Having already approved the project in August 2016, the future of North Americas first year round resort took a step closer to reality when British Columbia government signed a master development agreement with the developers of the $100 million Valemount Glacier Destinations (VGD) earlier this year.
The resort will provide year round 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.
Valemount will be 12,000-acres in size once completed making it the largest ski resort in North America.
Valemount sits near the BC-Alberta border, between the 11,000ft peaks of the Cariboo Mountains to the west and the 13,000ft Canadian Rockies to the east. It is already a popular heli-skiing destination.
A skeletal lift network will launch skiers from a new village built above the town straight onto a ridge near the summit of 2,640m (8,661ft) Mount Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Skiers will be able to rip tree runs back down to the valley, explore ridge lines and steep chutes, or drop off the back side into a series of glaciated cirques. At the bottom of the latter, a lift will pop onto the top of Twilight, at 2,530m (8,301ft) for heli-ski style runs down a glacier and the potential for summer skiing. A long cat track will return them back around to the front. Total vertical will be almost 1,524m (5,000ft).
An initial estimation that the first phase of the project would be completed and open to the public in Dec 2017 has proved overly optimistic and that date has been pushed back by at least a year.
Resort designer Tommaso Oberti, of the Pheidias Project Management Corporation, is still aiming for a “soft-open” during the 2018-19 winter. But says it really depends on when the money comes in and how quickly contractors can install the lifts, meaning a more realistic date may even be the winter of 2019-20.
Development is planned in three phases. Once the resort opens visitors will have access to Twilight Glacier at 2,530m (8,300ft), giving a vertical drop of 1,370m (4,495ft) to the resort base. The second and third phases will further extend the ski area and increase the vertical past 2,000m (6,562ft) and could take 15-20 years to complete.
Resort designer Tommaso Oberti said:
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 next summer. We are preparing for construction of a truly outstanding mountain resort. We are confident what may appear to be slow progress will be recognized as worthwhile.
The area is five hours from nearest major airport Edmonton, and three from Kamloops or Prince George. The Village of Valemount is mulling ways to improve its airport in anticipation of VGD resort air-traffic, including nearly doubling the size of the existing runway.
Joe Nusse, who works for Oberti, describes Valemount as a European-style resort where adventure and exploration is more important than cookie-cutter groomed runs. He added:
It will be a vehicle into the mountains for skiing, ski touring, mountaineering and sightseeing. Nothing like this exists in North America. It’s going to be one of a kind.