It’s a long-term project with few immediate benefits. But with construction of the $80 million destination resort at Canoe Mountain set to begin in the spring, Valemount can see at least some light at the end of the recession tunnel.
Sunrise International expects to sign its master development agreement the last major hurdle before construction starts in January. The agreement paves the way for ground breaking after the snow is gone.
Their plan for a destination resort eight kilometres south of Valemount calls for two 18-hole golf courses, a gondola to the summit of Canoe Mountain, some alpine and cross country ski runs, a 270-room destination hotel, 360 single family homes and 120 condominium units.
It’s the first, and most ambitious, such development by the Edmonton-based Sunrise International. The company currently runs a number of hotel and tourism operations in northern Alberta and B.C., including the Terracana Resort between McBride and Tete Jaune Cache and the Maligne Lake Tour Boat in Jasper.
But Sunrise has been following a common trend in B.C. and Canada toward all-in-one destination resorts, said John Cosgrove, the company’s vice-president of operations.
“That’s basically what people are looking for in a post-September 11 marketplace. People are trying to reduce the amount of travel and I think they’re interested in having all the amenities in one place.”
The project is expected to take a total of 12 years to complete, with the base operations up and running in about four years. It will depend entirely on private investment, said Cosgrove.
Valemount Mayor Jeannette Townsend said she had been told the resort should create about 165 direct jobs, with a number of spinoff opportunities servicing the resort.
“It’s not going to have a tremendous impact in that it’s going to knock people off their feet.”
It will have what she calls a “shock absorber effect” in that the economic activity created will absorb some of the pain from the fluctuating fortunes of the community’s number one economic driver, the forest industry.
Valemount’s Slocan mill was shut down indefinitely in August, putting 165 direct jobs out of commission. Those jobs affect 40 per cent of Valemount’s households, said Townsend. There is no indication when or if the mill will re-open, she said.
Beginning next spring the Sunrise development will create at least some activity in the stagnant economy of the community of 1,500. There will be a number of construction jobs and demand for supplies, as well as some logging opportunities while the land in and around Canoe Mountain is cleared.
Valemount commissioned a recent traffic impact study that showed over 3,000 vehicles moved through Valemount every day during the summer.
Many of those vehicles stop, said Townsend. But a number don’t for one reason or another, one of which is there is a shortage of hotel rooms in the small community. The hotel at Canoe should relieve some of that pressure, she said, as well as creating potential for further room construction close to town.
The 480 housing and condominium units will likely be owned in large part as vacation homes by people from Edmonton and other parts of Alberta and B.C., including possibly Kamloops and Prince George, said Cosgrove.
The resort will be a year-round destination, he said. While it will not delve directly into other tourism operations, it will likely tie its operations in with a number of other eco-tourism opportunities in the area, such as whitewater rafting and heli-skiing.
Valemount is about three hours from Prince George, four hours from Kamloops and six hours from Edmonton.