The road to paradise | Jumbo Wild story in KMC magazine

The proposed Jumbo development has loomed for a quarter century in the Kootenays as a palpable wedge separating two ideologically opposed camps: one in favour of an expansive four-season resort in the wild heart of the Purcell Mountains, the other completely opposed to it.

The proposed Jumbo development has loomed for a quarter century in the Kootenays as a palpable wedge separating two ideologically opposed camps: one in favour of an expansive four-season resort in the wild heart of the Purcell Mountains, the other completely opposed to it.

Last April I got the chance to revisit a spot I’d been to once before, on a very different assignment, and have felt drawn to ever since. By this point, news of Jumbo Glacier Resort’s long, complicated and more than a little confusing development process has more than likely crept through your Twitter feed or crawled across the ticker of your favourite news site so I’m going to spare you the details here… However, if the phrase ‘Jumbo Wild‘ isn’t ringing any bells, all the more reason to read on.

The following is an excerpt from the top of one of the many drafts that led to the piece, which you can read here, in full, on the website of Mountain Culture Magazine.

While mine is far from the first (Bruce Kirkby’s from the Globe and Mail a few years ago is hugely informative… dig through his site and you’ll find it), I hope that it serves to inform and entertain. Much of it is based on a week spent in Invermere this past spring while Nick Waggoner (the guy behind that naked ski segment in the film Valhalla) put the finishing touches on the Patagonia-backed docu/activism movie Jumbo Wild, which is currently in the festival circuit and bound for iTunes shortly… *I had the pleasure of reconnecting with Nick in Toronto in October and got a sneak peek at the film, which is well worth your time. Seek it out.

And, a massive thanks to the editors there for allowing me to take this on… and for shaping it into its present, polished form.

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It is mid April and the heli-skiing operations in the East Kootenays are shut down for the season, leaving Nick Waggoner on the hook to charter a ride. The plan is for the 29-year-old skier and filmmaker to deliver architect Oberto Oberti to the 3,000 metre-high summit of Glacier Dome.

Oberto Oberti, the 71-year-old architect behind Jumbo Glacier Resort

Oberto Oberti, the 71-year-old architect behind Jumbo Glacier Resort’s design, on Glacier Dome in April 2015.

It’s here the 71-year-old resort designer hopes to one day install the highest ski lift on the continent. Oberti’s quarter century-long quest to turn that spot into the crown jewel atop a Kitzbühelesque resort in the wild heart of the Jumbo Valley represents a very different vision for the land than that of many of the region’s residents — including the Ktunaxa Nation, a vocal and well-funded environmental group and, as Oberti would later find out, Waggoner himself.

While the two make for an odd pair, they do share a common bond: a love of skiing. Waggoner, who is the driving force behind the award-winning ski film company Sweetgrass Productions, has spent a significant part of the past four years filming in the Kootenays. During that time, and in order to gain access to the normally media-shy developers of the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort, the charismatic New Yorker put in a long courtship and forged a kind of friendship with Oberti. It was on his coattails I was able to slide into the mix.

Now, in order to hit a narrow weather window promising blue skies in the alpine, Oberti is en-route from Vancouver to shoot a crucial segment for Waggoner’s latest film, Jumbo Wild, and photographer Garrett Grove, Glacier Resorts Vice President Grant Costello, a local ski guide (who will remain nameless) and I are huddled around a table at an otherwise empty bar in Invermere, working out the strict conditions under which the helicopter will fly…

For the rest, (including some amazing pictures by Garret Grove) please read The Crusade: After a Quarter Century, What’s Really Behind Jumbo Glacier Resort?

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