Logging community sees saviour on skis
A small logging community in the Premier Range of east-central B.C. is hoping a ski resort proposal for the area can secure their economic future.
Valemount, located 225 kilometres south-west of Jasper, has a population of 1,200 but serves the entire Robson Valley with a population base of approximately 5,000. The community, along with a U.S.-based ski resort designer, has recently unveiled plans to develop a ski resort.
The yet unnamed peak has already been identified by B.C. Lands as a potential ski resort, but Valemount Mayor Jeannette Townsend says the plans are "very preliminary."
With the help of Jack Johnson, designer of Deer Park, Utah, the community has expressed interest in finding cash to develop a ski hill with 900 metres of vertical with a lift reaching 2,200 metres on a local peak.
"Right now our primary interest is just a community ski hill," five -year mayor Townsend says. "Because of the class of mountain, it has the potential to develop into a destination resort."
She says the logging which has driven the local economy for generations has started to drop off as the annual allowable cut in the area gets cut back.
"We have got to look at diversifying our economy if we want to keep people in our community," she says, adding the rugged area is already very popular with backcountry snowmobilers and heli-ski operators.
Silvio Gislemberti, economic development officer for Valemount and area, recently moved to B.C. from Innsbruck, Austria. He says the skiing potential in the Valemount area is a vault just waiting to be opened.
"The snow conditions are just excellent and the hill has a very nice open contour with plenty of easily accessible intermediate and beginner terrain," he says. "In the future, there are some great options for advanced skiing in the area as well." He says a stunning view of Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, is part of the proposal as well.
"We are not looking at doing this tomorrow, but when the logging activity drops off more and more in the next 5-10 years we want to be ready," Gislemberti says.
Richard Hough, manager of the Prince George office of B.C. Lands, says he is aware of the Valemount plans, but is not worried about the proposal needing fast tracking.
"This plan is not going to go very far unless somebody has an extra $20-30 million, that's what they are going to need," Hough says. "Somebody is going to have to come in and invest a lot of money in a very, very small community."