by EVAN MATTHEWS
While some in town are wondering about jobs at the soon-to-be constructed Valemount Glacier Destinations’ Resort, the resort designers are saying the opening date will be pushed back yet again.
Resort designer Tommaso Oberti of the Pheidias Project Management Corporation told The Goat VGD is still aiming for a “soft-open” during the 2018-19 winter. But they say it really depends on when the money comes in and how quickly contractors can install the lifts, meaning a more realistic date is the winter of 2019-20.
“The timing of the money really has impact down the line,” says Oberti.
“We’ve always been aggressive in our estimates to push the project along, but at this point we want to be conservative in our estimates.
“The original plan was to prepare for construction this summer, but it has been modified to start construction next summer,” he says.
The resort is currently undergoing the “due diligence process” with the investment group based out of Toronto, according to Oberti, meaning funding won’t come in until September at the earliest.
“(The delay) is necessary because of the slower and more demanding approval process, and the fact that the detailed planning following the approvals may only be completed this summer or fall,” says Oberti.
The two main investors who will be raising funds are Hunter Milborne and Greg Marchant, both of Toronto.
At the MDA signing in March, Oberti said early construction would start this summer, and would include land surveys and engineering pertaining to the lifts and resort roads, tasks Oberti calls “preparatory work” before applying for construction permits.
However, since the signing of the Master Development Agreement in March 2017, there has been no news out of the VGD camp as to when construction would begin.
But this isn’t to say VGD isn’t moving toward construction, according to Oberti, as industry experts have done site visits in order to optimize lift alignments and types.
“We’ve made several refinements to optimize operational efficiencies ranging from ski area safety, to ski school operations, to maintenance and servicing considerations,” says Oberti.
“We are doing a great deal of work finalizing details of the subdivision roads and of the resort village center, improving circulations, use of building areas and bed-unit distribution,” he says.
While Oberti isn’t at a point to confirm who will get the road building contracts, he says early talks have been exclusively with local contractors from McBride and Valemount, even mentioning a clause in the Master Plan which refers to hiring local as a priority.
“We’ve always been aggressive in our estimates to push the project along, but at this point we want to be conservative in our estimates. The original plan was to prepare for construction this summer, but it has been modified to start construction next summer,” — Resort Designer Tommaso Oberti
“It’s part of the public trust to maintain that,” he says.
The Valemount Learning Centre (VLC) will play an active role in facilitating the resort’s staff training, according to Oberti, mentioning training courses ranging from customer service to first-aid and other potential needs.
VLC Executive Director Riette Kenkel says the organization is looking forward to helping members of the community find sustainable employment.
“As soon as we know the type and number of specific jobs being created, we will be pleased to help with training and other employment preparations for anyone looking for assistance,” says Kenkel.
“Depending on individual eligibility criteria, we may even be able to assist with funding for certain types of training or other employment supports,” she says.
When the resort is fully operational, Oberti estimates the resort to employ roughly 150 people, including upper management.
The Valemount Ski Society is also expected to have a continued role, according to Oberti, saying his hope is they will eventually grow to become the ski club with a presence on the resort grounds.
“The society is a resource for the project to tap into the local community,” says Oberti. “We think it’s very important they continue to be a part of the conversation.”
The resort is located in the Premier Mountain Range — Simpcw First Nation territory — and will result in the Simpcw obtaining property within the resort village as part of the Impact and Benefits Agreement.
The resort will provide public access to glaciers at over 3,000 metres (9,850 feet) — the only such access in North America — with a vertical drop of 2,050 metres (6,726 feet), the largest in North America and third largest in the world. It will provide the only significant summer skiing at a managed area in North America.
“We are preparing for construction of a truly outstanding mountain resort,” says Oberti. “We are confident what may appear to be slow progress will be recognized as worthwhile.”
When asked if he expected a minority government to impede the resort’s progress in any way, Oberti said, “No, not at all. We want tri-partisan support.”
In June of 2016, both the B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver and the NDP’s leader John Horgan endorsed the VGD project, with Weaver praising the environmental assessment of the project, and calling the design an “environmentally-sensitive year-round ecotourism resort.”