Hemlock Resort plan gets green light

Province supportive of expansion plan for ski hill, lauding potential for business growth in the surrounding area

An artist's rendering of a full buildout of Hemlock Resort.

The Hemlock Resort Master Plan has been approved by the provincial government.

This is one of the final hurdles the mountain’s management company, Berezan Management, will have to climb in an attempt to revitalize the mountain. They started creating the massive plan seven years ago, after purchasing the assets out of foreclosure. The plan includes a sizeable expansion in both size and in operational seasons, with the hopes of making Hemlock a viable, year round resort.

While the average number of skiers in 2010 was about 1,150 a day, the hill hopes to one day see 13,440 skiers on the hill each day.

Hemlock Resort announced the news on Facebook on Friday morning, posting a letter sent to owner Ralph Berezan from the Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

“Hemlock Resort has addressed the concerns raised through the course of the review to FLNR’s satisfaction with amendments to the Master Plan and commitments that will be incorporated into the Master Development Agreement,” the letter states. “In the coming months, our office will be working with you to finalize the new MDA which will replace your existing agreement for the resort.”

The finalizations will include working with Sts’ailes on the establishment of a First Nation Woodland Licence over the Controlled Recreation Area, as well as support from the government in working with the Fraser Valley Regional District.

The letter, attributed to Terry Pratt of the Mountain Resorts Branch, said the plan will bring “much-needed capital investment in recreational infrastructure and all season tourism opportunities.”

Hemlock Resort congratulated management on securing the support of the government.

“After seven years of focused effort, working closely together with Sts’ailes and the BC Provincial Government in the development of a new Master Plan for Hemlock Resort, we are pleased to announce that we have cleared one of the final hurdles by securing approval for the development plan,” the resort’s Facebook page reads. “This announcement brings Hemlock resort one step closer to becoming a year round playground in the Fraser Valley.”

Over those seven years, Berezan has reached out to residents in the the small communities that surround the mountain. They officially unveiled the master plan in 2010, when the review process began. In September 2013, they set up an open house in nearby Sts’ailes to meet with the public.

The grand plan is that Hemlock Resort will one day stretch from the mountaintop, down to the shores of Harrison Lake. While the resort is small now, the surrounding area gives it great potential, the master plan says.

“At first glance, Hemlock’s physical attributes might be dismissed as insubstantial when compared to the world’s great mountain resorts,” it reads. “As illustrated in this Master Plan, the opportunities at Hemlock are very significant.”

The resort may one day feature a mountainside golf course around 10 Mile Bay, overlooking the western side of Harrison Lake, with a chair lift stretching up into the distance to move mountain bikers around the hills.

According to the plan, the main resort would feature hotel rooms, upgraded lifts and four season attractions that would extend the mountain’s viability from three months to a full year.

It’s a 55-year plan,” Berezan told Black Press at that open house, and will roll out in several stages. While some of the final stages may seem lofty, he said, the initial plan is to upgrade existing services.

“The first phase is to build a new chair to replace our oldest one,” he said. Also to be considered as soon as possible would be a hotel with about 22 beds.

But first, the plan will now go the Fraser Valley Regional District for approval, and possibly for amendments to the region’s Official Community Plan.

It’s good news for a hill that had to cancel its most recent ski season, due to a lack of snow and heavy rains.

The plan was designed by Brent Harley, planner behind Big White Ski Resort, along with ski and bike parks around the world. At full buildout, the plan estimates the hill will provide 1,500 plus year-round and seasonal jobs. The project is expected to bring 34,000 person years of construction related employment over the course of 15 to 20 years of development. The total cost the mountain attraction facilities to buildout is approximately $102 million (in 2010 figures).

The current Master Plan, including a water license review from 2013, is available online on the Ministry’s website.

Berezan Management has not responded to a request for an interview.