We Don’t Need Any More Chairlifts in B.C.

D’Arcy McLeish | | Featured ArticleFeatured Article
Whistler, B.C. photo: snowbrains
Whistler, B.C. photo: snowbrains

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.

Aerial view of the proposed Jumbo Glacier ski resort
Aerial view of the proposed Jumbo Glacier ski resort

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.

A view of Brohm Ridge and Garibaldi from Downtown Squamish, the site of the proposed resort. See? Not much snow, even in winter.
A view of Brohm Ridge and Garibaldi from Downtown Squamish, the site of the proposed resort. See? Not much snow, even in winter.

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.

Jumbo Glacier area, B.C.
Jumbo Glacier area, B.C.

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.

How the Jumbo Glacier ski resort was to look.
How the Jumbo Glacier ski resort was to look.

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.


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8 thoughts on “We Don’t Need Any More Chairlifts in B.C.

  1. “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.”

    Jumbo’s terrain is currently used by RK Heliskiing and is not too far south in the same mountain range as the Bugaboo Lodge, which was CMH’s first remote heli lodge. There may be reasons to oppose Jumbo, but inadequate snow certainly isn’t one of them.

  2. Big Sky comes to mind when you talk of real estate development..Originally Chet Huntley had pure intentions concerning development. Looking at it now is all that needs to be said about that…Im sure JUMBO will be the same over time….

  3. aren’t you the guy that said people skiing at the resort were like so many droplets running down a glass whereas you were a solo soul seeker and a hero of some sort for walking a lot? or is that some other miopic fool?

    1. Ja ja. I think that was our boy Aaron Rice. He’s going to break the record this year and climb and ski 2.5 million vertical feet. That guy loves to walk uphill. We’re rooting for him and we’ll be documenting his progress this year.

  4. Never anyone at Revelstoke or Kicking Horse?!? Most the locals don’t even bother going to the hill when it snows (which is often) due to the ridiculously huge lift lines. Those hills used to be quiet, but have been very busy for the past couple years – even more so this year. Everyone cried about isolatation, but 1.5 hrs from an international airport seems pretty reasonable to me.
    KH shot themselves in the foot on day 1 by not installing a mid-station on the gondola. Revelstoke is so busy these days they really do need another chair, or two, asap.
    The terrain isn’t packed with people, but the lineups are massive.
    Sure it’s not USA busy… but on powder days 20+ minute chair waits at Revy and 45+ min gondola waits at KH are the norm.

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