On Tuesday the B.C. Government approved the Jumbo Glacier Alpine Ski Resort development proposal after more than two decades of controversy over the project.
The proposed year round glacier based ski resort would be located in the Purcell Mountains on the Jumbo and surrounding glaciers in the East Kootenays. Development plans for the resort on over 5,900 hectares of pristine land include:
- A network of 23 chairlifts crisscrossing 4 glaciers
- A 3,000 meter high gondola
- Over 6,000 bed units including 1,300 private residences and
- A ski village complete with shopping, dining & recreation
The master plan for the resort boasts potential for vertical drops of up to 1,650 m and 1,800 m (5,415 ft. and 5,900 ft.) from the Jumbo and Commander Glaciers. That would be the longest lift access vertical in North America.
During the summer months the resort would continue to provide 520 m (1,700 ft.) of skiable terrain on the Glacier Dome and Mt. Monica area and 760 m (2,500 ft.) on the Jumbo and Commander Glaciers. On the Farnham Glacier the summer vertical would be on the order of 500 m (1,640 ft.)
Plans for the project have been evolving for over 20 years. The proponent group recognized a shortfall of year round international destination ski resorts in North America and in 1989 initiated a study to evaluate the possibility of an international caliber ski resort. In 1993 B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt and Minister Glen Clark signed an interim agreement that began the serious study of Jumbo Glacier as a potential location for the resort. During the ensuing decades, controversy and conflict have surrounded the project in the East Kootenays.
The Sinixt and Ktunaxa First Nations along with many other Kootenay residents have strongly opposed the project on environmental and cultural grounds. Several Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and organizations including the Sierra Club and the David Suzuki Foundation have also opposed the development.
The project developers have undergone extensive study and planning in accordance with the B.C. Environmental Assessment Act. For a complete report on the project proposal check out the Jumbo Glacier Resort Master Plan here.
Opposition groups site numerous concerns about the potential impact to wildlife and other ecological factors. High on the list is the preservation of the Purcell Grizzly population.
Opposition groups also question the necessity of the development, noting that there are already 13 existing ski resorts within a 3 hour drive of the proposed project. Heli-skiing and ski touring groups also already operate in the Jumbo Glacier area. The development will be comparable in size to that of Silver Star in Vernon, B.C. About 1/10th that of Whistler Blackcomb.
One disagreement of interest includes the opposing views on how climate change may impact the resort. Proponents of the project argue that Climate Change will affect the B.C. microclimate and ski industry with rising temperatures and snow elevations inhibiting snowmaking and ski operations at many existing resorts, making higher elevation resorts such as the Jumbo Glacier Resort essential to maintaining a healthy ski and tourism industry in the region.
The $1-billion project is estimated to draw tourist dollars and create 750 permanent jobs in the Jumbo Glacier area.
Project dissenters on the other hand argue that the glaciers are retreating and will be gone within 40 years, making the concept of a year round ski resort a short sited vision for the area. Opponents of the resort also make the claim that the project does not yet have financing, but the developers are still talking about having the resort up and running by 2014.
For additional information on the Jumbo Glacier Resort check out these links:
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