Revelstoke Mountain Resort may no longer be the new kid on the block. And there could be one more resort between here and the Alberta skier market.
The B.C. government announced the approval of the controversial Jumbo Glacier Resort on Mar. 20 at a Victoria press conference.
The proposal for the glacier resort in the Purcell mountains west of Invermere has been on the table for more than 20 years. The proposal has divided communities in the area as proponents and opponents have faced off during many key decision points.
“I made this decision after reviewing all of the relevant, extensive documentation that is on this file, visiting the site and meeting with both First Nations and the proponent,” said Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson. “I recognize and respect that there have been differing on this project, but after more than 20 years of this extensive review and consultation, it was time to make a decision.”
The Master Development Agreement signed on Mar. 20 calls for a resort that would be about the same size as Silver Star Resort near Vernon. Jumbo would have an area of 5,965 hectares and just over 6,200 accommodation units once full build-out is achieved.
Part of the resort is to be located on a glacier which would allow for year-round skiing. Thomson said the B.C. government is also considering incorporating a mountain resort municipality based around the resort.
The agreement means the proponent must have “substantial work” underway by 2014.
Columbia River – Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald said that government officials should have travelled to Invermere to make the announcement there. “This is tremendously disrespectful to make this announcement in Victoria instead of coming and facing the people of this valley. If this was truly the right thing for this area, the government would be here in Invermere making this announcement.”
But East Kootenay MLA Bill Bennett told the press gallery at the Victoria announcement that making the announcement in Invermere would have been a mistake. “I think you would have ended up with a thousand people on either side of the street,” Bennett said. “You would have had proponents shouting how much they support it and why and you would have had a thousand people on the other side of the street shouting about why it shouldn’t happen, and you would have perpetuated the sort of dynamic that has existed in our communities… we’ve had enough of that.”
Bennett said opponents of Jumbo Glacier Resort were “very sophisticated, well informed” and committed “masters of delay” who fought the proposal effectively at many stages. Both Thomson and Bennett said several times that they respected opponents’ views.
“Our communities over the past 22 years have been divided over this controversy,” Bennett said. “We wanted it over. We wanted a decision from government.” He said the government and premier had shown courage making the decision today.
The resort still faces another hurdle in the form of a possible judicial review of the decision. The Ktunaxa Nation remains opposed to the development of the resort, saying the area is considered to be sacred.
Minister Thomson said legal challenges were possible. “The key issue is determining, from a legal perspective, is whether the spiritual declaration represents, from a case law perspective a strength of title or not,” Thomson said. “The legal advice is that it does not.” He added the issues were addressed through creating a grizzly bear management plan and establishing a wildlife management area, amongst other measures.
In a February media release, the Ktunaxa Nation questioned the economic benefits of the proposed resort, saying it would be a net negative for the region.
“Even government’s premise that this will create jobs for families is simply wrong and misinformed,” said Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Chair. “Last November we released an economic report by Dr. Marvin Schaffer which showed that this resort is likely to have zero net economic benefit for the people B.C. The report indicated that any job gains at the new resort will likely be offset by losses at other resorts or tourism businesses, particularly as there has been overall decline in the ski tourism market since 2004.”
“It will only provide minimum wage jobs,” said Teneese. “The local businesses are already having a hard time filling those. This project will provide very few jobs for families to survive on.”
However, minister Thomson disagreed. “I’m confident that the project will provide local job creation and economic growth for the region while upholding responsible environmental stewardship.”
In an interview with the Revelstoke Times Review, Thomson said the government felt Jumbo would be a net positive for the region’s ski trade because it was a unique, year-round resort that would contribute to a “cluster” of ski hills in the region. “There [are] requirements of socio-economic studies, financial feasibility studies … [they are] all part of the package of approvals for both the environmental assessment process and the additional approval of the resort master plan.” Thomson said those studies showed that Jumbo would improve the business for surrounding resorts.
In a Mar. 20 media release, MLA Macdonald claimed the proponent of the resort does not have a financial backer.
Thomson said today’s agreement could help secure financing. “By having the master development agreement approved now, it’s going to allow him to have that certainty in order to finalize his … investors.”
What do you think of the government’s decision? Good? Bad? Why?
Also, what impact do you think this resort will have on Revelstoke’s resort and tourism sector?