Local VGD proponent picks up ski lift
By Laura Keil
Joseph Nusse has been trying to get a ski lift near Valemount for nearly 10 years. He was instrumental in getting attention from the Obertis in 2011 which led to the Valemount Glacier Destinations Master Development Agreement. Raising funds for the project has proven slow, however. Nusse realized there was a smaller-scale opportunity while Valemount waited and got permission from Oberto Oberti. Last week, Nusse drove an idle, disassembled tow lift from Invermere to Valemount with his truck and trailer.
The lift was purchased by another company called Glacier Resorts Ltd as a part of a planned summer ski operation near Jumbo Glacier, another one of Oberti’s projects. The lift is brand new, Nusse says. It was imported from Europe only to sit underneath a fir tree in the original crate. Protesters had blocked lift engineers when they went to install it.
In January of 2020 the federal government announced it would buy out Glacier Resorts Ltd. and work towards designating the Jumbo Valley as a yet-to-be defined First Nations Protected Area.
Oberto Oberti, on behalf of Glacier Resorts Ltd & L.P., has agreed to transfer the tow lift to Valemount as a community asset on loan until further notice. Ownership remains with Glacier Resorts Ltd.
Nusse said his vision is to set up a small community ski hill run by a local organization within the Valemount Glacier Destinations Master Plan area. The area already has the necessary permits. Tomasso Oberti confirmed Oberti Architecture and Design has drawn up a draft version for a community ski hill Master Plan and that it will be presented soon for public input.
Nusse said they envision a community ski resort operating independently of VGD until construction on Phase 1 of the Master Development agreement begins.
The handle tow lift is an electric-driven cable system with plastic handles and a small seat to stradle. It will tow skiers 300m (1000 feet) and it’s ideal for a bunny hill.
Nusse said if locals are game they could fundraise for a second fix-grip chairlift, which would be bought out by VGD when they open.
Mayor Owen Torgerson said he had few details on the lift as yet, but said he expected the matter to come to Council “at some point.”
“It’s an awesome concept. A lot of work to be done to bring it to fruition,” he said.
When asked if he sees a role for the Village in the development of a community ski hill, Torgerson said yes, from a support side.
“I’m not expecting taxpayers to foot the bill. I’m not expecting anything except support for the project.”
He said the support would take the form of “cheerleading,” and things at this stage were preliminary. He said he has been in touch with the Obertis on about a monthly basis.
He compared the lift to a bike chain.
“Before you can ride the bike, you need more parts. We have the chain. Now we need to design and have a look at the bike – if it has two wheels, three, or if it’s a unicycle – do we have a chain for no reason?”
Nusse said the organization that takes on the set-up and operation of the ski hill would at the very least need Village support and that it could be useful for the Village to take on some kind of coordinating role. He notes the Valemount arena was a municipal service before being taken over by the Regional District. Nusse says the Valemount Ski Society is currently reviving its membership and will soon hold an AGM.
* After presstime on this story, the project received donations, including the donation of a generator. Pick up the April 30th edition of the Rocky Mountain Goat for the follow-up this week or subscribe online!