There was a recent announcement of another gondola alpine development being proposed nearby. What is that all about and is it impacting on your project?
An introductory “Expression of Interest” has been registered by a group called Bridal Veil MountainResort (BVFR) regarding the development of a very large ski resort and real estate development proposed adjacent to the Falls golf course, 3 kilometres west of our Cascade Skyline Gondola project. It is a remake of a 2003 proposal from Resorts West that was soundly rejected at the time by First Nations, on whose traditional territory the resort would be built, and by community authorities and the public at large.
The BVMR concept proposes a large commercial and residential alpine village at 1200m in elevation, and another at the base area, up to 18 ski lifts spread over 11,500 acres on First Nations unceded lands in the Chipmunk Creek watershed and environs. Components include extensive commercial and residential real estate development. It could be described as “just an idea” at this stage as the technical, environmental, supply and demand studies, First Nation and community consultations, and business case master-planning have not yet begun.
As a low elevation ski area development in an era of climate change, viability and sustainability are uncertain. Industry experts acknowledge that an extensive investment in snow making equipment and operations (like Cypress and Grouse Mtn.) would be required. Grouse Mtn used 137,000,000 litres of water/48 snow-guns for snowmaking in 2015. As proposed, BVMR is roughly 3 times larger/400,000,000 litres per year, vast amounts of local water reserves. Such operations are also very energy intensive so Impacts on the region’s resources are unknown and 18 lifts and associated ski runs, villages, etc. will require clearing large swaths of alpine forest and fauna.
The Cascade Skyline Gondola Project is vastly different. It is a low impact, eco cultural tourism attraction that will provide outstanding human powered adventure recreational and cultural alpine experiences to residents and visitors, and significant economic and environmental benefits to surrounding communities. It is one gondola accessing and providing stewardship to tenured alpine lands for recreational use with a small footprint w/base area on existing tourism zoned lands. No other lifts, no clearcutting, no real estate play, and no big demands on local resources. Key financing commitments, suppliers engaged, technical and environmental studies submitted, First Nations partnership established up front, extensive community and stakeholder support registered, and the project is well into the formal approval process.
The introduction, at this time, of the BVFR “expression of interest”, is creating some confusion in the public domain and unfortunate delays in the approvals process underway for CSGP.
How long ago was this project started?
It began as an idea in 2016 and was first introduced as the Bridal Falls Gondola Project. It is now formally known as the Cascade Skyline Gondola Project.
Who is proposing this project?
The project is being proposed by highly experienced and committed British Columbia businessmen with decades of experience in visioning, building and operating such an amenity in partnership with the Cheam First Nations: Chief Andrew Victor and Council.
Jayson Faulkner has extensive experience in tourism, marketing, and project management. He is the co-founder and former GM of the Sea To Sky Gondola in Squamish, former VP of Arcteryx Equipment Inc., founder of Escape Route Adventure Group, former GM of Ryders Eyewear, former Councillor at Whistler, former Director of Tatshenshini Wild, former Chair of Spearhead Huts Society, and founding President of Alpine Club of Canada (Whistler section).
Cheam First Nation sees the project as critical to their economic development strategy for the future and are co-proponents and financial partners.
Other team members are - David Wilcox , CFO - lifetime outdoor enthusiast, successful entrepreneur, former Senior Mgr. of Treasury and Strategic Development analyst for Vail Resorts, Mgr. of Finance & Investor Relations, Whistler Blackcomb.
Kevin Webb – founder and owner of North Construction based in N. Vancouver. Extremely experienced builder and contractor for large technical mountain construction projects throughout BC.. Lift and building, systems and engineering for technical terrain. Lifetime outdoor enthusiast.
Advisory Board consisting of 7 members, who are some of the leading mountain recreation operators and outdoor recreation business leaders in Canada with specialties in finance, operations, marketing, and environmental stewardship.
Is this the same project as the proposed Bridal Falls Gondola project?
Yes, it is the same group, same project. The operating company is currently Bridal Falls Gondola Corporation. And the facility is branded as Cascade Skyline Gondola. So the same people and company.
Does the gondola go up to Mt Cheam?
No, it does not. The summit terminal is over 6 kms to the west from Mt Cheam along the west ridge between Mt Archibald and Codeine Ridge. The gondola base is where the current Bridal Falls Golf Course is located.
Aren’t these sightseeing gondolas already common in BC?
No, they are not. In fact, there are only three in BC (1) and Alberta (2) combined that are specifically sight seeing only (e.g. - not ski resorts.)
How is the Gondola powered?
It is electrically driven with electronic drives and only diesel for back up motors.
What will it cost to ride the gondola?
Pricing has not been decided but will be in the range of other gondola attractions and similar experiences.
What will be at the gondola base?
The park like setting at the base will include a café, gift shop, trails, Sto’lo Cultural Centre, playground, administration building and an events plaza for community events like arts and craft shows and farmer’s markets.
Will there be a restaurant at the top?
Yes, the Summit Lodge will have a variety of food and beverage services including quick serve, table service and bistro type areas. It will also include a theatre for cultural and educational presentations, and a retail/rental shop.
Will there be other lifts like a ski resort?
No. Just the single gondola lift to get you to the Summit Lodge, viewing decks and vast array of walking, hiking, and backcountry trails.
How many visits are expected?
Based upon population trends in the area, Highway 1 traffic studies and examples of other similar operations, there will be significant demand from local and regional residents, and tourists. It is expected that local residents will be the most frequent users given our experience with similar attractions. There will be substantial visitors to the Sto’lo Cultural Centre at the base as well.
What activities will there be for families? Accessibility challenged? Older, less mobile people?
There will be a myriad of activities for families like natural play areas, viewing platforms, interpretive experiences, discovery trails and more. There will be a wheel-chair accessible trail adjacent to the Summit Lodge and multiple trails that are easier to walk. The idea is to provide a wide range of options for a wide range of abilities, all human powered and year-round.
What about winter, what activities will there be then?
Luckily, the terrain and the altitude make the area suitable for winter activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country and backcountry skiing. There will also be packed trails to walk and explore. It is expected that there will also be a tube/tobogganing park and ice-skating pond adjacent to the Summit Lodge.
What are the summer activities?
Aside from the various hiking, walking and interpretive trails connecting along the ridgelines and valley areas, there will be interpretive and natural play features throughout. Viewing platforms are planned that will showcase the spectacular views over the Fraser Valley and beyond. Trails for mountain biking along an upgraded forestry road network are contemplated as well.
Will paragliding from the summit area on Codeine Ridge continue?
Yes, with significant upgrades to the take off area on Codeine and an enhanced landing zone, in support of the history of the sport in the area and the outstanding flying conditions. The paragliding will be a great spectator sport as well for visitors and we anticipate tandem flights being quite popular.
What will be the impact on the wildlife and environment at the Summit area?
The area accessed by the lift includes much of the Chipmunk Creek drainage which has been heavily
logged for many decades. A key goal of the project is to provide stewardship to protect, enhance, and regenerate habitat wherever possible in partnership with First Nations rightsholders on whose traditional territory this is located.
Why is it referred to as an Eco and Cultural Tourism project?
Eco tourism refers to the fact that this is a nature-based, non-motorized experience and the gondola and trails which make up the majority of the infrastructure are there for people to walk, hike and bike in a more sustainable and less impactful manner. The Cultural Tourism component is from the integration of local First Nation culture woven throughout the experience.
How big is the tenure?
The tenure is over 3000hc and its size is based upon the need to provide adequate buffers and protection for the habitat in question as well as provide a range of human powered trails, amenities and experiences that will be integrated with existing Chilliwack City, FVRD and other trails.(e.g. - Elk Mtn, Gloria Basin and Mt Cheam.) With this “interconnectivity”, the Chilliwack and the Eastern Fraser Valley can become established as a leading destination for eco-sustainable and green outdoor recreation in British Columbia and Canada.
Does the tenure mean that the road and trail up to Mt Cheam thru Chipmunk Creek will be closed to the public?
No. There will be no impact on public access to the hiking trail on Mt Cheam.
How will this affect traffic in the area?
A final traffic study will be conducted to assess the current road network around Bridal Falls Golf Course and area with improvements made as required. There will be manageable increased traffic to the area which will be a boom to other tourist attractions and businesses in the Bridal Falls area. Note that unlike a ski area or other major event, there is no “rush hour” where most of the traffic is either arriving or leaving. Traffic flows are spread out thru the day/week.
Will the tenure allow for access by motorized vehicles (e.g.- ATV’s, Quads) and for camping?
No, the tenure will exclude such uses to allow for recovery and stewardship of lands within.
Will the increase in accessibility create a problem for Search and Rescue?
The experience from similar operations with more challenging and dangerous terrain is that initially there may be an increase in call outs but these decrease as people become more familiar with the area, terrain, the trails, etc. Working very closely with the community services, SAR and other agencies will ensure adequate resources, proper protocols, management and safety education are in place to mitigate any additional demands.