By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily
With the weekend opening of the Whitewater Ski Resort season one day away, an opening of another sort on the mountain is still gestating, says the hills’ general manager.
Brian Cusack said the master plan — finalized and adopted by Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts in the beginning of June — is still on schedule to see the first shovel hit the ground on real estate development in 2013.
The notion of a $40-million expansion and development project still looks promising, he said, but right now they are in a studious mode, with actual planning expected to come later once it the area has revealed its real working possibilities.
The groundwork for the real estate development is now being assessed, with a water study underway for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as well as a search for a septic field that meets approval of the Ministry of Environment.
Cusack believes the consultants on the project have found a suitable field that can take all of the sewage they can throw at it.
There is also a water table and water source analysis ongoing to see how much water the new development can use without impacting the nearby creek and its resultant habitat.
A hydro geologist is studying the possibility of water being collected over time from an aquifer and stored in huge water tanks, as opposed to taking it on demand from the creek, the current method of water usage at Whitewater.
The former idea has a much gentler impact on the environment, said Cusack.
“We believe we have a sufficient amount of water in the valley floor in the aquifer,” he said.
The master plan — only a portion of the resort's Master Development Agreement with the Province — is somewhat scaled back in terms of its real estate (originally believed to be in the range of $90 million) and leaves the sensitive Qua Basin and its mountain caribou denizens untouched inside the resort's Controlled Recreation Area (CRA).
An agreement was struck in June with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Arts to retain the Provincial Government's Action Regulation (GAR) order under the Mountain Caribou Recovery Strategy, specific to Qua Basin.
The depth and breadth of the "wish list" for the development project includes 127 units of housing and six new lifts, expanded and increased runs, the creation of up to $40 million in real estate at the base of the mountain — all with the intent of increasing skier visits from 85,000 to 110,000 per season.
In all, there will be $10 to $15 million worth of infrastructure improvements made, including the possibility of geothermal heat, with $40 million worth of strata-type real estate created over the next 10 years.
In the base area there would be a core set of buildings created, with a commercial building housing a ski shop, rental shop and the ski school.
There will be a small hotel with a bar and restaurant and a hostel — 50 units between the hotel and hostel — that may include some condominium units. There would also be 123 multi-family and single-family units phased in around the bowl.
This would put 694 beds on the mountain,
The whole complex will be divided into areas:
35 single family housing units (210 beds)
38 duplex units (152 beds)
54 multi-family units (216 beds)
12 hostel units (46 beds)
24 hotel/condo units (46 beds)
10 remote lodge units (20 beds)
Back in the saddle
The first weekend in December is expected to usher in a new season in paradise as Whitewater Ski Resort will deliver over 600 acres of new skiing, three new top-to-bottom intermediate runs, and the Glory Ridge chair lift (2,044 vertical feet.
The new lift will open by Dec. 16, with the final pieces of the lift and testing still yet to be completed. The galvanized metal triple lift was brought in from Vail, Col., at “a steal” of a price.
Whitewater management will also try to assess the impact of the new triple lift on the Summit double lift — Summit could be overloaded at certain peak times to get people to the top, said Cusack.
“But between the three lifts there we should have pleasant lift lines,” he said.
The Mountain opens fulltime on Dec. 11. Last year, thanks to a huge dump of snow in the middle of November, Whitewater opened in the third week of November.
Over 100 centimetres of snow have fallen on the top of the mountains at Whitewater, with around 40 cm. accumulating at the base.
In areas with heavy snowfall, changes are in the works. Backcountry skiers heading to Revelstoke’s Glacier National Park will find anyone entering a prohibited area or a winter restricted area that is closed could be hit with fines of $2,000.
For information on the Winter Permit System call 250-837-7500 or check out www.parkscanada.gc.ca/glacier.