If you haven’t been following what’s been happening up in Valemount, I don’t blame you. A solid eight-hour drive from Whistler, between the Cariboo and the Rocky Mountains, Valemount is a quiet community of about 1,000 people located an hour away from Jasper National Park.
Aside from a massive amount of Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion work, this tiny village doesn't have much going on. However, that might soon be changing. Valemount is the planned location of British Columbia’s next major ski resort.
The Valemount Glacier Destination is an ambitious project to build a year-round ski resort over the Premier Range of the Cariboo Mountains—so named because they feature the names of former prime ministers and B.C. premiers.
At full build-out, the ski hill will feature 18 lifts and roughly 800 hectares of skiable terrain, as well as more than 2,090 metres of vertical drop, the third highest in-bounds vertical in the world, and the highest vertical in North America. For comparison, Whistler’s vertical drop is 1,530 metres.
In addition to its high vertical, the resort will also be home to year-round glacier skiing, one of its prime selling features that sets it apart from virtually every other resort in the province. Whistler Blackcomb, for instance. offers summer skiing on Horstman Glacier, but not year-round.
The Valemount resort is fascinating on several fronts, from the scale of the skiable area, to the first phase of its village centre design that will house up to 2,295 bed units at full build-out.
Already approved, work has begun on the hill's first ski runs, bucking a years-long trend for prospective ski resorts in B.C. Over the last few decades, multiple ski resort proposals have popped up across the province that have yet to open for business.
From the nearby Cayoosh Valley proposal near Pemberton to Garibaldi Resort near Squamish or farther away proposals like the controversial Jumbo Glacier Resort. Or the recent moves to create ski resorts in the ghost town of Zincton near New Denver or a massive expansion of the Hemlock Ski Hill into a Whistler-sized destination in the Fraser Valley.
With each of these proposals, significant opposition formed for one reason or another, whether due to environmental concerns or First Nations opposition over land rights and lack of consultation. Revelstoke Ski Resort was the last new ski hill created in B.C. after the provincial government approved it in the late 2000s, paving the way for it to officially open in 2007.
Valemount's local Simpcw First Nation came out in favour of the ski resort proposal. With several environmental concerns addressed, the Fraser-Fort George Regional District and the provincial government approved the resort in 2017.
Since the project was approved, construction has been slow due to financing challenges. The project's initial estimated cost was pegged at $100 million, but that could reach all the way to $500 million at build-out.
Logging for road and run creation was initially planned to begin in the summer of 2021 but was delayed due to financing challenges. To combat this wait, the local community has jumped in to get things going.
Locals have created a ski society and got approval from VGD to start logging and construction on a small community ski hill with a tow bar lift at the base of the mountain. According to the local newspaper, The Rocky Mountain Goat, logging for the new, temporary, community ski hill began in the spring of 2022 and progress has been made toward creating the handle tow runs, although not in time for this winter season.
For more information on the plans for Valemount, visit valemountglaciers.com.