Porta-potties, poo-pooed plans and parking lots 

Three ski resorts in B.C.’s Kootenay region are experiencing their share of problems in preparation for the upcoming 2001-2002 season.

Botched sewage agreements, development plans and proposed sales have shelved improvements at resorts in Fernie, Golden and Rossland.

In East Kootenay, Fernie city council suggested in July that Fernie Alpine Resort might not open due to difficulties with its sewage disposal system.

Last year, the resort’s sewage was shipped by truck to nearby Fernie. The Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection has nixed that option for this year.

FAR has been considering making upgrades to its own sewage plant but the resort’s owner – Calgary-based Resorts of the Canadian Rockies – is currently experiencing financial problems and is under court-ordered creditor protection.

A shareholder vote on a proposed rescue package that will bail out the company is scheduled for Aug. 17., but the upgrades could not be completed for this winter anyway.

FAR has also been considering hooking into the city’s sewage system. The City of Fernie, however, has made it clear that won’t happen unless the resort joins the municipality.

One Fernie councillor has even suggested that the resort will have to use porta-potties this winter.

The city is currently petitioning the provincial government to bring the resort within city boundaries. The resort can be annexed but only through a regional referendum.

Members of the East Kootenay regional district are accusing Fernie council of pressuring FAR into joining the city.

Fernie businesses, meanwhile, are blaming the city of doing harm to the local tourism industry with its ultimatum.

According to the Fernie Free Press , bookings for the upcoming ski season are down by 20 per cent compared to this time last year.

"If the City of Fernie is really concerned about the economic future of the resort, they would quit playing politics and offer them service instead of threatening to withhold it," said one regional district director.

Fernie was singled out by Rolling Stone magazine last year as North America’s "hot" ski town.

In Golden, a five-hour drive north of Fernie, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort has had to scale back its plans to add new lifts and accommodations because of last year’s lack of snow.

The newly developed KHMR, which is located in the Dogtooth Range of the Purcell Mountains, was hoping for 70,000 skier-visits last year but only recorded about 38,000.

According to the Golden Star , new lifts and a $15-million hotel, which were originally scheduled to be open for this winter, will not be ready until 2002.

"Given the results of this past winter and due to the fact real estate sales didn’t really get going until late in the spring, investors decided it wasn’t time to take on the additional risk," said a KHMR spokesperson.

Last season was KHMR’s first. The resort currently consists of one gondola – which accesses 4,000 vertical feet of skiing – and two chairlifts. There is also a day lodge and mountaintop restaurant.

KHMR is owned by a consortium of investors, which includes a Dutch construction company and Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain Resorts.

In the West Kootenay, the proposed sale of Red Mountain near Rossland has been pushed back until at least the end of September.

The prospective purchaser, an Ontario-based company, which owns a golf course and real estate developments at Blue Mountain near Collingwood, is not ready to commit to the deal.

"It is a very long-term investment, so we have to make sure it’s worth spending all the time, money and effort to make it worthwhile," the company’s manager told the Trail Daily Times .

The privately held company made a conditional offer to buy Red Mountain last March but has since backed off because of legal problems with a failed hotel project in the middle of what is currently the resort’s parking lot.

Red Mountain took over the site last spring after the development stalled and then sold its rights to a Calgary-based company.

The original developer, a Kelowna-based company, claims it is owed money for improvements it made to the site. The legal wranglings are currently working their way through provincial court in Alberta.

The B.C. government approved a new master development plan for Red Mountain in June. The plan is scheduled to go through a series of public hearings in Rossland this October before city council can incorporate the resort development into its official community plan and zoning bylaws.

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