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Mount Mackenzie development finally becomes reality

Four-season resort near Revelstoke will have fourth highest vertical drop in the world

Nearly 20 years after its potential as a major ski area was first identified a master plan for the development of a four-season resort at Revelstoke’s Mount Mackenzie was announced this week.

"The community has been waiting for this day since the 1980s," said Wendy McMahon, MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke. "Through the combined efforts of all of those involved we will be home to B.C.'s newest all-season resort. We will create jobs and economic opportunities by attracting visitors into B.C.'s Interior and enhancing the Golden-Revelstoke corridor as the Gateway to B.C."

The Mount Mackenzie master plan was just the latest major ski area announcement in B.C. in the last 12 months for a provincial government that has been touting its resort development strategy. Earlier this fall an environmental certificate was approved for the proposed Jumbo Creek ski area near Invermere. Last summer the Osoyoos Indian Band became part of a consortium that purchased and plans to expand Mount Baldy. Master Development Agreements were also signed last December for Crystal Mountain near Kelowna and Canoe Mountain near Valemount. A master plan was also approved for Saddle Mountain, near Blue River

Mount Mackenzie, however, may eventually have the biggest impact on the ski and resort business. Situated on the Trans-Canada Highway, with the Upper Arrow and Revelstoke lakes nearby and plenty of land at the base of the mountain for real estate and golf course development, Mount Mackenzie offers better four-season potential than most B.C. ski areas.

Winter plans see a four-phase development of the ski area that would eventually provide more than 6,000 vertical feet of terrain served by up to 25 lifts, including a two-stage gondola, detachable chairlifts, fixed grip quad and triple chairs, a surface lift and a cabriolet gondola. At buildout the skiable area would be more than 2,000 ha. with a comfortable carrying capacity of 17,050 skiers a day.

The vision for the development is a "Small, low density, high quality and service oriented, nature-based destination resort as an integral part of a remote and diverse mountain town." More than 16,000 bed units, an 18-hole golf course and a multi-use trail system are envisioned for the base of the mountain.

The company behind the development is Mount Mackenzie Resort Limited, which has offices in Vancouver. The people behind the company are Toronto’s Hunter Milbourne, who was at one time involved in the Garibaldi at Squamish proposal, and Robert Powadiuk.

The initial phase of development is expected to cost $270 million, which will largely be financed through real estate sales. Total investment anticipated over about 15 years of development is approximately $1 billion.

A three-way agreement, involving MMRL, the City of Revelstoke and Cat Powder Skiing, had to be reached in order to put the 4,000 ha. development area together. MMRL will buy the city’s lease of 27.6 ha. of Crown land, that includes the existing lift and ski runs on Mount Mackenzie. Cat Powder Skiing held two Crown leases, one of which included the existing day lodge and a second which included the snowcat ski runs. MMRL will buy the day lodge lease from Cat Powder Skiing and make phased modifications to the company’s second lease to provide ski terrain for each phase of the mountain’s development.

Cat Powder Skiing will develop different parcels of land to compensate for the loss of the day lodge and develop new ski terrain south of the ski area boundary for new snowcat skiing.

B.C. Lands and Water had given MMRL’s development plans conditional approval last summer but full approval depended on an agreement among the three players. The three parties were in disagreement over tenure rights for months, but recent negotiations led to a tentative agreement last week, which was finalized and formally announced on Tuesday.

The province and MMRL will now begin negotiations on a Master Development Agreement which is expected to be concluded early in the new year. The City of Revelstoke will approve an Official Community Plan to support the resort and extend its boundaries to include the controlled recreation area within the city.

The pre-selling of real estate will begin in 2005. Phase I construction is expected to begin shortly thereafter and be completed by 2007.

Mount Mackenzie Facts

• At approximately 1,945 metres (6,400 feet) Mount MacKenzie will have the fourth highest vertical drop of any resort in the world. Blackcomb's vertical drop of about 1,600 metres ( 5,280 feet) makes it the highest in B.C. at present, but 19th in the world.

• Mount Mackenzie gets 1,200 cm (40 feet) of snow each year. Whistler, by comparison, averages about 600 cm (20 feet).

• Mount MacKenzie will be about one-third the size of Whistler, and comparable to Big White and Sun Peaks resorts.

• The initial capital investment will be $270 million. Estimated investment revenue of more than $800 million is based on projected real estate sales.

• The single lift ski hill at Mount MacKenzie has been in operation since 1964. CAT Powder Ski has been running the ski hill since 1999.

• More than 3 million tourists travel through Revelstoke on the Trans-Canada Highway each summer.