A view from close to the proposed resort site.
A view from close to the proposed resort site.

By Korie Marshall

Canadian Mountain Holidays, the only significant opposition to the Valemount Glacier Destinations (VGD) ski resort proposal west of Valemount thus far, say they are not opposed to the proposal and are in discussions with the proponent to work together.

CMH, the world’s largest heli-adventure company, has been operating in the Valemount area since 1963 and has two lodges nearby – the Valemount Lodge a few kilometers south of the village and the Cariboo Lodge, in the Canoe River drainage to the west. The some of the company’s skiable tenure overlaps with the proposed area for the Valemount Glacier Destinations Resort.

A recent email to the Village of Valemount from Dave Butler, Director of Sustainability for CMH, says the company has announced that it is not opposed to the resort proposal, and has begun discussing with the proponent “ways in which the two companies might work together.”

“After a detailed review of the draft Master Plan presented by the proponents and recent discussions with them, we’re hopeful that this proposed tourism development may lead to a new level of economic success for the community,” says Joe Flannery, CMH President, in the release from Butler.

“We’ve always encouraged and supported the success of Valemount as a community and have done so for many decades,” said Flannery, “so we won’t stand in the way of any proposal that may lead to the community’s growth and viability.”

The $800 Million ski and sightseeing proposal has boasted broad support thus far, including from the Simpcw First Nation, the Village of Valemount, the Valemount Ski Society, and most other tenure holders in the area. Previously, however, CMH had lobbied the government against the Valemount Glacier Destinations proposal.

In a letter acquired by the Goat two years ago, which was sent to Oberto Oberti in Dec. 2011 and cc’d to several provincial ministries, Jeff Potter, then-CEO of Alpine Helicopters-CMH wrote that, “It is important for me to state, unequivocally, that we strongly oppose the proposed development.” The letter also said “We cannot support your proposal in any way, and must advise that we will take all steps necessary to prevent it from impacting our business,” and, “We look for your immediate confirmation that you will abandon the idea of a ski resort west of Valemount.”

Jeff Potter no longer works for CMH or its parent company Intrawest, and is now President and CEO of Surf Air, according to Buisnessrockstars.com.

In a letter to the Valemount Ski Society and the Valemount Chamber of Commerce in 2013, Butler said that CMH neither opposed nor supported the project, though “it would make little sense for us to openly support a project with such a dramatic impact on us as a company.”

When asked this week if he felt the project would still have a “dramatic impact” on CMH and if the discussions with the proponents meant the company now supported the project, Bulter wouldn’t elaborate.

“For now, all I can say is what we’ve said before: we’re not opposed to the project, and we are in discussions with the proponent,” said Butler in an email to the Goat.

Tommaso Oberti, spokesperson for Valemount Glacier Destinations, said they are “very interested in working with CMH to find synergies with the project.”

“The project is in a class of its own in terms of ski resorts and we believe that some of the clientele that will come to the resort is likely to be interested in trying the heli-ski experience to augment their resort experience,” Oberti said.

A draft of the Master Plan for Valemount Glacier Destinations, an all-season skiing and sight-seeing resort west of Valemount, was submitted to the province in the spring. Accommodating existing tenure-holders has been part of the project development, Oberti says, and parts of the study area have been reserved for heli-skiing and snow-cat skiing.

The plan is expected to be finalized this summer, and if approved by the province, construction could start as early as spring 2016, with the first lifts opening in Dec. 2016.