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.
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.
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.