French investors will visit B.C. this spring to investigate the Jumbo Glacier Resort, following up on a trip to France made earlier this month by Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett and several Columbia Valley business owners and political figures.
The trip saw the delegation — which included Radium mayor Dee Conklin, Glacier Resorts Ltd. (GLR) vice president Grant Costello and Panorama Mountain Village CEO Rick Jensen — meet with various stakeholders in the French ski resort industry. A glacier ski resort being proposed for the Valemont area was also under discussion.
While no agreements or memoranda of understanding were signed on the trip, Costello told The Echo the week of meetings was a success.
“In a short period of time we were able to build new relationships with a diverse group of French government officials, mayors, entrepreneurs, and corporate executives all of whom are interested in exporting their knowledge and experience to North America through the gateway of the Kootenays,” he wrote in an email, adding a reciprocal visit to B.C. is in the works.
Over the course of a week, the delegation toured a number of French ski resorts, including Les Deux Alps and La Grave — both of which boast glacier skiing — and the Rhône-Alpes region. They also met with France Neige International, an association representing dozens of ski resorts in the French Alps, Caisson des Depots, a bank involved with the industry, and Compagnie des Alpes (CDA), an operating company.
The latter company has expressed interest in the Jumbo resort project in the past. In the early ’90s, a delegation that included the Compagnie des Alpes CEO skied the glaciers while investigating the project.
“Their conclusion at that time was that Jumbo was the most interesting project opportunity in North America. After five years or so, their interest had waned to the level of annual Christmas cards,” Costello said, adding the trip was prompted when “a new generation of leadership in the company rediscovered the project” and invited the province to send a delegation.
Doug Clovechok, campus manager at Invermere’s College of the Rockies and probable BC Liberal nominee for the Columbia River-Revelstoke riding, was one of several locals picked for the trip. He — like Bennett — stressed that he paid for the trip himself.
“Basically the role that I understood going over was we were going to meet with the French… and to get a true vision of what could possibly be,” he said, adding he believes he was selected because of his past experience in the tourism industry, which included directing tour operations for Princess Cruises.
After the trip, Clovechok said he’s re-energized about the Jumbo resort project, which he calls “so do-able.”
“What I think was the most interesting for me was the co-operation, the collaboration of these people in France over this,” he says.
“Farmers who told me that without these ski resorts they wouldn’t be in business. Environmentalists who told me it’s always about co-operation and collaboration — because without the environment you don’t have a job. There was no polarization of camps.”
Both Clovechok and Costello also brushed off criticism of the trip.
Kathryn Teneese, chair of the Ktunaxa Nation — which opposes the project because of the spiritual significance of its location — has told media the trip suggests the government “is not impartial in the project review process” and has already decided to sign off on the Master Development Agreement that would allow the resort to move ahead.
Clovechok says the delegation didn’t get an indication that was the case. “The trip may create that kind of a sense, but that could not be further from the truth,” he said.
“Going over to meet with a group that has invited us, so we can create jobs in a valley that has no jobs is not a bad thing.”
Costello says the French companies were aware no Master Development Agreement for the project exists “but are also aware that the proponent possesses an Environmental Certificate and an approved Master Plan.”
Also along for the trip were Todd Mitchell, president of the BC Liberals’ Columbia River-Revelstoke riding association, Jill Bodkin of GLR, and representatives from the Simpcw Band from the Valemont area. Chief Paul Sam of the local Shuswap Indian Band was not along for the trip, but sent over a letter of support for the Jumbo resort.