Photo: Revelstoke Mountain Resort
REVELSTOKE, British Columbia –
The lifts close today at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, and by most accounts, it was a down snow year at North America’s newest and longest ski resort. In a region known for 40 to 60 feet annually, Revelstoke’s first full season in operation notched a lower than average year, according to locals and resort officials. But as far as opening seasons go, they’ll take it.
“We didn’t have those consistent snowfalls this year, where it snows 10 centimeters everyday ,” says Karilyn Kempton, who runs
blog site. “It was more big days followed by no snow for three weeks. Still, those big days had people talking for weeks.”
The resort, which started two winters ago with cat skiing and opened a new chairlift (it’s second) and gondola extension this year, narrowly escaped bankruptcy mid-winter when original owner Don Simpson, a Denver-based real estate developer, ran into cash flow problems. The Gagliardi family, who own the Sandman hotel chain and who were already and part-owners in the project, stepped in with new financing kept the project rolling. And as the spring sun melts the snow off the last runs, things here are looking up.
In March came the soft opening of their marquee Nelsen Lodge, an eco-boutique condominium hotel. I visited last week to get a sneak peek at the property, and it was really impressive. Not a place for faux-Western décor and antler chandeliers, the hotel’s lobby and rooms were designed by hip Vancouver interior decorators CHIL Interiors using sustainable materials like bamboo wood trim and brushed metal accents. Studios to four-bedrooms will range from $199 per night on up in winter and sell from $349,000 to $900,000. The hotel will stay open though summer. “Summer was really the high season here before the resort opened,” notes RMR’s Ashley Tait, pointing out the abundant mountain biking and fly fishing available here deep in the Canadian Rockies.
The hotel is the lynchpin to what will become the resort’s new base village, a paving stoned plaza surrounded by hotels and retail shops. Already, phases two and three of the Nelsen Lodge are underway, expected to be completed by next winter and adding an addition 163 rooms to the 58 already open. A climbing wall and pool area will also go in, and the whole thing will be just steps to the gondola. “Our desire isn’t to create another town up here,” says the hotel’s general manager, Peter Nielsen. “We already have a 100 year old town just down the road.”
Which is true, and downtown Revelstoke is indeed a charming collection of Victorian homes and brick buildings, forming a main street on MacKenzie Avenue that’s home to après ski joints and quaint coffeehouses. But there’s no denying how much the resort will change the face of this little hamlet. Already construction on a Nick Faldo golf course has begun on what previously was an abandoned field near a heavy machinery storage site. New sushi and fine dining restaurants have opened in the past few years, and new real estate projects continue both at the base of the resort and near town. A recently install 2.5 percent bed tax, imposed by the town with the support of the resort, will provide funds for infrastructure improvements in a town where dust from the sawmill still pours over hiking and biking trails.
But in this picturesque valley of the Columbia River that has supported heliskiing and fly fishing guides for more than 30 years, outdoor recreation has a firm foot hold. Adding RMR’s unfathomably long runs (5,620 feet) and abundant big mountain terrain will only improve that. Just as long as the snows come in big next winter.