How will this impact me and my family?
Will it raise my taxes?
The appointed Jumbo municipal council has already proposed $1 million in provincial funding to cover the costs for a municipality with no citizens and no infrastructure. Who knows what will be needed in tax dollars to provide ongoing water, solid waste and sewer services for visitors if the resort, hotels and condominiums all get built. Another consideration is road maintenance costs in a valley with frequent avalanches and washouts.
Jumbo Glacier Resort has speculated in the past that tax revenue (municipal, provincial and federal) would exceed $12 million. But that optimistic figure, if ever achievable, is based on full development of the 5,000 unit resort and commercial success in a declining skiing industry. Until – and if – that happens, BC taxpayers could be on the hook for millions.
According to a report prepared by Marvin Shaffer and Associates, a BC-based consulting firm specializing in energy, transportation and natural resource economics “The root of the problem between ski towns and publicly traded corporations that own ski resorts is that they ultimately have irreconcilably different goals. Community sustainability and quality of life do not mesh with relentless quarter-over-quarter growth.”
Who will get the jobs?
Based on other developments in the area, it can be estimated that at least some of the construction workforce will be local. However given the size of the project, and the expense, it is likely that Glacier Resorts Ltd. will also search for workers outside the area. As for operation of the resort, most Canadian ski resorts employ many, if not mostly, foreign temporary workers. Resorts such as Whistler, Sunshine, and Revelstoke are largely staffed by travellers from Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. The project will clearly generate jobs. The question, “For whom?”
Will tax dollars pay for development costs?
Twenty years ago, Glacier Resorts estimated that the construction of Jumbo Glacier Resort would be around $450 million. That has now risen to about $1 billion, and final costs almost always exceed estimates. This estimate only represents the cost of building the resort itself. It does not factor in infrastructure costs: waste removal, power upgrades, road improvement and more.
The provincial government has committed to assisting financially by setting up a municipal government in the area and has not ruled out future financial assistance. It’s almost inevitable that tax dollars, in many ways, will be subsidizing the resort’s development. At the end of the day, a project of this scale changes a community, and it is local citizens who, through tax dollars and direct costs, are forced to pay for much of the change.
Will I be subsidising the profits of foreign investors?
In short, most likely. At least partially. At the moment, the project is having difficulty attracting investors and the money it would need to build the resort. However, Glacier Resorts Ltd. is made up of both Canadian and international investors, and the company is currently attempting to attract further investment from Europe. A group from France has shown interest, and a Cabinet minister recently flew over there to drum up further interest.
More info coming….
What will happen to the Grizzly bears?
Both government and independent Grizzly bear biologists agree that the Jumbo Glacier Resort will lead to the eventual demise of Grizzly bears due to loss of connectivity and habitat. The upper Jumbo Valley is a key part of a wildlife corridor in the Purcell Mountains between ranges to the north and the south. Healthy local and regional Grizzly bear populations depend on this wildlife corridor known as the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor.
Aalton Harestad, a government biologist and former co-chair of BC government’s Grizzly Bear Scientific Advisory Committee, stressed that: “The collective professional opinion of the Grizzly Bear Scientific Committee is that the proposed Jumbo Creek development, if approved, will adversely affect the regional population of Grizzly bears in the South Purcells. The size and nature of the development will result eventually in the loss of bears locally and will diminish the viability of the regional population of Grizzly bears.”
The proponent’s claims that the Jumbo Glacier Resort will have “no net impact” on Grizzly bears are highly questionable. There are no examples in North America where Grizzly bears have coexisted successfully with large human development over the long term. Road kills and the destruction of “problem” Grizzlies will also lead to increased Grizzly bear mortality.
What will happen to the other wildlife?
The Jumbo Glacier Resort will negatively impact threatened and endangered wildlife, such as mountain caribou, mountain goats, wolverine and bull trout as well as black bears, elk, moose, small mammals, water fowl and non-migrating birds. Mountain goats, for example, are very sensitive to noise and may be scared off their range due to helicopter use during construction.
The trans-boundary populations of large carnivores and ungulates will be negatively impacted by the loss of connectivity along the important Yellowstone to Yukon wildlife corridor. In addition, the destruction and loss of wildlife habitat, including important winter range, could result in reduced populations and low genetic diversity. Increased road access will give rise to more road kills of wildlife.
The proponent claims that its proposed mitigation measures will reduce the resort’s impacts on wildlife. Given the remoteness of the resort and the lack of government oversight thanks to budget and staff cuts, it will be difficult or impossible to ensure that the proponent is complying with its Environmental Assessment Certificate conditions.
Does the developer care if the project is a success?
The developer’s primary interest is return on investment. According to Hal Clifford in his book Downhill Slide – Why the corporate ski industry is bad for skiing, ski towns, and the environment, the ski industry has “become an adjunct of real estate development, and this reality has driven much of the ski business ever since.” Clifford says that ski resorts are generally owned or backed by corporations with policies of revenue generation through the sale of goods and services sometimes not directly related to the sport. The potential success of the proposal as a ski resort is dubious given the receding glacier and the weak ski market, yet the project is being pushed ahead regardless. This may indicate that the developers are less concerned with the long-term success of the resort than they are with short-term real estate sales.
What happens if the resort tanks?
In light of the weak ski market and diminishing annual snowfall due to global warming, the possibility that the proposed resort, if built, would be unsuccessful is very real. The result could look something like a modern ghost town, with no funds, other than tax dollars, available to return the area to its natural state. This would represent a huge loss to investors and, more tragically, the irreparable loss of an environmentally sensitive area which provides crucial migration routes and breeding grounds for grizzly bears, ungulates, and many smaller species.
Is Jumbo Glacier Resort a good investment? Will it ever make money?
Over twenty years since it was launched, the plan to build a ski resort in the Jumbo Pass region of the Purcell Mountains has yet to see any construction. Faced with a diminishing ski season, organized public opposition, law suits, political uncertainty and, most importantly, a glutted and declining ski market, the resort is certainly a high risk investment.
Is there a market for another high-end ski resort in the region?
Much has changed in the skiing and resort marketplace since Whistler and Blackcomb boomed close to Vancouver. Many ski resorts in BC are facing tough times. An April 2014 article in The Province recently reported on tough times in the ski industry. “The challenges in B.C. are common in North America, ski industry analyst Ken Shapiro says, citing stagnation in the number of people skiing and snowboarding. According to Shapiro, there has been on average 55 million ski days per year in the U.S. for the past decade with little change.
Are the developer’s market forecasts realistic?
In 2011, a report prepared by Marvin Shaffer and Associates for the Ktunaxa Nation Council demonstrated how overly optimistic the Jumbo Glacier Resorts projections were. While skiing visits in Canada are declining, particularly among international visitors, the Jumbo proposal relies on increased growth. According to the report: “Jumbo is depending on an incremental increase in visitors through three phases of development, to generate funds to proceed to the subsequent phase. They expect to have the same visitor use as Lake Louise and Sunshine Valley.”
Furthermore “In the case of winter overnight visitors, the proponent’s forecast after year 10 exceeds the projected total number of overnight visitors for the Kootenays as a whole.” The reality is that the ski industry is clearly not growing and the region is already glutted with ski resorts. Thirteen resorts operate within a 3 hour drive of nearby Invermere. None operate at capacity.
The following graph from the Shaffer report shows that the developer’s projections in dark blue:
Much of the rationale for the proposal when it was concieved no longer makes sense. A declining market and the realities of global warming make the development exceedingly risky. Indeed, the developers may already be struggling. In 2013 they reported that “Places for summer cat skiing on Farnham Glacier this summer are filling up fast”. In fact no cat skiing happened at all in 2013. The resort’s website also shows images of glacier tours, ski team training and organized hiking, but in recent years none of these have occurred.
An Assessment of the Economic Benefits of the Proposes Jumbo Glacier Resort Project, Marvin Shaffer and Associates Ltd.
What about lawsuits challenging the development?
Two lawsuits are pending on the Jumbo proposal. The Ktunaxa First Nation is pursuing an appeal of a court ruling on their claim that indigenous rights to consultation on the project were abrogated. In another case, West Kootenay EcoSociety is challenging the constitutionality of the resort municipality created in 2013 by the Provincial government. The undemocratic municipality has a Provincially-appointed council, but no citizens, infrastructure or services. It does, however, have a provincially-funded budget of over a quarter of a million dollars.