More than $200 million was invested to create Revelstoke Mountain Resort, an Ikon Pass destination in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia. While the skiing is undeniably fantastic, the resort’s timing was poor, launching on the cusp of the global financial crisis in December 2007. Acquired by Northland Properties from an American developer just a year into operation, Revelstoke has slowly grown to 3,100 acres, two gondola sections and two quad chairlifts with a third set to open this year.
Revelstoke features a continent-leading vertical rise 5,620 feet and the longest run goes on for nearly ten miles. The lower village lies along the Columbia River at 1,680 feet. Despite the addition of snowmaking in 2011, the entire lower mountain is sometimes closed due to lack of snow. The resort’s new master plan focuses on higher alpine terrain where snowfall is plentiful and reliable. The lift currently under construction, originally called Cupcake but now known as Stellar, will service a teaching zone at 5,600 feet near the summit of the Revelation Gondola.
In addition to the new Leitner-Poma quad, all four existing lifts will be brought up to their maximum capacities of 2,600 to 2,800 passengers per hour this summer through carrier additions. That means 22 new gondola cabins, 21 chairs for The Stoke and 42 more for The Ripper.
After this summer, Northland plans to shift back to adding alpine terrain Revelstoke is famous for. A high speed lift in the North Bowl of Mt. Mackenzie will provide access above The Ripper with a vertical rise of 1,970 feet. The new South Bowl quad will add 395 acres at even higher elevation with panoramic views of the Columbia. Phase 2c envisions a lift duo backing up the Revelation Gondola and a new intermediate quad known as Lift 15. “The focus of Phase 2 will be on increasing uphill lift capacity to accommodate increased visitation, as well as terrain development at higher elevations in more snow-reliable areas within the resort’s current boundary,” notes the approved plan.
The ambitious plan for 23 lifts is still around but Revelstoke’s developer makes it clear that future growth is dependent on demand. The resort is challenged by its remoteness – 2.5 hours from the nearest commercial airport and six hours from Vancouver and Calgary. “Due to the challenged access by vehicle to RMR during the winter months, skier visits have not increased dramatically and growth will be limited until further improvements have been made to the Trans-Canada Highway,” the plan notes. In the 2015-2016 ski season, the 8th year of operation, Revelstoke achieved only 34 percent of the annual skier visits that were projected to occur during the 10th year of operation.
Besides overestimating demand and underestimating costs, the original business plan relied on constant real estate sales to fund resort development. The new model looks for revenue from destination skiers, summer visitors and traditional hotel guests. “Revelstoke Alpine Village, Inc. will not be proceeding with development of any additional real estate in the Lower Village until a significant percentage of the surplus real estate is sold, and the market demand for quality resort real estate improves,” the company says. There are currently 25 lots, 120 condo units and 400 acres of land that remain unsold. On the bright side, summer gondola ridership exceeded 100,000 last year, the Pipe mountain coaster is a hit and the first downhill mountain bike trails will open this July.
“At this stage in RMR’s brand evolution, the expansion program focus is to further establish its unique brand as a boutique world-class year around destination by continuing to increase year round activities and amenities that promote adventure tourism,” the plan notes. “RMR remains committed to growth as outlined in the MDP, where growth will be defined by market demand in order to achieve a sustainable business model.”
I can’t wait to return to Revelstoke this winter to ride the new lift and, of course, ski powder in an amazing setting. For those who have not been to this corner of Canada, it is totally worth the trek. It seems the more people who do, the more lifts will get built.