A Dozen Years In, Revelstoke Reassesses

revelstoke 3-26-10 113
Revelstoke Mountain Resort currently operates four Leitner-Poma Omega detachable lifts built in 2007 and 2008.

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.

phase 2
Last month, Revelstoke Mountain Resort filed a new master plan with the province.  This map shows the current buildout and phase 2.

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.

Stellar-Chair-Rendition-web

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.

phase3
Phase 3 is shown in purple and light blue denotes possible buildout.

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.

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19 thoughts on “A Dozen Years In, Revelstoke Reassesses

  1. reaperskier June 1, 2019 / 10:28 am

    Peter, will you get pictures of more interior B.C. Ski areas this winter in addition to pics of Stellar?

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    • Peter Landsman June 2, 2019 / 1:43 pm

      I can’t promise this winter but Hudson Bay Mountain, Shames Mountain, Troll, Powder King, Purden, Mt. Timothy and Murray Ridge are all on my hit list.

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      • reaperskier June 2, 2019 / 5:13 pm

        Get Mt Tabor too.

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        • Peter Landsman June 2, 2019 / 5:18 pm

          My understanding is that one is no longer in operation.

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        • jaytrem June 2, 2019 / 5:48 pm

          Not sure what’s going to happen with Tabor. Been a couple years since the lodge burnt down. About 4 years ago I did basically the same trip Peter is talking about. Easily one of my favorites. Was surprised so many places with small populations could stay in business. Guess some of them are having trouble. Peter, if you do make the trip be sure to check out the poma at Little Mac in MacKenzie. There’s also one at I think 108 Mile house. The place was totally closed down when we were there though, it’s more lodging than ski area.

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        • Peter Landsman June 2, 2019 / 5:54 pm

          I think 108 Mile House and Little Mac are also both now lost. BC is down to 36 operating downhill areas by my count. Still not bad for a province with half the population of New York City.

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        • jaytrem June 2, 2019 / 5:56 pm

          Pretty sure this is the place with the poma…

          https://www.sprucehillresort.com/index.html

          I think it’s a different name now. We had a reservation at one point, but ended up cancelling when I found out they had shut down.

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  2. Daniel Innes June 1, 2019 / 12:01 pm

    I’m not totally sure if I like the North Bowl chair. The lemming line off of Stoke chair is not a hard trek to do and it ensures that its only advanced skiers that get into the advanced terrain. I just fear that putting a chair there might ruin the untouched charm of North and Greely Bowl.

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  3. Thomas Jett June 1, 2019 / 7:11 pm

    Does anybody know the updated stats for the planned lifts? Mainly chair capacity and fix/detachable.

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  4. Glenn Westrup June 2, 2019 / 2:40 am

    I’ve always wanted to ski a run called Avocado.

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  5. dhowe June 2, 2019 / 1:33 pm

    I skied Revelstoke this past winter (along with five other resorts on the Powder Highway) and I could understand why demand hasn’t materialized. It’s a great mountain if you’re an expert freerider. But the freeride bros don’t pay the bills, intermediates and families do. There was some decent intermediate terrain off the Ripper chair but god help you if you get lost trying to get there, a real possibility with all the trail merges and missing directional signs. The rest of the mountain is unrelentingly steep with 90 degree trail merges everywhere and no speed control fences to prevent accidents. It’s really an experts-only resort but even this 60 year old expert found the place exhausting. I would have liked to visit it 30 years ago. Even Chamonix, the ultimate freeride resort, has entire ski areas dedicated to the less accomplished skiers in your group. If Revelstoke really wants to increase demand they’ll need to carve out areas of blue/green runs that are separated from the black run maelstrom – which I guess they’re trying to do this summer with the Stellar lift. Kicking Horse and Panorama share some of the same issues – too steep, not enough skiers. Revelstoke the town is sort of charming and the scenery is magnificent. I met people at the other Powder Highway resorts who had come from Ontario, Saskatchewan so Canadian skiers will go out of their way for a quality product. Revvy could pull this off and still retain their unique vibe.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thomas Jett June 2, 2019 / 7:03 pm

      I think that the planned chair 6 should alleviate a lot of the intermediate need, as it serves a lot of the intermediate terrain below the Upper Gondola. By the time of phase three, chairs 13 and 21 should make the terrain off of Ripper more attractive. And down the line, chairs 10, 17, and 20 will open up new intermediate terrain.

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  6. Nathan June 3, 2019 / 11:06 am

    Isn’t Revelstoke more like 4.5 hours hours from Calgary? Of course snow and avy closures can delay things a lot. I’m not sure what sort of trans-Canada improvements the ski area is hoping for. I supose they could extend the divided highway past lake Louise and maybe add some more avy control or more plows but that wouldn’t reduce the best case 4.5 hour time. They would help reduce the worst case 1+ day closure delays.

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    • Dhowe June 3, 2019 / 1:15 pm

      The TC went through a major rebuild just a few years ago, especially the stretch around Rogers Pass. It’s not like the old days when you had to share the road with bighorn sheep and other critters. Blaming the highway is misplaced

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    • Peter Landsman June 3, 2019 / 4:45 pm

      The six hour estimate came from the master plan document. “Air access to Revelstoke from destination markets has historically been through the Vancouver, Calgary, and Kelowna International Airports. Access to Revelstoke from the Calgary and Vancouver airports would require a shuttle of a minimum of 6 hours under good highway conditions, and a shuttle of a minimum of 2.5 hours from the Kelowna airport.”

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  7. skitheeast June 3, 2019 / 11:36 am

    I think Revelstoke should focus on getting people from Kelowna because its a sizable city only 125 miles away and most people from Calgary will always go to the closer mountains in Banff because they are also excellent mountains.

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    • Donald Reif June 3, 2019 / 2:51 pm

      They could make themselves serious competitors to Big White that way.

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  8. Doug June 3, 2019 / 12:20 pm

    Biggest issue with Revy is the low altitude. While plentiful, the snow is typically Whistler like heavy. Building two more chairs up high will alleviate.

    Another issue is expense. Accommodation on hill and in town is far more expensive than at nearby Kicking Horse, with no justification.

    Access is only sort of an issue. Lots of Calgarians venture to places like Whitefish for weekend trips, so 4.5hrs is not out of the question. Destination skiers can link Revy with other resorts like Sunshine, Louise, Panorama, Kicking Horse, Silver Star and Big White. The BC Interior needs to market the adventure aspect of visiting multiple resorts.

    I like Revy, but Calgary has many choices for weekend trips.

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