Plans for a second ski resort in Fernie, with a $100 million gondola running from downtown to the summit of Fernie Ridge, have been unveiled in a City of Fernie meeting.
Heaven’s Gate, Fernie is described as a “four season, multi generational mountain experience connected to the heart of downtown Fernie,” in the document presented to the City of Fernie committee of the whole on Tuesday by developers Heaven’s Gate Holdings, which includes former Snow Valley Ski Hill owner Heiko Socher.
The company wants to build a gondola mid-station above Ridgemont and adds this would be “the home of a future pedestrian area, including envisioned leadership training facilities, all in walking proximity to the gondola mid-station and base station located in downtown Fernie.”
The document lists planned activities as “life services high altitude downhill and Nordic skiing, accessible touring, snowshoeing and nature walking and hiking, mountain biking and zip lines, four season gondola sightseeing.”
A total of four ski lifts would serve downhill ski trails for different abilities and allow ski touring access to the backcountry, which is also listed as a potential expansion area.
It claims the project would create “the highest base elevation in the province” with a restaurant and observatory providing 360-degree views.
Road access to the mid-station would run from Coal Creek and public parking would be created in downtown Fernie for gondola users.
The document adds that “maintaining affordability and enjoyment for all generations is also one of Heiko [Socher’s] passions and desires for Heaven’s Gate.”
The proposal was last presented to the City in 2006 but the development did not progress further.
The company returned this week to ask the present council for a letter of support for the vision, similar to one written by the 2006 council.
Speaking on Tuesday, Coun. Randal Macnair, who was mayor last time the project came before council, said: “I think we should be upfront with the proponents that we don’t have any means by which to bind a future council.
“This is just going with them on an exploratory journey because there are many, many processes this would have to go through and we don’t want to structure the letter in a way that could get ourselves in trouble in the future.”
Coun. Phil Iddon added: “The potential for investment in the area is going to be a huge plus for the community if it can be seen to fruition.
“We need to have more information, there is a whole pile of processes we don’t even have a say in that this would have to go through before it comes close to coming back for our approval, such as environment assessments etc.“
Coun. Kevin McIsaac said: “I would like to express in the letter that we consider this idea very interesting, we are in support of groups investing in the community in this way, but we have to word it in a fashion that we haven’t created legally-binding processes that we are not prepared to get to at this time.”
Council voted in favour of writing a letter of support for the concept.
Craig McLeod of Heaven’s Gate Holdings would not comment further on the development, but said the company is currently in discussions with land owners and plans to move ahead with the development as soon as possible.
By Rebecca Edwards