Ski resorts strap in for expansion and development

As two new ski hills begin to build, existing resorts are upgrading to meet the competition

By
Western Investor
January 4, 2018





ski
A skier blasts through powder at Panorama Mountain Village, among the B.C. resorts that are upgrading – or just starting to develop – this season. | Submitted

 

With long-range forecasts calling for another winter of thick snow, and winter tires now required on the Coquihalla, ski hills from Whistler to the Kootenays are prepping for another season, and for future seasons.

In the case of Panorama Mountain Village Inc., planning is taking the long view. Panorama recently signed Replay Resorts Inc. to elevate the guest experience at the resort, which is near Invermere and features a 4,265-foot vertical drop at the height of its 3,000 acres.

“Replay will begin work immediately on defining a future vision and the key aspects of the resort master plan within resort operations and real estate development. This combination will elevate the guest and ownership experience, while continuing to differentiate Panorama from other destinations in the industry,” a statement announcing the partnership explained.

Replay will identify tracts of land ripe for development, building on the $25 million invested into the resort since 2010. The initial development, called Trappers Ridge, launched in 2012. With the assistance of Replay, new amenities for the resort as well as ski-in, ski-out and golf-oriented units are planned.

Panorama president and CEO Steve Paccagnan was unavailable for an interview but provided comments indicating that “a rapidly evolving tourism environment” required Panorama to take steps to differentiate itself from competitors.

Several new hotels have opened in Revelstoke with the expansion of its namesake mountain resort, while fresh investment in Mount Baldy above Osoyoos and $345 million worth of improvements at Whistler Blackcomb tip the time as ripe for improvements.

Jumbo wins ruling

The long-anticipated Jumbo Glacier Resort, about an hour’s drive from Invermere, is again moving forward after a November ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada.

The court ruled that the resort does not breach the Ktunaxa First Nation’s constitutional right of religious freedom. The decision brings the resort one step closer to reality after 25 years of planning and controversy.

The Ktunaxa’s traditional land includes the East Kootenay area where Glacier Resorts is seeking to build the year-round ski resort. Ktunaxa call the land Qat’muk is and say it is spiritually significant as it is home to Grizzly Bear Spirit.

The ruling comes more than two years after the Ktunaxa’s first appeal through the B.C. Court of Appeal.

The judge concluded “neither the Ktunaxa’s freedom to hold their beliefs nor their freedom to manifest those beliefs” would be infringed by the project.

Jumbo would be North America’s only year-round ski resort. The proposed site is 110 hectares (271 acres) located 53 kilometres west of Invermere at the foot of Jumbo Mountain and Jumbo Glacier. The resort itself has plans for 5,500 rooms and 750 beds for staff.

Northern resort

In northern B.C., the Valemount Glacier Destination won B.C. government approval in 2016 for development of its $100 million ski destination. Preparation will begin on the site in earnest this year and it is expected to open its Phase 1 in 2020.

The glacier resort will give skiiers access to Mount Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Twilight Glacier and McLennan Glacier in the premier range of the Cariboo mountains.

“This location opens lift access to one of the best snow zones and reliable climates for snow sports on the continent,” said resort designer Tommaso Oberti of Oberti Resort Design. “It will be a true multi-peak experience surrounded by stunning glaciers.”

Construction is planned to start this summer and will continue for two years before the project will open, Oberti, who is also vice-president of Pheidias Group, explained in an email to Western Investor.

“We are currently working on detailed design and pre-construction planning.”

The entire site will be completed within a 15- to 20-year period over three phases. Valemount Glacier Destination will have a total of 1,997 commercial and residential bed units at completion.

Big hotel volume

The hospitality industry action is not restricted to the slopes.

Colliers International reports that 19 hotels sold in Western Canada in 2017’s first half, and 13 of the deals were in B.C. While economic woes dogged other markets, buyers leapt at the chance to buy properties such as the Robsonstrasse in Vancouver and the Coquitlam Sleepy Lodge.


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