BVMR says the Public Strongly Supports its Ski Resort Project East of Chilliwack

The original article was published on March 4th, 2023 in Fraser Valley Today.

CHILLIWACK — The group behind a proposed ski resort and gondola east of Chilliwack says over 80 per cent of the people they’ve surveyed support the Bridal Veil Mountain Resort.

At the same time, they’re eager to maintain their active PR campaign showcasing the potential beauty of an all-season mountain resort just east of Chilliwack.

Robert Wilson, president of BVMR, released a statement on Monday, April 3 in which he touted the ongoing efforts to promote what the group calls “BC’s next great all-season mountain resort.”

Advertisements featuring snow-capped mountains associated with BVMR continue to appear on Vedder Road near the intersection of Promontory and Watson Road in Sardis.

“Ongoing public education is part of the application process with the province,” Wilson said. “That is why we have spent 28 person days in the community, speaking with more than 3,000 residents in the Eastern Fraser Valley. Billboards, radio ads, and sponsoring community events have been a staple for us to create local awareness. Surveys have pegged public support to be higher than 80 per cent.”

Detractors of BVMR say the mountain ski resort project has been rejected by Cheam First Nation due to the negative consequences it would have for their traditional territory.

For Wilson and BVMR proponents, virtually everything is fundamentally different versus the Resorts West concept that originated in the 2000s.

“Almost everything about BVMR is different from the Resorts West proposal, starting with the ownership and vision,” Wilson said. “We want to see this become a Sto:lo First Nations-led project where the ownership, design, construction, and entire visitor experience will be shaped by local First Nations. In fact, the only thing that is the same is the potential of this location to host locals and visitors in exceptional outdoor recreation activities.”

Wilson says his group has communicated extensively with personnel from the B.C. Ministry of Tourism as BVMR nears the end of the expression of interest phase.

“The Ministry of Tourism has dedicated much time and resources to our application,” Wilson said. “Recently, we had two days of meetings with three government representatives in Chilliwack. They were able to meet with various First Nations leaders and spent time touring the property by helicopter to better understand the lands and their use in our proposal. We are nearing the end of the expression of interest phase, having demonstrated the strong feasibility of our project to the government. We believe the next step will be to move to public referral.”

BVMR and its partners own 250 acres just minutes from Highway 1, the Trans-Canada Highway. It says it recently acquired an additional 52 acres next to the Chilliwack Community Forest. BVMR intends to offer downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, backcountry touring, skating, snowshoeing, tubing, camping, downhill mountain biking, cross-country mountain biking, Indigenous cultural activities and sightseeing.

BVMR has 51 letters of support, including from West Jet, the Township of Langley, and Local Union 97. It spent time conducting outreach at events like Chilliwack Flight Fest in August, Fraser Valley Wellness Expo in October, and the Rotary Christmas Parade in December in Chilliwack. BVMR asks people to contact Chilliwack mayor Ken Popove, Councillor and FVRD board chair Jason Lum, and Chilliwack MLAs Dan Coulter and Kelli Paddon to indicate support for the project.

BVMR says elected officials supported the concept of a nearby ski resort long before the current proposal.

“Years before we entered the marketplace, there was a group that proposed a sightseeing gondola,” Wilson said. “The City of Chilliwack and local officials supported this project at that time. Five years after that project was proposed, we approached the provincial government with a concept that would benefit not only Chilliwack but the Fraser Valley, Vancouver, and the rest of B.C. We received a warm reception from both the Government and communities throughout the Lower Mainland. In Chilliwack, there was a misinformed fear that our application would prevent the gondola from becoming a reality. The truth is both projects are years away from being built and require extensive changes to zoning and Offical Community Plans (OCP’s). Both the Fraser Valley Regional District and the City of Chilliwack have yet to have our application put before them.”

Wilson believes there’s room for its project even though the two projects appear to be a collision course.

“At the end of the day, we believe we can work with the backers of the Cascade Skyline Gondola to the mutual benefit of everyone,” Wilson said. “If BVMR moves forward, everyone wins! Especially the community that will see thousands of local jobs and world-class outdoor amenities for the entire family.”

As the proposed area for the BVMR project overlaps with the proposed area for the Cascade Skyline Gondola Project (CSGP), the provincial Mountain Resorts Branch (part of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development) has initiated a review process in which they will be seeking feedback from local First Nations, the City of Chilliwack and the Fraser Valley Regional District, with the aim of determining which project, if any, should proceed to the next stage in the application process, BVMR wrote on its website.

As a multi-phase development, Bridal Veil Mountain Resort would be built in stages, according to its website. The first phase features an eco-friendly gondola that would rise 1,480 meters above Chilliwack, offering breath-taking 360-degree views of the Fraser Valley and the Cascade Mountain range.

Once it grows to meet tourist demand, a second sightseeing gondola would be built to whisk guests to a vehicle-free mountain recreation area hidden 1,200 meters above the Fraser Valley. In winter, guests will be able to ski or snowboard, backcountry tour, cross-country ski, skate, snowshoe, go tubing or sightsee. In summer, they will be able to hike, camp, sightsee or go downhill or cross-country mountain biking. Ecological and Indigenous cultural programs and sightseeing will be available year-round.

While these facilities, programs and activities remain to be planned and designed in detail, project backers say patrons will be effectively separated and hidden from the valley floor, offering guests a remote mountain recreation experience with spectacular views of the Fraser River and the Cascade Mountain Range. The physical potential of the site suggests that visitation could equal that of B.C.’s premier resort destinations, but final guest capacity will be formulated in consultation with Stó:lō communities and engagement with local communities.