Al Raine’s dreams of building his own ski area were revived by Moe Sihota when the Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks skied Sun Peaks this winter.
Raine, executive director of Sun Peaks Resort Association, says an interim agreement to develop the Cayoosh area for skiing was signed a couple of weeks ago.
"It’s a framework to do more studies," Raine says, but adds there could be cat-skiing at the proposed resort within two or three years.
"It certainly made a difference Sihota getting involved. He’s very keen on ski area development in B.C."
Raine put his plans for a ski area in the Cayoosh basin, a hanging valley off the Duffey Lake Road, on hold a few years because he felt the bureaucracy within the ministry was opposed to any development. Earlier this winter he had even pulled his weather monitoring equipment out of Cayoosh. But Sihota said he would help push the project forward.
"We were totally at a stalemate six months ago," he says. "But I’m encouraged again."
The timing of the breakthrough probably didn’t just happen to coincide with the provincial election.
"I think there was a little motivation to finalize (the agreement) before the election," Raine says.
Raine now has until October of 1998 to complete an environmental assessment. If that is satisfactory it should lead to a master plan development agreement, which must be finished by March of 2000. Once that is in place he can begin financing the actual development. The whole project has a 2007 drop-dead date.
However, if the environmental assessment is satisfactory a snow cat skiing operation will likely be established for a couple of winters, to gather more data and understanding of the area.
"I’m reasonably confident we can complete the environmental assessment and go forward," Raine says.
He noted the Wildlife branch is still concerned the area may be part of mountain goats’ winter range, but have dropped their concerns about the area being part of the winter habitat of mule deer and grizzly bear.
"The people we met with, their position is we’ve got to manage the impact, rather than oppose (the project).
"The government has said they’d like to see this proceed, if at all possible."
Raine’s studies of the Cayoosh area show that with its elevation and being on the leeward side of the Coast Mountains the snow is lighter than in Whistler and the area gets considerably more sunshine. His plans are eventually to build a village on a smaller scale than Whistler, with pensions and lodges rather than large hotels. Few people would actually live year-round at the resort.