British Columbia’s Minister of Environment has finally killed the Jumbo Glacier Resort, proposed to rival Whistler in the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia. Jumbo Glacier is a spectacularly-remote place up a dirt logging road from Panorama Mountain Village and Invermere. It’s more than 200 miles from Calgary, the nearest major city and airport. The plan was to build 20+ lifts on 3,000 hectares of public land above 5,000 feet. You can read the full master plan here.
The project was first submitted to the BC government in 1991 and received environmental approval in 2004. The resort claimed they would get 2,700 skiers per day. This was always a red flag to me as 2,700 skiers is not a big number for a destination ski resort. Take for example a mid-sized area like Mt. Sunapee in New Hampshire. It has six lifts and a comfortable carrying capacity of 5,220 skiers per day. 2,700 could justify perhaps three or four lifts at Jumbo, not 23.
BC has no shortage of large ski areas struggling due to remoteness. Kicking Horse and Revelstoke are perhaps most similar to the Jumbo proposal. Revelstoke was supposed to have 21 lifts; they built three before running out of money in 2008. Lucky for them, the 27th richest person in Canada bought in and paid off over $100 million in debt. Kicking Horse was in similar trouble when it was rescued by Resorts of the Canadian Rockies in 2011. Both of these resorts are on the Trans-Canada Highway, not 50 miles from a town.
In 2013, the developers of the Jumbo project managed to get it incorporated as a resort municipality like Whistler and Sun Peaks. Now a place with no buildings and no residents was legally a town! Since there was nobody to vote, the BC government appointed a mayor and municipal council without holding elections. Even more shocking, the resort received $310,000 in taxpayer dollars.
Last fall, Jumbo faced an October 13th deadline (ten years after approval) to substantially start construction or lose their environmental permit. They paid Leitner-Poma to build footings for a quad chair base terminal that were finished just five days before the deadline. The resort also poured the foundation for a base lodge. All last winter, environmental groups and the resort’s backers argued over whether this work constituted substantial construction. Yesterday, the BC government officially declared the environmental permit has expired. I don’t expect we will hear much more from the investor group. Check out jumboglacierresort.com and the resort’s Facebook page before they disappear forever.