Report from Informational Meeting – North West Mountain Experience’s Ski Touring Proposal

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Approximately 25 people attended the April 18, 2018 informational meeting regarding one of two proposals which could impact East Shore residents in significant ways (this one by North West Mountain Experience is to start an Eco-Adventure Tourism program in the Purcells on Armour Mountain).

Daniel Morton, along with his wife Mary and their son Logan, arranged to present the plan to East Shore residents at 7pm on April 18 at the Crawford Bay Hall. Daniel is an ACMG (Association of Mountain Guides) Backcountry Ski Guide and his wife Mary is a professionally trained chef. Their company is called North West Mountain Experience and is based out of their home in the Slocan. They have been renting backcountry huts and lodges and touring groups (they have around 500 regular guests and an approximate 80% return rate) all over southern BC and into Alberta for many years now. Morton expressed that it’s become harder to secure huts and lodges with the high demand of back country skiing and excursions. They have to book years in advance and it requires a huge amount of planning, says Morton.

NWME is asking permission to build a lodge to sleep 12 guests and 4 staff (and eventually an additional guest hut) between the East Shore and Kimberly in the Purcell Mountains. Their proposal is to helicopter in 12 guests, once per week, during the winter months. Their helicopters are AStar machines, reportedly much smaller and quieter than the Bell 205’s and 212’s. These weekly trips would mean a couple of round trips maximum to bring the existing guests out and bring in the new guests and supplies. Morton calls his outfit a non-mechanized one because, although they use a helicopter to bring people in, it’s all just human power from the point of drop off. There are no snowcats or other motorized machinery at work. They use composting toilets, solar power, and take out everything they bring in.

The Lands Office accepted Morton’s proposal first (of the two coinciding “heli-ski” proposals) for review. It is important to note that NWME’s proposal is asking for tenure on just over 10,000 hectares, all based in the RDEK region. The Retallack proposal is asking for over 70,000 hectares.

Morton has already begun local partnerships with businesses, including Kokanee Springs who would host the launch pad for the helicopter and provide accommodation for the guests. That doesn’t mean that the guests would be required to stay there, or that they couldn’t come earlier and enjoy the region before going up to the ski lodge. A local resident man suggested that NWME even encourage guests to come earlier for that intent purpose. Morton was very receptive to the idea. Morton also stressed that their proposal has the end goal of being a non-mechanized, eco-tourism, sustainable, non-resource based one, including the lodge and out buildings.

Morton pointed out that this right to tenure does not give anyone exclusive use of the terrain, and he is very open to locals visiting the site and willing to work out deals with those who would like to experience it first-hand. They are asking for permission to build the cabin and then take folks skiing back there. The lodge location would be 44km northwest of Kimberly, 24km NE of Crawford Bay and 21km N of Riondel. Morton says the impact of the lodge and skiing outfit will be absolutely minimal to residents, but will bring 12-24 guests into the area throughout the winter, potentially making a nice little boost to the local economy. The proposal includes summer hiking and touring as well, but that is to be developed. The winter ski tours are the focus for now. There would also be jobs available with the lodge, including building, trades work, hut keeping and more. Morton also said he would feature the area and businesses on his website to encourage visits and continue to seek out local partnerships.

NWME’s proposal notes that the application respects the Purcell Conservancy, leaving a one kilometre buffer between the border of the Conservancy and their outlying border and the lodge itself is 7 km away from the line. They are also well away from the provincial park. “Environmental concerns are important with any development, and we take it very seriously,” said Morton. “We are given guidelines by the Ministry of Environment, and we stay well within them. The last thing we want to do is endanger or threaten wildlife.”

Regarding the coinciding, larger proposal and what might happen, it was expressed that both could be accepted, both could be rejected or either one could be accepted or rejected. It’s up to residents now to give feedback on what they want to see happen. NWME has given their informational meeting and you can read the full proposal and give feedback on it at the following address (feedback on this proposal is only taken until May 6 (Note: if you have difficulty with the link, save the pdf on your desktop and open it from there):

https://arfd.gov.bc.ca/ApplicationPosting/viewpost.jsp?PostID=54933

As for the other proposal, as of April 20, the rumour about the Wildsight meeting at the Gray Creek Hall on April 23 has been dispelled. The meeting WAS booked, but has been POSTPONED until hopefully May 2/3, but the date hasn’t yet been confirmed. Eddie¬†Petryshen, Conservation Coordinator for Wildsight, says that they will likely be hosting that meeting and will “definitely let Retallack and the Lower Kootenay Band know when we have the public meeting as they have shown interest in attending.”

 

The full Retallack proposal can be read and responded to here (feedback until May 13):

https://arfd.gov.bc.ca/ApplicationPosting/viewpost.jsp?PostID=54966

Those who went to the NWME information meeting are strongly encouraging those who are interested in the other proposal to make sure that they attend the upcoming meeting.

Mainstreet will do what it can to get the word out and report on the other proposal.

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About ingrid

Ingrid has been the owner and editor of The East Shore Mainstreet newspaper for more than twelve years since 2002. She lives and works out of her home in Gray Creek alongside her husband Juergen and children Zoe and Luka.

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