A secure future is on the horizon for two East Kootenay community ski hills for the next three decades.
The Government of BC has renewed operating agreements with both the Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Area and the Wapiti Ski Area near Elkford for 30 years each.
It is anticipated the long-term support will continually benefit the East Kootenay region’s efforts in tourism through the wide variety of recreational activities that are available at both areas.
“Without that agreement, we wouldn’t be able to operate the ski area as a ski area,” said Pascal van Dijk, president and CEO of the Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Area. “The way it works in most of B.C. is that ski areas are on Crown land so we lease the land from the government and when you operate on leased lands, we have to follow certain rules and regulations — and those are in the operating agreement.”
van Dijk believes securing the operating agreement to continue offering a small ski area in the Columbia Valley is essential to help residents and visitors alike learn to participate in downhill skiing, snowboarding and tubing during the winter months.
“For us, it’s really important that we continue to have an operating agreement in place with the provincial government,” he explained. “It governs the way we operate our ski area and there are also allowances in there for future expansion, which makes it a really important tool for us to have in place.”
While there are no plans set in stone for expansions to occur at the ski hill in Fairmont, there may be in the future.
“It’s an option that’s available to us,” said van Dijk. “Basically, every five years, you are required to provide an update to the province in terms of plans and, if we decide to expand our ski area, we would have to go through a process with the government and other stakeholders to get approval for the expansion plans, then take it from there.”
The ministry’s Mountain Resorts Branch facilitated master plan updates and review processes for the two ski areas, and the new operating agreements were reached in
The branch works with partners to provide timely decisions for community ski areas and mountain resorts, and co-ordinates environmental assessments for new resort proposals and major resort expansions. It also sets and administers policy for all-season resort development and works to contribute significantly to support recreation, tourism and jobs. Having the option to offer amateur winter sport competitions in local communities helps athletes and coaches acquire and train for events such as the BC Winter Games and the Canada Winter Games.
“Without (the ski area), I think Fairmont Hot Springs Resort would be a relatively limited winter experience,” said van Dijk, adding it’s difficult to secure an operating agreement with the province in the first place.