The Sts’ailes First Nation will benefit from a revenue-sharing agreement signed with the Province to share revenues generated by the expansion of the Sasquatch Mountain Resort.
“The Sasquatch Mountain Resort project is a great example of collaborative work between a resort operator and an Indigenous community,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “Today, we celebrate that partnership as well as Sts’ailes's ongoing involvement in economic development and the protection of cultural heritage resources in the area.”
Sasquatch Mountain Resort is a small ski resort located in the Douglas Ranges near Chehalis, British Columbia, Canada, between the towns of Mission and Agassiz. It is now going to be called Sasquatch Mountain (2017)
Previously Known as Hemlock Valley Resort the resort closed due to bankruptcy receivership in 2005. In 2006, the resort was purchased by Berezan Hospitality group and reopened in December 2006. Shortly thereafter the resort started negotiations with local First Nations and the province of BC for a substantial expansion that would see the resort become the largest resort facility in the Lower Mainland of BC.
Average annual snowfall at Hemlock Valley is 30-35 ft. The vertical drop is 335 m (1,100 ft) from a summit elevation of 1,317 m (4,320 ft) to a base elevation of 980m (3,220 ft). The area comprises 121 hectares (300 acres) and has 34 runs, the longest of which is 1.4 miles (2.3 km). The area has four lifts - one triple chair, two double chairs and a beginner magic carpet, and features night skiing and 13 kilometres of cross-country skiing trails as well as an 8 lane tubing and tobogganing area with a magic carpet.
The resort operator, in partnership with Sts’ailes, changed the name of the resort from Hemlock Valley Resort to Sasquatch Mountain Resort in recognition of the significance of the Sasquatch in Sts’ailes culture, as well as the business-to-business agreement between the two parties. The word Sasquatch is an anglicized pronunciation of “sasq’ets,” a Sts’ailes word that tells a story of how Sasquatch is a primary caretaker of the land.
The economic and community development agreement provides for revenue sharing of incremental revenues of the annual royalties that the Province collects from Sasquatch Mountain Resort. The agreement comes after a thorough consultation process and assessment with Sts’ailes of how the project review and consultation met the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“Sts’ailes is very happy to work with Berezan Group and the Province of B.C. on this key agreement that was carried out in the spirit of reconciliation,” said Sts’ailes Chief Ralph Leon, Jr. “We are excited for our people and for our renewed relationship with B.C.”
The Sts’ailes will be involved in the five-phase expansion plan, which positions Sasquatch Mountain Resort to evolve into an all-seasons resort. Development plans include expanding ski terrain and winter activities, as well as incorporating a variety of year-round recreation activities, such as mountain biking, hiking, ATVing and the addition of a lakefront Indigenous-themed residential village and small marina.
In November 2015, the Province approved a master plan for expansion of the regional ski area in the Hemlock Valley and, subsequently, a 60-year master development agreement in April 2016. Sasquatch Mountain Resort is located within the traditional territory of Sts’ailes and encompasses approximately 6,000 hectares of land between Hemlock Valley and Harrison Lake.
Phase 1 of the expansion has an estimated capital investment of $500 million, which will create the equivalent of 1,153 full-time jobs, while completion of the five phases of development will see an investment of over $1 billion.
"We are proud to be partners of the Sts'ailes First Nation and excited to be part of the celebration of the ECDA agreement between the Sts'ailes First Nation and the Province of B.C.,” said Ralph Berezan, CEO, Berezan Group.
Hemlock Valley was first opened for skiing on December 21, 1969, by a company known then as Hemlock Valley Recreation (HVR). The facilities were initially very basic, with just a single rope-tow lift and an older school bus fitted with a wood-burning stove to serve as the ski lodge. Some 30-40 families visited the ski hill that first season.
Over the 70s a lodge was built and three chair lifts were added, with the third lift completed in 1978. A resort community of 225 lots was developed.
Due to the recession of the early 80s the resort encountered financial difficulties and ownership was transferred to the provincial government via the British Columbia Development Corporation. A new company then acquired the ski hill, operating under the name Hemlock Valley Resorts Inc (HVRI)