I hate Jumbo because I love it
By Ian Cobb
I tried to get up to visit Jumbo Valley a month or so ago but ran out of time. Wanted to take Carrie to the place she’s heard too much about but brain farted on the time it takes to get up there from Invermere and we had to turn around at the second Jumbo Creek bridge and did not make it to the end of the road; to the sweet spot.
Each of the 35 or so kilometres from Panorama to the Jumbo Creek Valley holds memories for me.
The spot where I almost got caught behind (or hit) by an avalanche on Toby Creek Road; the spot where Roger and Jenny had a flat tire, with Toby Creek a couple of hundred feet directly downhill; the spots where I once squatted, a victim of zero per cent vacancy rates or being a dog owner in an already shallow no dogs allowed rental pool.
Then there is the Toby/Delphine spot where I enjoyed countless hours with my son and step-sons; the spots where I camped; the spots where Dingbat and I blew apart homemade targets with high powered weapons; the spots where I saw moose, bears, coyotes, elk; the picnic spots; the gathering spots; the infamous lair of the sasquatch video spot (shout out to Bram and Brooke); the spots where MVAs occurred; the spot where I first learned about wrapping your vehicle with chicken wire if you plan on leaving it for any period of time; the spot where Roger was almost swept downstream in his truck; the spots where resort protests occurred; the spot where I saw a young Sri Lankan woman see and feel snow for the first time.
Each and every trip into Jumbo, with most being for pleasure, always included some kinds of discussion about the Jumbo Resort proposal.
One of my first trips into Jumbo was in 1995 with resort proposal proponent Oberto Oberti; by van to the sawmill site, which would be about the centre of the proposed resort village, with full build out size equaling the City of Fernie (population) and then by helicopter to the top of Jumbo Dome.
It was during that trip when my tenuous support for the resort idea was lost, standing atop Jumbo Dome, surveying the mind-boggling vista – the sea of peaks that is the central Purcell Mountains.
It wasn’t Oberti’s passion to create something meaningful, even if just to him. It was when he made it clear to me that he wasn’t the type to give up.
There is no question that Jumbo Glacier Resort would be a spectacular international getaway.
Anyone who has stood atop or flown over the peaks that surround the upper Jumbo Valley know they are in the midst of greatness. From the deep forest scent of being a mile or more above sea level to the sharp turns of light and temperature, to the majestic vistas that unfold and emerge as you delve deeper into the heart of the Purcells.
It was the rub of hearing a big city architect, painted by some as a visionary genius, admit he had found the perfect place for his dream resort, from its unrivalled snow to natural beauty and more importantly, its accessibility thanks to the old road leading to the base of Jumbo Dome, and he was going to make it happen hell or high water.
Not long later, another major reason for my personal opposition to the resort became clear – the threat it posed to RK Heli-Skiing, a locally owned and operated company that thrived on its tenured use of the Jumbo Valley and others in the Central Purcells.
For the same reason Oberti wanted to plant a resort in Jumbo, already established accessibility (see also: save a shit load of dough), RK owner Roger Madson relied on Jumbo. When snowy conditions set in, flying to high country drop sites for skiers became too risky. RK’s choppers could follow Jumbo FSR and access runs, thereby reducing the number of ‘days lost’ to bad weather.
Understandably, Madson, a free enterprise supporter if there ever was one, didn’t like the thought of losing what he called his “bread and butter runs.”
I was fortunate enough to become friends with Roger and learned the entire history between himself and the resort proponents. Sat in on phone calls where insulting offers were made to purchase his business; listened to him stress to the nth degree about it; a stress that I believe helped lead to his early departure from this mortal coil.
Thanks to Roger and Jenny, I was able to get numerous up close looks at the Purcells, from the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy to the south of their tenured terrain to Bugaboo Provincial Park, at the north end.
Leona Creek drainage, leading down to Jumbo, where we scattered some of Roger’s ashes, remains a place of magic and wonder to me.
It pissed me off then and still does that our provincial governments have been blindly driven by the need to boost employment and investment figures thereby helping become re-elected (I’m looking at both of you, NDP and Liberals) that it over focussed on the reality of Jumbo.
That reality includes the fact it has always been a great whopping slice of pie in the sky bull crap.
Perhaps in 100 years, when it is likely the glaciers in Jumbo have long melted, there might be a need for another ski resort in the area.
The proponent’s literature, inflated with fatty lumps of sketchy verbosity, such as how the resort would employ 750 people, roughly twice as many as Panorama, was always another off-putting aspect of the issue that refused to die.
Considering how EVERY tourism and service business in the entire province of British Columbia desperately struggles to find enough staff in order to properly operate (shout out of thanks to Australia and Quebec), I once again pose to the proponent (who started refusing to speak to me about 15 years ago) where in the magic of Disney would you find that army of staff?
You are lucky your dream remains a dream, Oberti. Had you been able to find the funds necessary to really make a start on Glacier Resort, I believe you’d be up to your chin in troubles – just as several independent economic assessment studies declared – more gold ignored by Victoria.
And had Jumbo been more than a lonely slab of cement placed in an avalanche path (didn’t that inspire confidence?), RK Heli-Skiing would still be gut-punched. Somewhere, somehow, established, existing businesses must be considered by the higher government powers in such matters and if said established business faces threats to its existence, pie-in-the-sky folks need to either bugger off or refocus so as not to be a dick.
In case you are wondering why I’m ‘off again on Jumbo,’ the issue came to an important junction August 6.
The B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that the original 2015 decision of then Minister of Environment Mary Polak, that the Jumbo Glacier Resort project’s environmental assessment certificate was expired as the project had not been substantially started, should be reinstated.
Without a certificate, Glacier Resort Ltd. cannot undertake any construction or operation of the project and cannot obtain provincial approvals needed for the project.
In other words, it’s back to step one for Oberti and company.
While it is possible, knowing Oberti’s legendary tenacity, that another application could be submitted, I continue to doubt that anything will ever transpire in Jumbo beyond avalanches, more heli-skiing, hiking, biking, horse-riding and hunting.
Meanwhile, the grand and amazing ecosystem that is the height of the Purcell Mountain chain spanning from Kimberley to Glacier National Park near Revelstoke remains unsullied by wayward, risky greed.
Qat’muk remains free.
Now do the right thing Victoria and ensure it stays that way.
– Ian Cobb is owner/editor of e-KNOW. He has written the word ‘Jumbo’ more than anyone alive.