Marmot to expand snowmaking, long range plan approved

Updated June 14, 2015

Notes from JEA:

This Fitzhugh article concerns the first part of Marmot Basin’s long range plan. The second part will be released sometime in the next two years and that will include Marmot’s expressed desire to expand into the Whistlers Creek Valley, a critical wildlife travel corridor and habitat for mountain goats and the endangered woodland caribou.

However there is a component of this first part that we were given to understand would be tackled by Marmot Basin but which has now been delayed to the second part – mass transit. Mass transportation systems are now in use in many parks in the U.S. and there is no doubt that one would be the best solution for Marmot Basin. It would do much to lessen wildlife mortality on the 12 km access road running through a wilderness area that is important habitat for moose, caribou, lynx and bears.

Both the 2007 Strategic Environmental Assessment and the 2008 Marmot Basin Guidelines for Development and Use indicated the “Use of mass transit will be the primary means to address parking issues”. Marmot is putting this off and in the meantime will cut down 600 trees to enlarge its present parking areas for an increase in car numbers from 1000 to a total of 1,630 – with a “future option of developing a parkade structure”.

The only way to ensure the public will use a mass transit system is to disallow the use of cars on the hill. Marmot appears to be doing the opposite.

Article from the Fitzhugh June 11, 2015


R. Fletcher photo

After nearly a decade of work, Marmot Basin’s first long range plan was approved last week, allowing the ski area to move forward with four projects, including the expansion of its snowmaking operations.

The long range plan outlines the projects Marmot wants to undertake in the next five to 15 years.

As well as building a brand new snowmaking system, which includes a reservoir that will hold 10 million gallons of water, Marmot’s long range plan also includes plans to expand its parking lots and its lower chalet and thin forests on Milk Run, Elevator Chutes and Little Chicago.

“We’re going to have some very busy years ahead of us to get this all done,” said Dave Gibson, president and CEO of Marmot.

“The primary project for us is going to be the snowmaking,” said Gibson, noting that the hope is to have the new system in place by 2017—although he admits that’s in an ideal world.

“We’re still trying to figure out the real costs for the snowmaking system, and it will be very expensive. By the time you build a reservoir, put all the piping in the ground, and all this other stuff, you’re talking several million [dollars].

“In an ideal world we’re at 2017 and you’re probably looking at 2018 or 2019 before we do anything else,” he said referring to the other projects in the plan.

Marmot’s long range plan is based on the Marmot Basin Site Guidelines approved by Parks Canada in 2008.

As well as outlining projects that Marmot hopes to undertake, the plan also includes a reduction in the ski area’s leasehold, with the Whistlers Creek area—about 118 hectares of land—being returned to Parks Canada.

“If you flip that over into … Canadian football fields, not American football fields, it’s the equivalent of about 150 Canadian football fields,” said Greg Fenton, superintendent of Jasper National Park. “It’s a very significant gain for the environment, but it also means a significant gain or enhancement to the visitor experience.”

Fenton said the return of Whistlers Creek was important for the protection of species at risk, like the caribou, that frequent the area.

With an approved long range plan, Fenton said it will expedite the approval process as Marmot moves forward with its four projects.

Marmot will, however, still have to go through the development process and provide the required environmental assessments for each of the projects. But, in some cases, some of that work has already been completed for the long range plan, so it reduces what needs to be accomplished moving foward.

“It certainly paves the way to get the project done relatively quickly, probably not for this ski season, but it helps them to advance that very expeditiously, given the scope and scale and magnitude of the project, because it’s a big one,” said Fenton of the new snowmaking system.

To provide snow to the mid-mountain area—on Paradise Run, Marmot Run, Basin Run, S Turns and Roll Out—the plan is to build a reservoir on a piece of land between the base of the old Kiefer T-Bar and the old triple chair.

“That’s a section of land that we’ve looked at for years,” said Gibson. “So what will happen now is the consultants were up last Tuesday [June 2] and they’ll start looking at that area and they’re going to put together a design proposal for us.”

While the reservoir engineers work on that, Golder Associates will work on an environmental assessment and Snow Machines, Inc. will design a pump house for the reservoir, as well as the piping that will go up the road to the top of the mountain.

“It’s a big job, there’s no doubt about it. But we’ll get it done,” said Gibson.

Snowmaking is a big part of Marmot’s early season strategy, allowing the ski area to open in mid-November.

“It’s been a big benefit to us and our employees and also the community of Jasper,” said Gibson. “I was here when we opened Marmot Basin at the end of November, I’ve also been here when we’ve opened two days before Christmas. If we’re not open, there’s not an awful lot happening in the community of Jasper and I feel that responsibility.

“So now with that snowmaking system on the lower part of the mountain, unless something really goes wrong, we’re pretty well guaranteed we can get open Remembrance Day, middle of November.

“It will be the same thing with the snowmaking on the upper part of the mountain. The sooner we can get that open, the sooner we can get people here in the restaurants and hotels and all that. That’s important to us.”

Nicole Veerman

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