Perceptions by Gerry Warner
“If you build it they will come.” That seems to be the belief of the B.C. government with its shocking announcement Wednesday appointing a mayor and council for a community that doesn’t exist – and given the perilous state of the world’s economy – is unlikely to ever exist.
But the impossible is always a possibility in B.C. politics, especially when you have a government facing electoral defeat and looking for a dramatic game changer to reverse the tide. Unfortunately a mega-ski resort in a market saturated with mega-ski resorts is likely to be a Jumbo-sized disaster.
And that won’t do anybody any good.
Consider a few points. Growth of the ski industry, both in B.C. and abroad, is slowing down as society ages and there are fewer younger skiers. Skiing is a discretionary activity, and when it easily costs close to $500-a-day for a family of four to go skiing, people start looking for other things to do. And as everybody knows, or should know, mega ski resorts are more than anything else real estate plays. Would you buy a condo at the end of a 55 km dirt road passing through dozens of avalanche tracks with no avalanche sheds at an elevation of 6,000 feet where snow would be on your roof eight months of the year and summer too short to swim or golf? Would you want to be wearing your ski togs 12 months of the year?
I doubt it.
And this really is the essential argument about Jumbo – economics. Almost anyone who does their due diligence and keeps their hand on their wallet would be unlikely to risk their money buying real estate in Jumbo. There’s far better deals around. And if an ordinary Joe won’t buy a condo would big investors invest in such a risky scheme?
I don’t think so and frankly I think this fact alone dooms the proposed half-a-billion dollar resort. Nobody is throwing money around like that anymore. Money doesn’t grow on trees. Nor does it grow on shrinking glaciers.
Economics aside, there are several other aspects of the Jumbo debacle that don’t speak well of almost everyone involved in the contentious project. First the environmentalists, who have constantly pitched the area as “pristine” and “wilderness.” Jumbo is neither. There has been a road to Jumbo Creek for almost 75 years as well as a mine and a tailings dump and extensive clear-cut logging in more recent years. That said, Jumbo is still an outstanding scenic area of semi-wilderness and most of the mining and logging scars have long since healed. Many critics of the Jumbo project also contend that with global warming proceeding apace, there soon won’t be any glaciers left to ski on. Nonsense! Jumbo’s glaciers are receding fast, but they are huge glaciers and they won’t disappear in the lifetimes of anyone reading this and they will offer year-round skiing for a long time to come. But as I said earlier, who wants to ski 12 months a year? I’ve skied for 40 years, but come summer time I’ve got other things to do and I think that stands true for the majority of skiers. Professional ski racers may want to ski year-round, but how many of them are there? Not enough to make a $500 million resort viable, I’m willing to bet. As for the argument that Jumbo will “devastate” the grizzly bear population, I don’t give that much credence either. There are at best a handful of grizzlies in the Jumbo valley, but the valley itself is located next door to the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Park, a true roadless wilderness where grizzlies thrive in an environment almost completely undisturbed by man and so it should be.
As for the bizarre process that sees a mayor and council appointed to a backcountry chunk of land uninhabited by people where only mountain goats and grizzlies roam, politics indeed results in strange doings, but few as strange as this. And as an elected official myself, I have to take umbrage with alleged “insiders” being appointed to public office and put on the government dole while the rest of us have had to compete and pay out of our own pockets for that exalted status.
No Virginia, I don’t think there will ever be a glitzy, jet-setters resort in the heart of Jumbo Pass – and all things considered – I think that’s a good thing.
Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and Cranbrook City Councillor. His opinions are his own.