The Ministry of Natural Resource Operations announced last Friday that they have approved a new Master Development Agreement for Kicking Horse Mountain Resort’s (KHMR) 40-year plan.
KHMR’s plan has been in the works for over two years, gone through rigorous stakeholder and public assessment and includes—among many other things—expanded accommodation and commercial development, an 18-hole signature golf course and a new high-speed lift to access more intermediate terrain.
Following the January 2010 approval of the Master Plan, this approval of the Master Development Agreement is the final step in the provincial approval process. The Master Development Agreement is essentially the legal document that supports the Master Plan.
Since its inception in December 2000, Kicking Horse has invested over $100 million in the resort, stimulating an additional $100 million of investment in the local economy. At full build-out, the resort estimates total capital investment will be over $5 billion.
President and CEO Steve Paccagnan believes that the recent news from the government is a great way to celebrate the resort’s 10 year anniversary, saying that KHMR will continue to be a major economic contributor to our community and the [rovince’s tourism growth strategy.
After the first 10 years of business, Paccagnan realized he didn’t want to go back to the drawing board every decade and decided it best to develop longer-term vision — thus the 40-year-plan. He believes that the combination of everything that’s happening in and around Golden right now will help ensure stability in a time when the community is recovering from an economic downturn.
“I look at the work being done on the highways and the Town’s Official Community Plan,” said Paccagnan. “I look at our proximity to Alberta, the international airport in Calgary and the new one in Cranbrook. I see what we have to offer in rivers and mountains and the authentic spirit of the people. We have a great story to tell and so much to share with the world.”
Golden Mayor Christina Benty is also excited about the news, saying that KHMR is “a cornerstone of Golden’s economic development” and that the resort’s presence in the community supports the success of local business and puts us on the map as a world-class ski destination.
Kinbasket First Nations CEW Dean Martin said that the Kicking Horse Resort project is a great example of positive, co-operative efforts of the Province of B.C. and private-sector industry working with First Nations in their traditional territory.
“This project has been instrumental in developing a very positive and progressive relationship that has resulted in a strong economic outcome for everyone,” he said.
As for planning decades into the future, Paccagnan says the plans are blueprints and that the resort will adjust their business to reflect current and future economic realities.
“We’re going to make sure we’re making the best decisions for business, tourism and the people of Golden,” said Paccagnan.
This is why the plans, he explained, are all market dependent.
“We are still weathering the economic storm. We will watch regional and global economies to make sure the resort is working in stride with those in order to fulfill both short term and long term plans,” said Paccagnan, stressing that KHMR needs to do so in a way that’s both practical and feasible.
Plans for development in the next 40 years include a new lower parking area with a cabriolet up to the current gondola base and a Welcome Centre that acts as a “one-stop shop” for lift tickets, hotel check in, etc.
The 18-hole golf course is meant to boost the number of summer visitors and is part of the longer-term vision.
Twenty thousand new bed units are also proposed for the base of the resort. Of these, 2,000 bed units will be part of an employee housing complex. Paccagnan noted that it’s important to remember that one “bed-unit” means one pillow, and 20,000 bed units equals roughly 3,500 physical units.
Terrain expansion over the forty years is planned to be 413 hectares, making the total footprint of the resort 2,109 hectares. Paccagnan explained that KHMR will be working on “refreshing” current terrain in the near future. Expanding into new terrain falls into a long term plan.
One of the plans that will take place in the near future is a new high-speed lift to access more intermediate terrain. Paccagnan sees this as a necessary opportunity for growth as a new market of skiers discovers KHMR has plenty of terrain that suits their skill level.
“We have positioned ourselves as a big mountain experience. The perception is this is a great mountain to ski, but we’re losing a market share if we don’t focus on intermediate terrain,” said Paccagnan, explaining that 70 per cent of the ski market falls into the intermediate category.
Paccagnan emphasized that KHMR’s expansion will occur gradually over the next 40 years; he is excited about new developments, yet aware that every step must be taken in stride with current economic and social realities.
“We’ve come a long way in the past ten years,” Paccagnan finished. “We’ve learnt a lot, and now have a great platform to build from for years to come.”