British Columbia Approves up to 16 Lifts at Valemount Glacier

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Oberto Oberti is a man who doesn’t give up.  Less than two months after the province of British Columbia revoked authorization to build his controversial Jumbo Glacier Resort, Mr. Oberti won approval today to build a 12,000-acre ski resort in the Premier Mountains west of Jasper. The resort’s master plan lays out 16 lifts surrounding Mt. Pierre Trudeau, named for the father of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  Mr. Oberti’s storied history in Canadian skiing includes designing Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, building resort hotels in Whistler and proposing Jumbo Glacier.

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The lift layout envisions building 4 gondolas, 8 quad chairlifts and 4 T-Bars over ten years.

Valemount Glacier could eventually rise 7,415 vertical feet with the only lift-served, year-round glacier skiing on the continent.  Its vertical drop would be third longest in the world, rivaled only by Zermatt and Chamonix. Total acreage could reach 12,348, nearly twice the size of the new Park City.  “You have to picture this as a series of gondolas on mountains, one after another,” Mr. Oberti’s son Tommaso told Business Vancouver today.  “Each mountain is taller than the preceding one.”  Lifts could reach an elevation of 10,515 feet – 1,500 feet higher than Canada’s current loftiest lift at Sunshine Village.

Phase one includes two gondolas, two high speed quads, a fixed-grip quad and two glacier T-Bars serving 5,233′ of vertical.  The detailed plan is here.  Valemount would have two base areas: a day-skier facility near the town airport at 3,068′ and a pedestrian village for destination guests at 4,365′.  The Valemount Glacier Gondola would stretch more than a mile to a Glacier Viewpoint 3,714′ above the main village.  A second gondola to Twilight Basin would add 2,100′ more vertical, serving the Twilight Glacier Express and two T-Bars that would operate year-round.  Phases two and three map two more gondolas to reach more glaciers with additional chairlifts and T-Bars.

British Columbia already has 36 ski resorts and, arguably, not enough skiers. Colorado hosts more than twice as many skiers at its 23 mountains thanks to easy access and a growing population.  In B.C., Whistler Blackcomb alone hosts 2.24 million of B.C.’s six million annual skier visits owing to its proximity to Vancouver.  Trekking to Valemount is three hours from the not-so-bustling cities of Kamloops and Prince George, 5.5 hours from Edmonton and 7 hours from Vancouver.  Yikes.

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Kicking Horse and Revelstoke top the list of B.C.’s newest destinations with massive vertical, epic snowfall and modern lifts but too few skiers. Revelstoke Mountain Resort planned 25 lifts; the initial investors built three before running out of money and getting bailed out by one of the richest men in Canada.  Kicking Horse’s master plan includes seven additional lifts that Resorts of the Canadian Rockies has been unable to afford since the first three were built in 2000 and 2002.  Valemount also faces competition for investor dollars from other resorts not yet open including Garibaldi at Squamish, Saddle Mountain, Canoe Mountain and Jumbo Glacier.

On the lift front, Mr. Oberti has a history with Leitner-Poma at both Kicking Horse and Jumbo. He says construction should begin in Valemount next spring with a grand opening as early as December 2017.

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9 thoughts on “British Columbia Approves up to 16 Lifts at Valemount Glacier

  1. Mike August 18, 2016 / 2:15 pm

    Yet another screwy layout proposed by Oberti. Anyone who has skied at Kicking Horse or looked at the plans for Jumbo knows what I’m talking about. I don’t care how good the snow is or how big the vertical is – a location as remote as Valemount with a lift layout that doesn’t make it easy to navigate for the majority of skier market (non-experts) will fail.

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    • Mike August 18, 2016 / 2:16 pm

      …Or at least never come close to reaching the build-out expectations of the promoters.

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    • Peter Landsman August 18, 2016 / 2:20 pm

      I skied at Kicking Horse last April and the layout is tough that time of year, even for expert skiers. You either lap the one quad up top or brave the morning ice/afternoon glop for 2,000 vertical each run. Oberti’s original plan had a mid-station on the gondola which should not have been axed. Nevermind the capacity issue and lack of redundancy with only one major lift.

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    • RMurphy August 18, 2016 / 7:11 pm

      As an expert it pains me to say this, but the success of a ski area has nothing to do with us. You have to market well to intermediate tourists and local families, because that’s where the money is. For places like Kicking Horse or this, you don’t have locals and it’s not an ideal mountain for intermediates. Why would they go to Valemount when Summit County (UT and CO) take much better care of them?

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      • Vermontskier August 27, 2016 / 6:27 am

        And when summit county (UT) is a closer plane ride. I can drive 2 hours from stratton to albany, catch a flight to chicago, and from there catch a direct to salt lake. Even telluride sounds better than BC from vermont (telluride = 6 hrs in planes, 1.5 hrs in car from montrose to telluride). Or, I could add one hour of driving onto that and fly direct from boston to salt lake. Or add 1 hour to that and fly directly from newark NJ to telluride (all of which I have done).

        Sadly, even switzerland is closer than BC.

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      • d howe August 29, 2016 / 9:17 am

        Even experts appreciate intermediate terrain. For example, 57 year old expert former racers who would rather arc big turns on wide-open blue runs than beat up their older bodies in chutes or steep bumps. Or 57 year old expert former racers who like to ski with their low intermediate girlfriends. Blue runs are the sweet spot in the skiing biz. It’s always been that way.

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  2. d howe August 29, 2016 / 1:36 pm

    Another thought about Valemount. I’ve actually been there (in the summer) and while very scenic, it is truly in the middle of nowhere. You’d be hard pressed to find a more remote town in North America that’s still on a road (Prince Rupert BC might be even more remote). The roads from either Vancouver or Edmonton have looong stretches of nothing where things can go horribly wrong in the middle of winter. The town of Valemount itself consists of a few stores, a couple gas stations and a hotel. This is a field of dreams but it’ll be something to check out if it ever comes to fruition. But until they get air service you can count me out.

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