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Sightseeing gondola vs. ski resort: Chilliwack’s competing mountain proposals

Ski resort proponents push 2030 Olympics – Gondola backers aim to preserve traditional Indigenous area
View north of the Fraser River from the approximate location of where the summit lodge of the Cascade Skyline would be located. (Submitted)

Proponents for the competing sightseeing gondola and ski resort projects in overlapping areas in the mountains near Chilliwack continue to tout the merits of their plans as the latest government approval deadlines approach.

While the Cascade Skyline gondola project is focused on cultural values of the closest First Nation and a partnership with a paragliding group, the Bridal Veil Mountain Resort is looking for Stó:lō support but also has Olympic aspirations.

READ MORE: Ambitious all-season mountain resort proposed near Chilliwack

READ MORE: Chilliwack gondola project has support from Indigenous groups and local politicians

In a press release from earlier in June, the proponents of the Bridal Veil Mountain Resort (BVMR) said they met with former VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee) chair John Furlong. As a result, BVMR is now in support of a regional bid to host the 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in as many as eight or nine communities.

“BVMR president Robert Wilson says if his team’s resort proposal is given the green light by the province there may also be an opportunity for Chilliwack to submit a proposal to be one of the bid’s venue cities,” the team said in a press release.

Looking out over the Fraser Valley from Chipmunk Ridge from the proposed Bridal Veil Mountain Resort. (BVMR)

“We know there will be a lot of competition from cities around the province to be part of a 2030 bid, but if the province approves our Bridal Veil Mountain Resort proposal, and we have the support of Stó:lō communities, Chilliwack and the regional district, I’d like all of us to come together and make a proposal to be considered,” Wilson said in the release.

Whether or not they will have the support of local First Nations is unclear. But there is at least one, the Cheam First Nation, who are equity partners in the competing Cascade Skyline Gondola Project (CSGP).

In a press release soon after the BVMR Olympic one, the CSGP with Cheam partners have proposed that some areas used traditionally for Indigenous cultural practices in the area of the project should be managed and protected from incursion and ongoing impacts.

“The continued access and sustainability of these areas are vital to the Stó:lō way of life,” according to the release.

The CSGP project conducted a study in 2020 using Ayelstexw Consulting that found areas of particular importance and higher density use that “should be considered outside of the current framework of tenure application and uses.”

Traditional uses include both cultural and spiritual practices such as regalia storage, ceremonial use, gathering and other activities.

“These identified areas could be of profound importance for our culture and its future if identified and protected as part of a larger land-planning and land-management process which the CSGP is unique in its ability to provide,” said Ernie Victor, project lead for Cheam First Nation.

The CSGP also announced later in June early discussions with the paragliding community to consider creating a world-class gliding centre. The area is currently already used by paragliders, and CSGP proponents said it was determined that there is an opportunity to create a national/international centre for paragliding given the quality of the site and soaring conditions.

The BVMR and CSGP projects are currently in a “beauty contest” with the provincial government, according to CSGP proponent Jayson Faulkner.

While Faulkner has touted the gondola project as relatively low impact, and the partnership with the nearby Cheam First Nation, the two projects are quite different. The BVMR proposal is a much larger ski resort project in an area that overlaps with the CSGP.

The two project proponents have rarely publicly criticized or addressed one another, but indirect comments are made.

In recent media statements, BVMR mentions a sightseeing gondola and CSGP points to the higher intensity land use of a ski resort.

“Wilson said the first step in the BVMR long-term vision is to build one of its two sightseeing gondolas, but preliminary plans, which are still subject to First Nations engagement and input, are designed so the project can quickly scale up and expand as needed,” according to a BVMR press release.

And from CSGP: They say their project follows the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal #15 to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems” and balances environmental and land use responsibilities.

“Unlike most Crown Land industrial uses like clearcut logging, industrial ski resorts, etc., this model can achieve success on a range of issues,” CSGP said in a press release. “The restoration of the traditional use and access provided by the CSGP and Cheam First Nation would be a unique opportunity and a creative approach.”

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Project rendering of the building at the planned summit of the Cascade Skyline gondola project proposed for a location east of Chilliwack. (Submitted) Project rendering of the building at the planned summit of the Cascade Skyline gondola project proposed for a location east of Chilliwack. (Submitted)

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