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Whistler Blackombe executive concerned over GAS

A Whistler Blackcomb (WB) executive last week expressed concern about the Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) resort proposed for Brohm Ridge.

A Whistler Blackcomb (WB) executive last week expressed concern about the Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) resort proposed for Brohm Ridge.Asked for his comments on a recent consultants' report on the GAS development plan, Doug Forseth, WB senior vice president of operations, said he fears it's too heavily weighted toward selling real estate rather than toward providing a quality tourism experience.

"We don't see this resort as a threat to our business, but where I would have the greatest concern is what I understand is the real-estate development that goes with this resort," Forseth said. "I think it needs to be a viable ski area on its own, and that that isn't just a mask for real-estate development."

The report talks about GAS being part of a "synergy" of western B.C. ski resorts that would help B.C. increase skier visits from 6 million now to 10.1 million by 2015.

While Forseth said he supports the goal of doubling B.C. tourism by 2015 and finding "synergies" to increase skier visits, "I think that [projection] has got to be a bit of a stretch."

Mike Esler, GAS president and CEO, said the projection came from the government, not from proponents.

"If clustering of ski resorts didn't work, then why did Whistler go from 600,000 skier visits to 2 million? Because of Blackcomb."Forseth said the amount of south-facing ski terrain the GAS ski hill would have is one reason the proposal has been around for 20 years and hasn't been built.

"Why? The geographic area, the terrain aspect, and the snow conditions, I think, are suspect," he said. "All I'm saying is that that thing would have been built a long time ago had it been a little more of a slam dunk, and I'm just saying 'Don't try to finance it through real estate until it proves itself first.'

"Be careful about how you do this. You want it to be a quality experience, not something that isn't a tourism product [but] a real estate product. Just make sure that the beds they're building are suitable and that the resort can sustain the beds - if not, they become a drain on Whistler beds."

Esler said much of the terrain is north facing.

"There's no question that south-facing slopes won't hold the snow as much, but we've tried to design around that."The report by SE Group, mountain planners sharing the same parent company as the ski resort proponents, was a accompanied by a news release from GAS stating:

"The overall sustained growth of the British Columbia market, coupled with phased expansion at Garibaldi and other ski resorts, will help to maintain a supply/capacity equilibrium in the marketplace, thereby eliminating a competitive threat in an overall expanding area."

Six weeks ago, the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) suspended its review of the GAS proposal and asked the proponents to provide more information mostly dealing with the water supply, and an archeological assessment.

Esler said he expects the EAO to re-start the clock sometime between Nov. 15 and 30.

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