Utah company betting on Chipmunk 

Proposed ski area near Chilliwack faces first hurdle in next few weeks

It’s so far so good for the proponents of a large scale ski resort in the Chipmunk Ridge area outside of Chilliwack, but some significant hurdles remain before the project wins final approval.

In July, Resorts West, the resort proponent, submitted an expression of interest to develop the area, which borders on the city of Chilliwack. The project would include the construction of one or two trams from the valley to Chipmunk Ridge, accessing a back bowl area surrounded by a series of peaks in the 1,700-1,800 metre range.

Resorts West is based in Utah and has experience building and operating ski resorts, including Deer Valley, Park City and The Canyons.

That proposal has since made the rounds at the provincial government, which has tentatively agreed that there is a potential to build a ski resort in the area. The City of Chilliwack has already expressed its support for the idea, although the approval of the regional district and local Cheam First Nations will also be required.

Whistler-based Brent Harley and Associates, a resort planning and consultant company, is handling the applications for Resorts West while helping to plan the proposed resort. It was also their slope analysis that showed just how much potential the area has for recreation.

According to Brent Harley, there are some significant hurdles remaining for the project before it can go ahead.

At the same time, the province has streamlined the application process through the All Season Resort Policy.

"One thing that’s out there now is a fast-track process, which means that any project that has been identified as having significant merit, the government will do anything in its power to make sure the proposals move swiftly through the approval stages. Early on this was identified as a project where there’s merit," said Harley, who said the initial goal was to have the first phase completed by 2010.

One reason the resort could be fast-tracked is the fact that it literally borders on the boundaries of Chilliwack, with existing roads and facilities to the tram loading area and proposed real estate projects, which fall within Chilliwack city limits.

"Mount Baldy (near Osoyoos), another project we’re working on, is leading the way as far as the fast-track process goes. If it works, it will immediately speed up the development process and approvals process, so (2010) is still a possibility."

One of the first potential hurdles for the Chipmunk project could take place as early as next week, when the province issues a formal request for expressions of interest for resort development in the area. In this phase other resort developers will be able to submit their own concepts for the area.

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