British Columbia will soon be home to a year-round glacier-based ski resort. Steve Thomson, the B.C. government%u2019s minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, signed off on a development agreement early last week, clearing the way for Glacier Resorts Ltd to construct the $1 billion project.
The resort will be located about 55 kilometres west of Invermere in the Purcell Mountains on an old sawmill site. Once complete, it will feature up to 23 lifts, a 3,000-metre-high gondola and a ski village with up to 1,400 residential units. The resort will be comparable in size to Silver Star in Vernon, B.C. 2014 or about 1/10th the size of Whistler Blackcomb. Developers predict the first phase of the resort – which includes the gondola and a t-bar – will be operational as early as fall 2013.
In the works for nearly two decades, the project passed all necessary regulatory and environmental hurdles, before stalling just short of final provincial approval. “After more than 20 years of comprehensive and exhaustive reviews, it was time to make a decision,” Thomson commented through a statement. “I approved Jumbo Glacier Resort’s master development agreement after reviewing all of the relevant documentation, and meeting with both First Nations and the proponent.”
The controversial project, dubbed Jumbo Glacier Alpine Resort, won the government’s approval despite repeated concerns from both native and environmental groups that it would generate excessive pollution and negatively impact the region’s grizzly bear, caribou and moose habitat. On Tuesday, the B.C. government said the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations will establish a wildlife management area to protect the Grizzly bear habitat, but that did not seem to satisfy opponents. At least one such group says they plan to appeal the government%u2019s approval.
Others welcome the project’s anticipated impact upon the local eastern B.C. economy, which will include up to 750 full-time jobs and 150 construction jobs.
Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett, a longtime supporter of the Jumbo project, said he’s relieved to see the provincial government finally make a decision. “This project has, for over 20 years, divided Kootenay communities. I am grateful for a final decision,” said Bennett in a written statement on Tuesday. “No matter which side of the debate you’re on, the majority of folks in the East Kootenay will be relieved by the certainty.”
Chairman of the Board of Directors of developer Glacier Resorts Ltd., Arnold Armstrong sees the decision as a prudent business opportunity and is happy a decision was finally reached. “We welcome the just completion of the process”, Armstrong said. This should not be seen as a defeat by those who opposed the project, but as an opportunity to turn the page toward a new era of cooperation, and to recognize that the many reviewers involved in the process have done a more thorough assessment than those who felt that they had to oppose the project outside of British Columbia’s legitimate public process.