It might seem like things are quiet with the proposed ski resort west of Valemount, but Tomasso Oberti says a lot of work is being done on the Master Plan for Valemount Glacier Destinations, including some big changes from previous designs.
“We are in the thick of the fun part – the planning and design, coming up with the layout of the village, and amenities,” says Oberti of Pheidias Project Management and Oberti Resort Design, consultants for Valemount Glacier Destinations. “We still haven’t gotten to the boring parts, like calculating the run capacity, but that will happen this summer, as will the environmental studies. Those will inform the design as well.”
One of the big changes, says Oberti, is they are looking at a shorter access road – using the existing road to the airport and an existing forestry road. He says that means they have shifted the resort village slightly north, and have reconfigured some of the lifts. Orthographic imaging, a more exact way of creating topographic maps using airplanes and a special type of radar, was completed last year, and Oberti says it has given them much more detailed mapping. He says a lot of the runs have changed because of that, but the runs may continue to change as the Master Plan evolves. For example, they may find a ski run might impact a riparian area when they do the environmental studies, so they will have to change it. He says it’s like putting together the pieces of a giant puzzle.
Oberti says he was in Valemount in April and spoke with a number of groups like the Valemount Ski Society, to let them know of some of the changes and to try to accommodate some of their ideas. He says they have been working with Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association (VARDA) on the idea of a new family loop for snowmobiling. It is tricky to combine snowmobiling with skiing, but he recognizes it is a part of the local culture, and future investors in the resort will quite likely be snowmobilers themselves. He says planning can help alleviate a lot of headaches that happen when user groups conflict, which has happened at places like Sun Peaks.
He says they are also working with the Yellowhead Outdoor Recreation Association (YORA) on the idea of an alpine cabin, and they had a conversation with a guide outfitter about how they can successfully work together.
Another thing Oberti says they are working hard on is making the project viable. The resort guidelines require a certain number of bed units (like hotel rooms and residences for employees) be built as other infrastructure is built. He says some of the things in the formal proposal would be quite expensive, and would require a larger number of beds. In the Formal Proposal they said they would build the resort with 2,000 beds, a smaller number than other resorts of the same size.
Oberti says they’ve made the applications to the Regional district for the Official Community Plan (OCP) amendment and rezoning, but the changes can’t actually happen until the master plan is complete. He says the draft Master Plan should be ready to submit to the government in the fall, and though it is up to the government to set the dates for public feedback, he expects that will start in the fall as well. He is hoping the public engagement by the Resort Branch can happen in combination with the Regional District rezoning and OCP changes, because they are essentially the same process.
“We’ll have to be quick; timing is hard to say, but I think the fall is realistic,” Oberti says.
In a release to the Ski Society, Oberti says the intent of the changes to the plan and engagement of local groups is to make the resort as authentic as possible “by recognizing, accommodating, and possibly enhancing as many of the current recreational and cultural activities” that currently take place in the Robson Valley.
Bruce Wilkinson, president of the Valemount Ski Society, says they are working to ensure the needs and values of residents are considered in the master plan process. The society, which has around 500 members, was set up to promote a high-quality alpine destination. Membership forms can be found on the society’s website, www.valemount.org/ski.
Oberti says negotiations with the Simpcw are progressing, and they will be doing some of the environmental work this summer.
Oberti says his dad, Oberto Oberti will be coming to Valemount May 15th to give a presentation at the Trans Canada Yellowhead Highway Association’s Annual General Meeting, and Tomasso himself may come as well. He expects they will be back again in June.
When built, Valemount’s resort will feature the only ski in/ski out airport in North America. The ski and sightseeing resort would feature the world’s largest vertical drop, year-round skiing, high-alpine glaciers and sightseeing that includes Mt. Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.
Facilities for year-round skiing on glaciers and high-alpine glacier sightseeing do not currently exist in North America, although they are common in the European Alps, the proposal says.
The study area outlined in the company’s 2012 Formal Proposal covers roughly 41,000 acres. The controlled recreation area would be about half that size, or 20,000 acres. The ski run terrain would be 2,500 acres (Whistler-Blackcomb is approx. 8,000 acres).
According to the Formal Proposal, the initial 2,000-bed resort base would be situated on a bench just below the mountains via the Westridge Family Loop road, west of Valemount.
Among the resort’s potential features are a public swimming pool and spa; snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails; mountaineering, backcountry touring, and climbing; tree-top adventures and ziplines; snow tubing; mountain bike trails; and mountain-top dining.
Oberti, who is on the board of Valemount Glacier Destinations, told the Goat last June that financing for the current planning stage is secured. A new investor or investors would have to step in for the actual construction and/or management. He notes the Valemount Glacier Destinations board of directors may handle the development of the resort or may step away, depending on the wishes of the final investors.
The cost of the full project was estimated to be $800 Million.
By: Korie Marshall