It’s nothing new. Someone, somewhere, wants to build a ski resort. It’s happening all over the world. In BC, for instance, there are two huge ski resorts that will potentially see the light of day. The first, Jumbo, which is set to turn a pristine wilderness into the largest ski resort in North America, is one of the more polarizing and contentious resort developments in the ski world. The other is here on the South Coast in Squamish, BC.
Don’t get me wrong, I work at a big ski resort and I understand the need for development, but as a layman, looking from the outside at these proposed developments, I can’t help but wonder why anyone thinks they’re a good idea. Neither area gets much snow. The Purcells, while home to some massive glaciers, remote mountains and one of the more beautiful and pristine tracts of land in BC, aren’t exactly known for never ending deep pow. It’s the continental snowpack folks. It’s cold, there ain’t as much snow and the stability is usually terrible. And as for the resort here in Squamish, spare me. The proposed area for the actual ski hill has barely had snow in two years. Rain is more the order of the day.
The other thing I think about is the fact that the last few resorts to open in this province have yet to see a lift line. Revelstoke and Kicking Horse are epic places to shred, made even more so by the fact that there is never anyone there. Why? Hmmm. Let’s see. They’re far from any international airport and not that easy to get to. In Jumbo’s case, this will be even more true. And this ain’t Europe or the States, folks. No one lives in Canada, we a smaller population than the state of California and our market, at the end of the day, is small.
Which brings me to why these resorts are going forward. It ain’t the skiing, or the now, or the location. Nope. It’s all about money. I don’t care what any developers say. The only way ski resorts make real money is in real estate development and both of these resorts will be offering lots of that; selling homes and time shares and condos to folks who may want to ski or live at the resort. In the case of the Squamish resort, it will be close to a major city, two in fact, and as such will present an attractive option for folks wanting a vacation or second home. There won’t be any skiing there, but who cares? The developers will make money.
And that’s it. People need to understand that no one opens a ski resort, or any other big business, with altruistic motives. They open them to make money. The problem with ski resorts is the money making phase is over fairly quickly and unless you can attract folks the way Whistler or the resorts in Colorado do, things are going to be difficult. On top of that, we have enough places to ski. All of these proposed resorts are environmental nightmares that will have negative impacts on the areas they seek to develop, some of which, like in the case of Jumbo, are set in some of the last untouched wilderness areas in North America.
Do we really need to develop a ski resort there? Whatever happens, both resorts, but especially Jumbo, have proved to be contentious issues. In Jumbo’s case, Patagonia and Sweetgrass Productions have made a feature length film on the issue, due to be released later this year.
I don’t think we need more chairlifts. There are plenty of places to ski and plenty of places for folks to buy a second home. Instead, we need to start looking at business developments that actually benefit the people where the development happens. Ski resorts don’t do that. They don’t provide sustainable jobs (I know, I have a resort job and if it was sustainable, I wouldn’t be writing blog posts), nor do they do any favours for the environment and very few of them make money in the day to day. No. We need change, yes, just not this type of change.