Mountain News: 

Banff ski areas losing business to B.C.

Compiled by Allen Best

BANFF, Alberta — The ski areas in Banff National Park have been losing business even as those on the western side of the Rockies in British Columbia have been gaining.

"The Interior of B.C. saw a growth of 100,000 skiers last year; our decline was 80,0000 said Crosbie Cotton, director of the National Parks Ski Association. In all, he said, skier days in Banff have dropped 35 per cent in the last five years. "Panorama, Kicking Horse, Sun Peaks, Silverstar… B.C.’s open for business," he said.

Cotton gave several reasons for the slide in Banff, which is located in Alberta. The B.C. government has set out to aggressively grow the tourism component of the economy. Transportation is improving, with the Cranbrook airport potentially being expanded to accommodate charter jets. As well, increasing numbers of Canadians are heading to the U.S. to ski. At least in Alberta, the belief is that American ski operators are using real estate sales to subsidize the ski product.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook reports that, at a Banff National Park Planning Forum held in late November, the financial picture of the ski areas in Banff was portrayed as weak or worse. Marmot Basin in Jasper has lost money in the last two years, Lake Louise is just emerging from bankruptcy protection, and Sunshine has taken on more debt. Operators of Norquay, which was created in 1926, making it the oldest ski resort in Banff, "have not taken a penny out of the operation and cannot recapitalize." It is described as the most at-risk resort.

Also blamed for the financial instability of the resorts are regulations imposed four years ago that mandate 15-year long-range plans. Cotton said that each ski area could spend $500,000 to $1 million "to do a plan with unknown results."

Deal reported to be near

REVELSTOKE, B.C. — A deal that could result in a major destinations ski resort at Revelstoke is reported to be near. "I'm extremely optimistic that we'll have a deal," Revelstoke Mayor Mark McKee told the Revelstoke Times Review.

Three parties have been negotiating for months over rights to develop the city’s existing ski area, Mount MacKenzie. British Columbia’s provincial agency in charge of natural resources granted conditional approval. Full approval depends upon agreement among the existing operator of a Sno-cat skiing operation, the would-be developer, and the city itself, which owns 69 acres on the mountain.

The role of a mediator was believed to be instrumental in unkinking the stalled negotiations.

Gates lead to affordable housing

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Here’s a new argument for gated communities. By erecting gates, developers can charge more for the real estate they build. By charging more for real estate, they can more readily subsidize affordable housing.

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