The provincial government announced Thursday the approval of a major expansion of Hemlock Resort that includes co-operation from the nearby Sts’ailes Band, the government and the owners, Langley-based Berezan Group.
The approved master plan, called “collaborative and innovative” by the government, includes an expansion of the existing ski hill along with more activities and base-area development.
The five-phase expansion will see: an increase in the recreation area from 350 hectares to 6,000 hectares; an increase of 20,000 bed units and 23 lifts at build-out over a period of 60 years; an estimated capital investment of $500 million for phase 1 of the expansion, with an estimated total $1-billion investment at build-out and; 1,153 full-time jobs in phase 1.
Since buying the resort in 2006, the Berezan Group has invested $10 million into upgrading the existing infrastructure for 217 private homeowners. Currently, there are 1,076 bed units and four lifts.
An impacts benefit agreement between the proponent and Sts’ailes Band includes opportunities for a joint venture development on nearby Harrison Lake, which would further enhance Hemlock’s potential as an all-season resort.
Development plans over the next 20 years include a lakefront First Nations-themed residential village and small marina, with year-round recreation activities such as mountain biking, hiking and ATVing.
“Hemlock Resort has been an important contributor to the local economy for decades,” said Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness in a government press release. “With this new master plan, Hemlock is better positioned to support continued economic development and tourism in the Fraser Valley as a unique all-season resort.”
“Sts’ailes supports Hemlock Resort’s expansion and is excited about the joint venture development opportunity on Harrison Lake, as part of Hemlock’s transition to a unique, all-season resort,” said Sts’ailes Chief Harvey Paul. “The West Harrison area already draws significant numbers of recreational users, and the resort’s partnership with Sts’ailes complements the First Nation’s interest in continuing to develop tourism and recreation as a key economic driver for the community. The agreement also addresses environmental and heritage protocols during development.”
The announcement of the massive expansion comes after a ski season that never materialized at Hemlock.
After waiting and waiting, the resort cancelled the 2014/2015 ski season in February.
“When you rely on what falls from the sky you take the punches that Mother Nature gives you,” said Samuel Hicks, director of operations and human resource manager at Hemlock Resort. “At the end of the day, there’s no snow on the ground.”
– with a file from Mission City Record