Sunshine Village is apparently not content to operate within the well-defined confines of its lease and permit agreements. The ski resort’s insatiable appetite for more and more of Banff National Park and Mt Assiniboine Provincial Park land is clearly evidenced. Here’s 3 ways that Sunshine is taking more than it should.
- Wawa Ridge – Wawa Ridge is well beyond the lease boundary of Sunshine Village and yet it is the location of four radio repeaters that are owned by the company. On a regular basis Sunshine Village employees leave the ski area lease boundary and use snowmobiles and occasionally helicopters to maintain and service the radio-communications installations. Below Wawa Ridge is Wawa Bowl and the two out-of-bounds runs known as back-door and side-door that are so well used they become packed and bumped. As always – giving Sunshine an inch leads to trying to take a mile. Sunshine’s recent internal planning includes expanding the lease boundary to include Wawa Ridge and Wawa Bowl and possibly placing a lift from Bourgeau parking lot to the top of Wawa Ridge. This lift line would be in full view from Banff. Already Sunshine Village has extended its operations beyond the lease boundary through installation of the radio-communications repeaters. Attempts by SSV Watch so far to find reference to a public consultation process and issued permits for these installations have turned up nothing.
- Sunshine Meadows and Rock Isle Lake. During the winter season of 2010/11 Sunshine Village operated commercial snow-cat tours beyond its permit boundary with BC Parks. These tours were operated mainly for the benefit of paying guests at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge. Hotel customers were driven by snowcat into the world-famous Sunshine Meadows and to the shores of Rock Isle Lake where a fire was lit for their private enjoyment. Sunshine only recently concluded a renewal of its permit with BC Parks and must have been fully aware that the only activity permitted in this area was for search and rescue and late-season cross-country ski team training. They went ahead and did it anyway and in so doing seemingly breached the BC Parks Act. BC Parks put a stop to the activity but so far Sunshine Village has not been charged even though the activity was unlawful and an offence under the Act. It appears the owners and executive managers responsible for this have been given a free pass to avoid prosecution.
- The Sunshine Access Road. For years now Sunshine Village has regularly overflowed it’s parking capacity with the lease area boundary at the Bourgeau base area. Sunshine’s answer to this is to just keep parking cars all the way down a public road well outside the lease boundary. Hundreds of cars are now routinely parked under direction of Sunshine employees along 8km of narrow, winding avalanche threatened public road with insufficient regard for public safety, environmental protection, wildlife and the legal limits of the lease boundary. Parks Canada lets it happen and apparently does not even charge Sunshine Village a fee for the land use.
Until recently one Sunshine Village senior manager has been directly responsible for all three examples of Sunshine Villages expansionist conduct. Ken Derpak has held the position of VP Operations and General Manager for the last six years. During his time in this position Derpak directly oversaw the operations that include the Wawa Ridge repeaters, the Rock Isle Lake snow-cat tours and the overflowing parking operations on the access road. In a recent press release, Sunshine Village announced that Derpak has now assumed the role of Senior Vice-President Planning, Development, Government and Regulatory Affairs.
There was a time when environmental interest groups such as the Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society (CPAWS) took a very close interest in the affairs of Sunshine Village. Lately however Sunshine Village has been flying under the radar and pushing it’s operational and environmental impact boundary with little regulatory or public oversight. That needs to change. Sunshine Village operates in Banff National Park and Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park which are both part of a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. We really need to start taking that fact seriously when it comes to commercial activity within the parks. A good way to start is by holding Sunshine Village accountable to the provisions of its lease and permits and by demanding that Parks Canada and BC Parks do their job to regulate the company’s operations properly.
Do your part to protect our national and provincial parks – please share this information with everyone you know across Canada and internationally including environmental movements, politicians and media. And let’s all keep a close eye on Ken Derpak in his new role with Sunshine Village.