A new B.C. ski and sightseeing resort planned near Jasper, Alta. could be up and running by December 2017, now that the province has approved the master plan for the Valemount Glacier Destination Resort project.
The proposed $175 million resort would be built in the Cariboo Mountains just west of the village of Valemount and would feature year-round ski lifts and gondolas for sightseeing. Plans call for the ski area to include the biggest vertical drop in North America and access to glaciers over 3,000 metres in elevation.
Tom Oberti, the vice president of the Pheidias group, the lead planning consultants on the project, called the province's rubber stamp of the master plan a very big milestone.
"It's very difficult in British Columbia to gain these sorts of approvals. They require a lot of work on behalf of consultants and also the government."
Project has widespread support
Unlike the controversy that has surrounded another proposed ski resort in B.C., the Jumbo Glacier project, the Valemount Glacier Destination Resort has support from local communities.
"The master plan approval is exciting news," said the mayor of Valemount, Jeanette Townsend.
"The [project] will bring economic well-being to Valemount, and will also have a positive impact on the province of B.C. by attracting tourists from around the world."
The Simpcw First Nation is also very supportive of the project and has been since its inception.
"We've looked at the environmental impact and believe that it's manageable," said Chief Nathan Matthew.
"In this particular area, the sensitivity with caribou and grizzly bears is minimal so we feel comfortable with that."
Matthew added there are also no spiritual sites within the area that would be a concern.
First lifts could be ready for the 2017-2018 season
Now that the province has approved the master plan, next comes a master development agreement between the developer and the B.C. government.
Amendments are also in the works to the official community plan for the region. If all goes according to plan, construction could begin in spring 2017 with the first lifts ready by December of 2017.
The entire project is designed for a 20-year build-out.