VANCOUVER (CP) - Opponents of a year-round resort development in a pristine B.C. wilderness area got a public relations shot in the arm this week as the National Hockey League's most valuable player added to his voice to the protests.
Scott Niedermayer is currently under suspension by the Anaheim Ducks but grew up in Cranbrook, B.C. not far from where Vancouver-based Pheidias Project Management wants to build a 5,500-bed, four-season resort that it says would put hiking and skiing tourists atop some of the highest glaciers in North America.
At first, Niedermayer just sent in a donation to Wildsight, the Kootenay-based conservation group that has spearheaded the opposition to the Jumbo Glacier Resort in the Purcell mountain range west of the Rockies.
Now, however, the 34-year-old has become more vocal.
"I don't know if I'm going to change anybody's mind," the father of three said in an interview.
He hopes, though, that adding his name to the cause might get people to make themselves aware of the issue.
And, said Wildsight spokesman Dave Quinn, Niedermayer's arrival has re-invigorated a lot of people who've been fighting the resort for years.
"It's time to give the proponent an answer and that answer should be 'No,"' Quinn said.
After years of being used for logging and mining, Quinn said the development would put a small city into a world-class wilderness area.
He said the resort threatens wildlife in an area that already has more than a dozen ski resorts.
And Niedermayer agreed.
"There's many great resorts," he said. "Two years ago during the lockout, I went over to the West Kootenay and to some really small resorts but fun places to ski in Nelson and Red Mountain in Rossland."
As a youth growing up in the East Kootenay region 700 kilometres east of Vancouver, Niedermayer took advantage of the hiking, camping, climbing and fishing in the area where grizzlies, wolverines and mountain goats rule the landscape while the humans populate sparse communities punctuating the beginning and ends of mountain passes.
"I just really enjoy the fact that you're able to do that, head out on a logging road, get away from the city-like things," he said.
He said he took a friend to the East Kootenay hiking last summer.
"He was just amazed by the fact that you could look in any direction and just a sea of mountains as far as you can see," Neidermeyer said.
A spokesman for Glacier Resorts Ltd could not be reached for comment.
The resort would be 50 kilometres west of Invemere in the East Kootenay, 600 kilometres east of Vancouver.
It was first proposed in 1991 to B.C.'s then Social Credit government as a year-round alpine resort approximately fifty kilometres west of Invermere.
The resort would have 20 lifts and offer year-round glacier skiing.
According to its website, the company wants to replace current heli-skiing in the region with access by aerial tram or gondola and to allow glacier skiing as well as sight seeing in summer at the top of the glaciers.
Opponents of the four-season resort say the values that the province has used to market itself to the world are under threat by the proposal.
Quinn said the area is a major grizzly habitat and should be protected from development.
The developers have said there has only been evidence of two grizzlies in the region while dozens live in nearby valleys.
In 2004, the province's Environmental Assessment Office announced the project had received its environmental assessment certificate.
Its master plan was approved at the end of July by the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts.