Eight year after it was conceived and three years after approval was granted, construction of a major high-alpine ski resort near Valemount, B.C., in the Rocky Mountains was to begin next year, but proponents say delays are expected.
The venture would initially feature a day lodge, mountain-top restaurant, viewing platform, several ski lifts and a base area of infrastructure.
The site of the project, which is valued in excess of $100 million, is located near Mount Robson Provincial Park and Jasper National Park in the B.C. Rockies.
Tommmaso Oberti, vice-president of Oberti Oberti Architecture and Urban Design Inc. in Vancouver, admits there remains some uncertainty due to the current economic climate.
“The project is undergoing a financing process and it is unclear when construction may start. We’re aiming for next summer, but the current investment climate is uncertain, so it is difficult to say at this point,” Oberti, who is also vice-president of the Phieidias Group, told Western Investor on June 29.
The initial price tag for the venture was pegged at $100 million but could reach $500 million once the entire resort village is built. Efforts to raise funds are ongoing and there are several capital partners involved in the project.
“It will provide an alpine experience that is unlike anything else in B.C. or North America,” explained Oberti. “From a sightseeing perspective, it will give visitors the opportunity to access high-mountain glaciers and vistas and admire them from above, rather than below. This is very different from the predominantly valley-based experiences that are available in the national parks.”
The glacier resort would be a first for North America that would operate all year. The venue will be on the traditional territory of the Simpcw First Nation and centred on the eastern approaches of Mt. Sir Wilfrid Laurier with views of Mt. Robson, the highest peak in the Rockies, with lift access to the viewpoints and glaciers surrounding Mt. Arthur Meighen by way of Mt. Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
The plan calls for a ski-in-ski-out resort village containing up to 2,295 bed units west of the Village of Valemount and at the base of Mount Trudeau. In total, the resort will have 18 lifts built over three phases. There will be 813 hectares (2,000 acres) of ski runs at build-out. Elevation at the top of the peaks will be 3,025 metres with a vertical drop of 2,090 metres, the largest in North America and the third largest in the world.
To build the venture, materials will have to be trucked into the area for the resort village and moved up the mountains for the lift infrastructure and restaurant. According to Oberti, the lift system will be specially designed to carry the building materials up to the peaks.
“Amongst other considerations, the project’s lift system has been designed with construction in mind and access road alignments have been identified,” he said. “Similar lifts have been built around the world many times, including at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, which we designed. There are, of course, much more complex and difficult-to-build lifts in many parts of the world than what is envisioned for Valemount.”
The idea for the project began in 2012 when the consultants were approached by the Village of Valemount to investigate the possibility of developing a glacier skiing destination as a means of economic diversification and stimulus.
The venture really picked up steam in 2017 when Valemount Glacier Destinations Ltd. and the Province of British Columbia signed a 60-year master plan agreement approving the destination.
The process resulted in a provincial master plan approval and unanimous consent for an official community plan amendment and rezoning by the regional district in 2019.
Simpcw First Nation, which will be a partner in the venture, also signed off on the project.
Oberti said the project will be unique as it will combine both skiing and sightseeing opportunities and has strong and wide-ranging support from the local community, First Nation and regional and provincial governments.
“From a skiing perspective, this will be a mountain-centred project with a focus on the alpine experience and sightseeing and will be a new kind of product for our tourism industry,” Oberti said.