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emerging ski resorts

From Alberta Rockies to Coastal mountains, new players preparing for a fresh run at real estate


Even as B.C.'s largest ski resort - Whistler Blackcomb - flails and fails to find a buyer, smaller players are investing heavily in smaller and emerging ski resorts from the Rockies to the Okanagan.

The latest is Creekstone Mountain Lodge, at Spring Creek, the first new real estate project to start in the Alberta Rockies' town in two years.

"We've seen an increase in interest this summer and sales of our existing product continue to be solid, which gave us the confidence to bring new product to market," said developer Frank Kernick. "Buyers are looking to make real estate and lifestyle investments that maintain value, without putting them at risk from fluctuating housing markets." Canmore, he said, has remained very solid in terms of real estate value over the past decade.

However, the reason no new construction has taken place since 2008 is likely traced to the collapse of the Three Sisters, the largest residential and resort development in Canmore. A smaller condominium project also went into receivership.

Kernick said Creekstone suites, available in one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans, start at $379,000 and various floorplans are available.

Canmore residents are close to the Banff-area ski hills and about 90 minutes west of Calgary.

Whitewater owners start spending

Two years after buying the Whitewater Ski Resort, the Alberta owners are spending to upgrade the Kootenay property.

Calgary-based Knee Deep Development Corp. bought Whitewater in August of 2008 and agreed to proceed with a master plan that was already in place.

This summer Knee Deep built a new $1.5 million chairlift that boosted the ski area's vertical drop to more than 2,000 feet.

"The mountain crew, in co-operation with mother nature, hope to have the lift ready to load as conditions permit this coming season" said Whitewater GM Brian Cusack.

The Dopplemayr triple chair was purchased from Vail Mountain Resort in Colorado and will be opened this season as the Glory Ridge chairlift, Whitewater's third. B.C.-based Summit Lift Co. has been contracted to do the lift installation.

The new lift is part of Whitewater's master plan developed in 2002 and approved by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Arts in 2007. It will service the primarily west-facing backside area, which was previously out of bounds.

"We have our licence to develop the ski runs and have selected Juggernaut Development Inc. to do the work," explained Whitewater's outdoor operations manager Kirk Jensen.

Whitewater has no condos or hotels planned, but the resort's upgrade is expected to boost demand for accommodation in nearby Nelson.

Smithers ski hill sold

The Hudson Bay Ski Mountain Resort at Smithers, B.C., has been bought from Vancouver-based 20/20 Properties Ltd., according to insiders.

The fledgling resort was purchased by a group led by Lorne Borgal, the former president and COO of 20/20 Investments Inc. who was stick-handling the resort play. Borgal once headed Whistler Mountain Cooperative and was responsible for its real estate development at Whistler from 1983 to 1989.

20/20 bought the former Ski Smithers ski facilities in 2008, and announced plans to build the multimillion-dollar Hudson Bay resort. Borgal estimated first-phase costs would be in the range of $75 million.

When questiond by Western Investor at regarding the feasibility of real estate sales in what was a slowing market at that time, 20/20 CEO John Murphy said that financing was in place and he had confidence in the project.

Key to the success of the project was the sale of some 243 single-family building lots in three phases. Lots were priced at an average of $188,200 at the time.

Last month, however, only 15 building lots had sold, sources said. Smithers locals say work has been on-going on the mountain, but delays over road building and access had slowed the project. Most locals we talked to appeared confident the development would proceed.

Neither Borgal or 20/20 returned calls from Western Investor as of press time.

Ski chalets from $299K

As we reported earlier, Red Mountain Ski Resort near Rossland, B.C., has turned to modular construction as it develops the next phase of its Calterra subdivision.

The modular "cabins in the woods" are being built by Kelowna-based Freeport Industries. The company claims the factory-built cabins can be built for about half the cost of on-site construction.

"We chose a modular system for numerous reasons: price certainty, less material waste, ability to use sustainable building materials and systems that will deliver a product with stunning architecture and great quality and integrity," said Howard Katkov, president and CEO of Red Mountain Ventures.

The small homes, priced from $299,000 for a 650-square-foot cabin, are reportedly selling fairly well. The most expensive modular unit, a three bedroom of 1,050 square feet, sells for $399,000. The homes will be part of the 80-unit Elevate development at Red Mountain.

from Western Investor, November 2010



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