The gigantic $3.5 billion Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) ski resort is set to open in 2025. To be located in Squamish’s backyard of Brohm Ridge, GAS is currently asking for input about preferences and features for the new resort and whether the District of Squamish should be the local government.
This is an opportunity for the residents of Squamish to hold GAS accountable for delivering their promise of “the most innovative environmentally sensitive mountain resort ever”.
Unfortunately, the investors’ past actions and the current project proposal provide little assurance that GAS will be a world-leading resort in sustainability and not a mere land grab.
First, the major investors in the project, the Aquilini Group and Northland Properties Corporation, have an unnerving track record.
Most recently in 2019, Aquilini was forced to pay more than $130,000 to migrant workers as a result of unpaid wages.
Pairing Aquilini’s apparent shady business dealings with destructive ones, Tom Gaglardi and his company Northland Properties Corporation were convicted of harming fish habitat after landscaping and renovations to his family vacation property resulted in damage to Kamloops Lake and a total of $140,000 in court fines plus $85,000 in remediation costs.
Based on this behaviour, it’s difficult for me to trust that these billionaire developers will ensure the local community benefits and the surrounding environment is protected during construction and operation of a resort of this size.
Once operational, most of the possible 22,000 guests and workers will decide to drive their vehicles to this behemoth of a development.
Squamish’s public transit system can’t provide commuters and tourists the convenience they desire for the bus to be a viable option.
With one road in and out, traffic congestion will be exacerbated, local air quality will decline, and carbon emissions will increase. To truly be the most environmentally sensitive mountain resort ever, GAS should purchase and rely solely on its own fleet of electric buses that shuttle workers and visitors to and from the resort.
When the recreationists do arrive, the powder likely won’t be there. In their environmental assessment application, the proponent simply states that no data exists and base their expected snowpack levels on Whistler Mountain.
GAS has committed to exploring the potential for district and geothermal heating and solar and wind energy, but it’s unlikely these sustainable energy sources will be meaningfully considered given that an onsite substation and transmission lines are already planned.
Decommissioning not being included in the environmental assessment raises more red flags. Taxpayers could end up being responsible for the cleanup if this development is eventually abandoned due to lack of snow and under-investment in infrastructure to compete with Whistler Blackcomb.
We may bemoan the lift lines and ticket prices at Whistler, but opening up Brohm Ridge to an ultra-wealthy investment group with an unethical and careless track-record will have permanent impacts, especially if the public doesn’t engage in the process. We need to make it known that cheaply converting natural, provincial Crown land to a residential and commercial business park isn’t in anyone’s best interests, except maybe theirs.
GAS already has environmental approval. What it doesn’t yet have is local support, which it will ultimately depend on for its success. GAS could be the last ski resort constructed in B.C.’s coastal mountains due to rapidly warming winters— please participate in the survey to help make it a destination that is protective of the environment, inclusive of local needs and interests, and forward-thinking in all aspects of its design and operation.