Chairlifts, real estate and staff housing developments on the horizon
After investing over $3 million to renovate two lodges last summer, Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR) is looking toward future investments totalling over $30 million over the next five years contingent on increasing skier visits.
In a presentation at a November meeting for Tourism Sun Peaks (TSP) members, general manager Darcy Alexander outlined SPR’s objectives and vision for the future.
One likely investment for 2018-19 is one of three new chairlifts. Plans are for a new Crystal lift starting near Cruiser ski run and reoriented to the Top of the World, where the Burfield Lift currently deposits riders. The two other proposed lifts are the Orient Ridge which would provide access across from Mt. Morrisey and beside Sundance, and the West Morrisey lift which would increase access to western areas of Mt. Morrisey.
SPR will not be able to confirm which lift may be constructed until the spring but Alexander said his personal choice is the Crystal. Current plans show the aging three seater to be replaced by a lift with up to six seats and capacity of between 28 and 32 hundred skiers per hour.
The current Crystal lift is 44 years old and, according to Alexander, has become expensive to operate.
“It’s hard to find parts and we need to meet current safety standards,” Alexander said, adding many repairs now are completed with custom parts.
The replacement is estimated to be around $8 million.
At the same time, the legendary Burfield chair is slated to be shortened to around the treeline, increasing capacity from 450 skiers per hour to 800.
Also starting in the next year is a $7 million renovation to the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel & Conference Centre
SPR would then like to turn their attention to developing what is currently the parking lot at the Village Day Lodge, known as Parcel C, into a mixed use building with 40 to 50 hotel units, commercial space for skier services and a large basement space for ski school instructors, .
Alexander said that project is likely to be underway by 2019 or 2020. Once complete the Village Day Lodge could be transformed into a cafeteria style service similar to the Annex Food + Drink or Sunburst Bar + Eatery with 250 to 300 seats.
SPR will also focus on real estate and adding more accomodation to the resort to help what Alexander called a “critical shortage” of beds for guests. After selling their last single residential home building lot this summer they’re working on developing more lots in the Lookout Ridge area.
There are also plans for at least two more large real estate developments for both single family homes and multi-family buildings, which will be completed after Echo Landing.
“We need to build more (beds) as fast as we can,” he said, adding the resort has lost 15 per cent of rental units since 2005, which happened naturally as more people decide to call Sun Peaks home full time.
Current plans add 1,000 beds over five years but Alexander said he would like to see twice that amount.
Alexander also said he is working with developers to plan new staff housing in the Burfield area. Two locations are currently being discussed, one where temporary trailers currently are and another close to the Burfield hostel.
SPR has been working alongside Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality on the Sun Peaks Housing Authority to provide more affordable housing for employees.
Other future projects include a large reservoir for potable water at a cost of around $1 million and a possible lodge at the base of Mt. Morrisey with 200 to 300 seats.
To support and justify the major investment skier visits must also continue to grow.
Alexander said SPR’s goal is to reach 433,000 to 450,000 skier visits by 2022. Last year the mountain saw around 390,000 so an increase of three to four per cent annually would be required to reach the target.
That realistic and sustainable growth is important, Alexander said, to reduce risks that come with big promises.
“This company plans more than most others,” he said. “Methodically, deliberately. We’re growing manageably.
“We have more that we can look to do than most others,” he said. “Nobody that I know of has the permit, financial ability or desire…We’re positioned well.”
With the best years ahead, Alexander said he is looking forward to seeing the plans come to life.
“It’s great to only take 25 years to become an overnight success,” Alexander joked. “We’ve been moving for a long time.”