Proponents of the Garibaldi at Squamish ski resort insist they are not competitors of Whistler’s, but neighbours. A good neighbour with shared values and an uncommon decency to build collaboratively on one another’s success.
In his own words, Wolfgang Richter, vice chairman of Garibaldi at Squamish said last week the word “competition” immediately sounds adversarial, and prefers not to use it. “We’re neighbours. We want to be complementing what’s there, we obviously benefit from it, so we want to give back to what we benefit from. Whatever that looks like, we want to grow the market.”
We shudder to think what their creditors think of this non-competitive business model.
It’s an attractive proposition to see a cluster of top-tier mountains in the Sea to Sky. Colorado, Lake Tahoe and Banff, to name a few, have all made it work.
But as Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden points out, Colorado’s model relies on a nearby airport to draw in the visitors.
Now would be a good time to wonder why we haven’t expanded the airport in Pemberton (even the tiny town of Smithers, B.C., saw the value in expanding their runway years ago on the future expectation of attracting new visitors to Hudson Bay Mountain), but that’s another matter. Without that luxury here, a ski resort in Squamish would intercept too many visitors forced to drive up Highway 99, or so the reasoning goes.
The fact is, a ski resort in Squamish will certainly impact the number of regional visitors to Whistler. More so in the first couple of years, as skiers are naturally drawn to a new experience.
Good or bad, Squamish will permanently retain a share of them for the simple, mundane reason of shaving a half hour off the drive.
At the Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention, the mayor stressed this point, pulling aside B.C.’s environmental minister, Mary Polak, outlining the muni’s issues with the project proposal. The Ministry is responsible for an environmental assessment of the proposed resort that will also look at the possible social and economic impacts of the development. Wilhelm-Morden said some important things to Polak, chiefly that the economic information pertaining to the proposed resort is based on 2007 data. It needs scrutiny.
But she went on to make clear that Whistler generates $405 million in annual taxes for the province and accounts for 22.5 per cent of B.C.’s tourism revenue.
Does this massive payout earn Whistler special treatment?
One gondola project already approved for Squamish seems to suggest Victoria doesn’t think so.
With Squamish’s Sea to Sky Gondola not yet open but set to offer an experience next year that one could call the Peak 2 Peak Lite, nobody is sure what the impact will be to Whistler’s summer numbers. Perhaps it would be wise for the province to keep a close eye on that project’s impacts to the resort before deciding if two ski areas separated by a 30-minute drive is economically viable.