Whistler resort planner sees Red 

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Master plan for Kootenay ski area expansion approved

Brent Harley looks at British Columbia and sees mountains of opportunity.

Harley’s Whistler-based resort planning business, Brent Harley and Associates Inc., has just completed a new master plan for Red Mountain near the West Kootenay town of Rossland.

"Red Mountain truly is a magical place," Harley told Pique Newsmagazine . "It’s a really interesting situation. We listened to what makes the area special and we’ve tried to compliment the town’s character, not replicate it."

The $33-million plan was approved two weeks ago by the provincial government’s new Sustainable Resource Management ministry and B.C. Assets and Lands Corp.

According to a BCAL press release, Red Mountain will expand into a destination ski resort in seven phases over the next 20 to 30 years. The plan includes new terrain and lifts, which will double the existing area, on five different mountains.

"We’re trying to bring a balance to the area by including more terrain for beginner and intermediate skiers," said Harley, referring to the ski area’s fondness for double-black diamond runs.

The expansion will also provide residential and commercial development at the ski area’s base. When completed, the resort will able to handle close to 10,000 skiers per day and provide accommodation for 6,500 guests.

"We now have the building blocks for the future of Red Mountain," said resort manager Jim Greene.

The base-area development plans take Rossland’s century-old mining history and Victorian character – reminiscent of Colorado’s Telluride or Crested Butte – into account by following existing municipal design guidelines.

"The people of Rossland have an attachment to Red Mountain and they want things done right," said Harley. "They don’t want to be another Whistler."

Red Mountain, which is renowned for its big dumps of powder snow and hairball tree skiing, has produced more national team racers than any other mountain in Canada.

Olympic gold medallists Nancy Greene Raine and Kerrin Lee-Gartner both grew up schussing down the ski area’s steep slopes.

Harley noted that skiing off the back side of Red Mountain into downtown Rossland – a local favourite that requires navigating around old mine openings and down tailing piles – is a possibility, although not included in the current plans.

"The land is privately owned but the concept is still alive," he said in an interview last week at his Function Junction office.

The development plans, which include expanding the existing nine-hole golf course to 18 holes, are subject to being incorporated by Rossland city council into the town’s official community plan and zoning bylaws. Public hearings are scheduled for later this summer.

Red Mountain Resort Inc. has a conditional agreement to sell the ski area to a resort development company from Collingwood, Ont., which expires at the end of July.

Meanwhile, Harley is currently working on development plans for a handful of other mountains, including Saddle Mountain near Mike Wiegele’s heli-skiing operation in Blue River.

The exclusive Saddle Mountain development will be unique for a couple of reasons, not just $300 lift tickets or residential lots with accompanying heli-pads. Harley said the plans will incorporate existing forestry clearcuts into the ski area as runs.

According to BCAL, B.C. ski resorts are a major component of the province’s tourism industry, generating revenues of $300-million per year.

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