Northern Escape Heli Skiing will be opening their first new remote mountain lodge this year for its upcoming 2020 winter season.
As a tour operator in the area for almost 17 years, the “first-class wilderness resort” is expected to increase tourism in the area as it plans to be used year-round and provide more employment.
“We really operate quietly in the background but brings hundreds of people and millions of dollars of money into the Terrace area,” says John Forrest, president and general manager of Northern Escape Heli Skiing. “Our clientele is very high-end clientele… so we’re trying to step it up and add to the draw of Terrace.”
The resort lodge is estimated to cost approximately $5 million dollars and would be located on 50-acres overlooking Treston Lake. Ten single rooms will be offered for guests, along with accommodation for staff. The property will also include three helipads, a heli-shack and a “catshack” to maintenance their snowcats, with the expectation to expand in the upcoming years.
Forrest says their company has been relying on using two lodges in Terrace but owning their own lodge will have long-term benefits as they plan to operate their building throughout the summer, which will entice their employees to work with them longer. They currently employ approximately 50 to 60 staff for the winter season and only keep a handful of them throughout the year.
“With us leasing the lodges, staff often disappear and work seasonally somewhere else but with us now owning our lodge, our goal is to keep those people employed year-round,” he says. “There would be about a 15 per cent increase in staff that we employ [too]… most of the full-time year employees then move to Terrace, become residents and contribute to the economy of Terrace.”
Although conversations are still in the works, Forrest says they plan on having their lodge used by another tour operator during the summer months — either for fishing tourism, eco-tourism or even Indigenous tourism.
“About 90 per cent of our guests are international, and about 60 per cent come from Europe, so Indigenous Tourism is a big draw, it’s something they want to learn about,” Forrest says.
“Our preferred option is to find a partner that is looking for summer accommodations for their business, we’ve approached several companies to see if they’d like to utilize a first-class lodge for their guests… [If that doesn’t work], our next step would be to create our own programs.”
He adds the resort itself will also be available as a “touristic getaway” for locals in the region, and improve the roads and area to it.
“We’ve had [Kalum Road West] graded to improve the access to the area not only for us but for the public [to use]… and a high-end facility in the wilderness may give a lot of the residents someplace to go as a retreat in the summertime. I think it’ll be a great addition to the economy,” says Forrest. “[We also] will likely be building mountain biking trails and hiking trails within that 50 acres.”
Forrest says Northern Escape Heli Skiing contributes approximately $3 million to the Terrace economy per year as they do their best to buy locally.
“Each year, we buy fuel locally, we employ people as best we can locally, we rent out an entire hotel in town as our staff accommodations for the winter, and we purchase our food locally as best we can,” he says. “We try to do pretty much everything that we can to purchase and contribute to the economy.”
IDL Projects is the general contractor of the project, beginning construction in the spring of 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2019.