The province and Apex Resort Corporation returned to court Thursday after attempting to finalize an agreement appointing a receiver/manager for the ski resort.
The agreement will allow the Penticton ski area to operate this winter. There was no word on the deal or on the status of Apex’s $125 million suit against the province as Pique went to press.
The province announced in July that it was calling the $8.6 million loan to Apex it had guaranteed. Last month Apex managers closed the resort and applied for an injunction to the appointment of a receiver. Legal action was delayed a month while the two sides negotiated.
The province and Apex became financially and legally intertwined after a five-week native blockade of the Apex access road in the fall of 1994. The resort said the blockade cost the company $3 million directly, caused the ski area to open late and scared away skiers and investors. The province then guaranteed an $8 million loan from the Bank of Montreal to help the resort recover.
In the meantime Apex announced it was pursuing a $125 million suite against the province, the federal government and the three native bands involved in the blockade for damages caused by the blockade.
Apex officials say they had negotiated terms of the loan repayment and a company restructuring plan with the government prior to the provincial election in May. Apex says the plan received all the necessary approvals and was sent to cabinet for final approval but put on hold until after the election. Following the election cabinet rejected the deal.
However, Employment and Investment Minister Dan Miller told Apex employees last month that the resort operators had never made an interest payment on the loan and the province felt they had no intention of repaying the loan.
Originally the government indicated it intended to have the resort sold within 90 days of a receiver being appointed. But it’s unlikely a buyer could be found until the native claims to the access road are resolved.
Miller later said he intended to ask for a manager to be appointed to operate the resort through the winter. Apex has a significant impact on the South Okanagan economy during the winter, directly employing about 250 people but generating considerable tourism spin-offs throughout the region.
The resort has booked a tour group of 500 skiers from Alberta over New Year’s. Their visit is expected to pump $500,000 into the local economy. But Apex says the tour group, along with others, will cancel if the receivership issue is not settled by the middle of September.
The dispute over ownership of the access road is not expected to be an issue until after the Penticton band holds its council elections later this month. However, earlier this week there were reports natives had attempted to intimidate highway crews working on the access road.
The Highways Ministry had earlier agreed to keep maintenance crews off the road.