that will provide service to four nearby glaciers. Elevation at some points reaches 3,419 meters. At this height, snowmaking will not be necessary, and rain is a concern of the past.
As exciting as the prospect is, the project’s approval has met some contest among some “First Nations” indigenous people and environmental groups. The land on which the resort is to be built is held sacred by the First Nations, and a spokesperson has made is clear they were very upset with the decision.
While there is glacier skiing in North America at resorts like Whistler Blackcomb that extends to late spring, there’s nothing open from 12 months a year. Timberline on Mt. Hood in Oregon offers nearly year round skiing and snowboarding, but the area open is a “permanent snowfield” versus an actual glacier.
The only ski and snowboard operations remaining, with the exception of indoor snow centers, are the Tux glacier in Austria and Zermatt in Switzerland.
Many countries in or near Asia including Iran, Turkey, Russia, former Russian republics, China, Korea, and Mongolia, have opened new ski resorts since 2000. But North America’s record is more sporadic. Tamarack in Idaho and Moonlight Basin in Montana opened in the early 2000s but have both suffered in the economic slump. Despite financial trouble, both US resorts and Revelstoke, a newly opened area in British Colombia, are still open for business. Jumbo Glacier is expected to drastically improve the local economy with job creation, revenue increases, and tourism. Year round business is expected to attract aspiring Olympians and snow sport athletes as a training ground as well.
The President and CEO of Glacier Resorts Ltd, Oberto Oberti, has high hopes that the resort will open for Christmas 2014.