By ROY WOOD
Conceding that the resort has “a long way to go,” the lead investor in Mount Baldy says the sale of building lots on the hill is “the very first step” on a road to creating a South Okanagan gem.
In a telephone interview today from West Vancouver, Victor Tsao said the long-term goal of the investment group is to create a “four-season destination resort” at the financially troubled ski hill.
One of the main targets of the world-wide quest for customers — for what has traditionally been a local, family-friendly ski hill — is the burgeoning Chinese middle class.
“China has one of the fastest-growing ski and tourism populations on the planet earth,” said Tsao. “And we want to tap into that market … and to bring those investment and tourism dollars into our resort in the South Okanagan.”
Tsao said he was recently in Toronto at an event sponsored by Destination Canada and the Chinese National Tourism Administration, where he discussed Mount Baldy and “had a lot of interesting conversations.”
It was also recently announced that the Chinese national alpine ski team has chosen Baldy as its Canadian training base, along with another base in the US and two in Europe.
Tsao described the outreach to the ski team as “less of an economic opportunity for us and more about building the brand and … the recognition.”
As for the immediate term, Tsao said: “We have a long way to go and there a lot of tasks that we have ahead. At this stage we are picking our battles and concentrating our own manpower and resources on resort development.”
He said the lots that came on the market recently in the McKinney subdivision are in response to “numerous requests” to make real estate available on the hill.
He said the lots are selling at “rock bottom prices” in an effort to see “more rentable accommodation on the mountain. … The next step will be for us to develop our own accommodation.”
The subdivision includes 29 lots. According to construction manager Wade Wilk, six of them are commercial. “(They) could be condos or a hotel. It hasn’t been decided.”
Of the remaining 23 lots, one is spoken for and three have been sold since they became available about a week ago. The prices range from $62,500 to $99,500, Wilk said.
Wilk said in an interview that when 19 of the available 22 lots are sold, the so-called “soft utilities” – electricity, telephone and cable – will be installed. Once provincial and regional district formalities are complete building can begin.
“There’s the possibility of a rental pool … like an AirB&B. Some of the lots are fairly big,” he said.
Because of the short, four-month building season, Wilk said, the cabins will be pre-fabricated and the investors group has developed contacts with three BC builders. He described the style envisioned for the subdivision as “craftsman style, with peaked dormers, a little bit of wood and lots of glass.”
Wilk shares the investor group’s enthusiasm for a four-season resort. He said non-skiing activities available include hiking, biking, bird- and game-watching, possibly a zip line. “We’re thinking of cutting a trail to Conkle Lake and getting quad tours. … We’ve had a gentleman come up and map out future mountain bike trails.”
Tsao and his Baldy Mountain Resort investment group bought the hill out of receivership in June 2016 for $3.4 million. It had been in financial difficulty for some time and did not open for the 2015-16 ski season.
Baldy boasts one quad and 1 double – chair lifts. It had more than 300 centimetres of snow this year and remains open until April 1.