Clear path to a community ski hill

By Joe Nusse


It’s still just a vision. But the above map (up is south) shows ski runs that could become a reality with a little local ingenuity and drive. The runs would lie just west of the Valemount airport in the Valemount Glacier Destinations Master Development Agreement area, and have been given the green light by key partners. The green line shows the draft placement of the handle toe lift which is already in Valemount and ready to be installed. The red line is a proposed chairlift to complement the “community ski hill” idea pitched by local enthusiasts and backed by Valemount Glacier Destinations (once they raise the funds for Phase 1 of VGD they would buy out the community ski hill). The white lines are existing roads. The purple lines are proposed new roads. See story P8. /MAP SUBMITTED

We have a ski lift, and permission to put it somewhere. I realize that this is not the ski hill construction announcement everybody has been anticipating. But after decades of dreaming about some sort of ski hill, any ski hill, in the valley, we now finally have a shot at having 100 vertical metres of lift-serviced skiing ready to open by late November.

This valley is a wonderful inspiring place full of imaginative and motivated people. As such, I am sure that everybody has an opinion about where they would like to see a ski hill developed and to what scale. But in the interests of time and money, I am here to announce that these factors have already been sorted out. It is not the 1960’s anymore: governments and landowners do not just turn a blind eye to an ad hoc tow rope getting erected overnight with no permits. As such, this handle tow lift will have to be located within the already-approved Valemount Glacier Destinations footprint. For now, the project will be handled by the Valemount Ski Society under direct consultation with the Village of Valemount.

What makes this project so feasible is that we have the nod from the current Master Development Plan holders to go ahead and start developing something modest from the bottom up. This nod has already been run past the local First Nations stakeholder as well as Resorts Branch managers representing the province. As it happens, the proposed location actually suits our needs well; excellent snow with a full 5 to 6 month season, only 3.5 kilometres of road needing to be ploughed from the closest public provincial road, 3-Phase power within 2 kilometres and absolutely endless expansion potential.

I realize that some people in Valemount were starting to think about some sort of small community hill on 5-Mile (myself included), but after logging on this mountainside all winter, I have firmly pulled away from such a plan. There is less than 4 months of real winter on this side of the valley at these elevations, and even on a good snow year, we would need soccer field grade ski runs and even then likely resort to purchasing snow cannons. Also, ski hills tend to expand over the ensuing decades and I am not sure that this is a suitable plan for this mountainside. I also do not tend to bet against climate change, so locating our future ski hill on the North-facing and snowy side of the valley seems prudent.

At this point, we are planning on building a bunny hill with a 275m (900’) length handle tow designed mainly for kids and beginner skiers. The possibility of a tubing park has also been discussed. The mini Master Plan map disclosed with this article (see A1) shows a much larger chair lift servicing approximately 400m (1300’) of vertical up to a top elevation of 1400m (4500’). At this point, the larger community ski hill is simply a dream that will be pursued based only on the development plans of the larger VGD project. With times like these, nobody knows for sure where the economy will head, so why not have multiple plans for the future? For now, the goal is crystal clear and achievable.

I hope that everybody can rally to the cause of this exciting addition to our local recreation infrastructure. For local small businesses, it is a chance to attract some more general family-oriented regional tourism. It looks like staycations will be the norm as COVID-19 bans on travel are slowly lifted in phases. Valemount is well-suited to capitalize on this trend. For local retirees who sometimes wish they would receive a few more visits from grandchildren in the long dark winter, this is an opportunity to offer something new and exciting. For local parents (myself included) we can finally teach our kids to ski without risking the long icy winter road to Jasper. This little ski hill will generate at least two local business opportunities in the form of ski rentals and on-site food and beverage provision. So with that said, onward. I will close with a list of what we have, and what we need.

The AGM of the Valemount Ski Society is tentatively scheduled for Wed. May 12 online. For questions email jwnusse@gmail.com

What we have:

  • 275m length Boer Handle Tow ski lift
  • 80kv generator
  • Permission and pending licence to occupy the site
  • Approved mini masterplan
  • Licence to cut timber on the ski runs
  • Attractive small cabin for admin and safety
  • Local will
  • Political support from all levels

What we need:

  • Huge all-weather Yurt with wood stove and chimney
  • Sea Can for secure storage
  • Pedestrian-rated bridge
  • $20,000 to install the new lift with engineering stamps.
  • Local business to rent skis (nothing fancy, just affordable for kids and a few adults)
  • Local food entrepreneurs to bid on a licencing agreement to sell food and beverage on site out of a Yurt
  • Funding for landscaping…the more the better, the better, the longer the season.
  • Local Enthusiasts willing to stand as Directors on the Board of the Valemount Ski Society.

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