Two Advisory Planning Commissions (APC) across the Boundary expressed concerns this week about a cat-ski operation proposed for a section of Christian Valley bordering the Granby Provincial Park. Powder Renegade Lodge (PRL), a Kelowna-based backcountry ski company, is awaiting a decision by British Columbia’s forest ministry that will decide if the project goes ahead.
The APC for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s (RDKB) Area E, which advises the district on policy matters covering Greenwood and Midway in the southeast to Big White in the northwest, recommended on Monday, Jan. 4, that the RDKB not support PRL’s referral. The APC for rural Grand Forks’ Area D voted on Tuesday, Jan. 5, to defer a recommendation until PRL could present its tenure management plan.
Minutes taken at the Area E meeting cite a number of environmental concerns raised by board members. In particular, the APC claimed that PRL’s tenure management plan doesn’t clearly outline the proposed lodge’s sewage drainage; that its plan provides no buffer for threatened wildlife habitat in neighbouring Granby Park; and that noise from the lodge’s helicopter shuttle would disrupt area wildlife. The board also said area residents weren’t adequately notified of PRL’s intentions, advertised in The Boundary Creek Times and The Grand Forks Gazette starting in late November.
Representatives of the Boundary Alliance, an ad hoc group of concerned residents in the region, and the Boundary Forest Watershed Stewardship Society, a standing body that advocates for sustainable logging practices along Boundary waterways, told board members that any development near Granby Provincial Park would gravely threaten area Grizzly bears and wolverines.
PRL owner Kerry Penney said in an interview on Wednesday, Jan. 6, that the company has applied for tenure over existing infrastructure, outside of Granby Provincial Park, put in place for a now defunct heli-skiing operation. Accounts suggesting that PRL would operate any kind of a “ski hill” are grossly misleading, he said.
“There’s no ski hill being built. There’s no infrastructure going in to take people up and down the mountain. There’s no chairlift — nothing like that.”
Penney said PRL intends to use existing logging roads complemented by around 10 kilometres of unpaved snow-trails for the company’s tracked caterpillar, or “snow cat.” The company’s tenure management plan plainly envisions a modest timber frame lodge serviced by a septic field, he noted. Wife and business partner Cassandra Penney later qualified that the lodge would probably span around 4,000 square feet, including 24 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms.
“At the end of the day, we’re only going to be working with what’s already there,” he said, adding that proposed ski runs would be too densely treed to accommodate snowmobile traffic. PRL has no plans to extend its operation beyond backcountry skiing and snowboarding.
Kerry said PRL had obtained “a desktop” environmental assessment by a certified biologist with extensive knowledge of the area. The assessment was based on recent field studies based on current forest ministry data used to calculate area wildlife populations and migration patterns. PRL’s “low impact” operation would not harm Grizzly bears, he said, because the company would only bring in small groups during the bears’ winter hibernation.
“We’re not going to bring 100 people up there in a day. We’re not even bringing 35 people in a day. We’d be looking at bringing in 24 people a day when we’re maxed out in five years and we’ll have a second cat operating.” Tour guides would avoid any areas where wildlife was spotted for 24 hours, as per PRL’s wildlife mitigation plan, he said.
The ministry is considering public comments submitted to the Crown Land Applications’ website until Jan. 14.
no driving of snow cats on cut blocks
-10.7 of excavated roads, none of them continuous, none connecting to FSRs
-12 separate roads
-separeate a frame for staff
-6 to 8 bedrooms; bunk beds 12 to 17 staff
-no square footage
-in principle 20’ by 20’
-maintaining the natural landscape as much as possible to max snow pack stability
-exception to the MVCA is that snow mobiles exempted from Nov. to april
-part of the Motor Vehicle Act
-included in the proposal
-snowcat can be considered a snowmobile becasue it’s sufficiently similar