Whether Al Raine becomes the first person to develop a new ski area in North America since Nakiska opened in 1987 won’t be known for some time, but there was lots of interest in what he’s doing at a public information meeting in Whistler Tuesday.
Raine’s proposal for the Cayoosh Resort, off the Duffey Lake Road between Pemberton and Lillooet, entered the Environmental Assessment process in December, part of which included public meetings in Pemberton Monday, Whistler Tuesday and Lillooet Wednesday. Approximately 50 people showed up for Tuesday’s meeting. Although there were some skeptics there was no outright opposition to the project.
Raine’s concept for Cayoosh is a destination, four-season resort with a strong emphasis on the environment. As there is no electricity into the area, Raine envisions propane or hydrogen as the power source for the upper and lower villages, the residential area and the 12 lifts that would make up the project at buildout. The village, at buildout, would be 16,000 beds and 20 per cent of all beds would be for employees, spread around the upper and lower villages. The resort would be built in at least four phases over 10 years and the developed land would be about the size of the Blackcomb Benchlands when finished.
Raine, who has always dreamed of building his own ski area, discovered the valley in 1990 while on a heli-skiing trip. Since then he has had numerous studies done at his expense. He told the meeting Monday he envisions a "turn-key resort," where he obtains all the necessary approvals and information before going to investors for financing.
"I don’t know who is going to invest in this, yet. We want to offer a "turn-key" resort investment," he said.
Work on the project is now in its sixth year and Raine feels it will be at least another six years — possibly 15 — before Cayoosh is an operating resort.
Raine submitted his initial application for Cayoosh to the province in August 1991. In February, 1992 his application was selected but it took more than three years before an interim agreement could be reached with the province outlining the steps toward a final agreement. During that time Raine gave up on the project, frustrated by the opposition to the project within several government ministries and departments. It took some intervention from former Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks Moe Sihota to bring the interim agreement to a close.
The Environmental Assessment process is expected to take 2-4 years. A project committee is reviewing the application now and will receive public input up until Feb. 25. That committee will then make a recommendation to the Minister of Environment for further studies or to reject the project.