A family-owned adventure tourism company from Kelowna and calling itself Power Renegade Lodge (PRL) filed a tenure management plan with the forest ministry in mid-October. The plan broadly calls on the ministry to approve PRL’s bid for 30-year leases over roughly 9,000 ha. of Crown land for intensive use as a backcountry ski lodge. Much of the necessary infrastructure is already in place, including logging roads, forest cut blocks and the remnants of the defunct heli-skiing venture Powder Outfitters.
PRL would hire Boundary staff wherever possible, providing an estimated $350,000 in annual wages, according to the plan. Meanwhile, PRL has said all construction would be done by contractors from Grand Forks and the surrounding area. At maximum capacity, the proposed operation could see as many as 41 people in and over the entire tenure on any one day, including lodge staff. PRL said there would be around 10 to 12 skiers and guides actively skiing on any one day.
PRL this summer hopes to start building a 24-bedroom timber-framed ski lodge, powered mostly by diesel-generated electricity, roughly at the 2,000-metre elevation mark in the Midway Range’s Horseshoe Valley. PRL business director Cassandra Penney, who co-owns the business with her husband Kerry Penney, said that “in principle” the lodge would span around 4,000 square feet. PRL’s plan further calls for an eight by 10-metre timber A-frame for 17 staff members and a number of small outbuildings and wood-frame structures, serviced by a water line drawing from a nearby pond and a septic field.
The plan grants that some trees would be cut to allow for glade skiing. The Penneys said that they would preserve as much tree cover as possible, stressing that they do not want and will not make conventional, slalom style ski runs.
It would be necessary to cut around 11 kilometres (roughly 10 miles) of separate dirt roads above area logging roads in order to access to the proposed lodge by snow cat, which the plan defines as a “truck-sized, fully tracked vehicle designed to move on snow.” Some of the tenure is closed to motor vehicle traffic by a provincial order which exempts snow mobiles during winter months. PRL contends that snow cats (they eventually plan to run two) are basically large snow mobiles. The plan explicitly states, “PRL is not requesting any summer activities, and will not be proposing any future applications for summer activities.”
A registered biologist hired by the Penney’s lists “potential impacts” to local wildlife species. These would apply mostly to nesting birds, if construction were to go ahead during nesting seasons, according to the report. In the biologist’s analysis, the proposed lodge site “does not overlap with Grizzly bear important ecosystems,” but the report does not rule out “grizzly bear encounters/disturbance during construction.” The lodge’s primary water source would come from a nearby pond bordering terrain expected to contain prey species eaten by grizzly bears and wolverines. Construction of the lodge’s water line could result in “disturbance/destruction of aquatic habitat at the pond,” the report states.
Many residents across the West Boundary, some of whom advise the Regional District of the Kootenay Boundary in district areas D and E, are flatly appalled by and deeply suspicious of PRL’s proposal. They have called on the district not to support the Penney’s application, at least until further study can be done. Environmental groups calling themselves the Boundary Alliance and the Boundary Forest Watershed Stewardship Society have said that PRL’s operation would imperil the local Kettle Grizzly bear population, which is widely considered to be threatened.
The plan was advertised in the Boundary Creek Times and the Grand Forks Gazette in a timely and reasonable manner given the ministry’s requirements, PRL’s budget, and the limitations of print advertising. The ministry is reviewing public commentary on the plan until Jan. 14. If you live in the West Boundary, make sure your voice is heard by visiting the Crown’s applications website at comment.nrs.gov.bc.ca/applications.