There’s a new building project on the horizon in Fernie.
Basecamp Resorts, headquartered in Canmore, AB., will make its first foray into the Elk Valley with the construction of a new hotel in Fernie — to be located 2.2 acres north of Canadian Tire on 9 Ave.
Plans for the prospective project were announced at Tourism Fernie’s annual general meeting on Tuesday (April 4), a two-part event that brought B.C and Alberta organizations and businesses together to discuss past and future tourism initiatives.
“It’s a great way for community, businesses and associations to come together in the same room, and find out where everything is going and what partners are involved; to connect and network with everyone,” said Tourism Fernie executive officer Jikke Gyorski.
The hotel would house 80 regular guest rooms divided between five separate buildings and 12 employee housing units in a sixth building. Some of the rooms would be pet friendly.
Guests would have access to a barbeque and fire pit area, a hot tub amenity, a forest-themed play space for children and bike rentals. It would provide accommodation for skiers and borders in winter, and hikers and bikers in summer.
“We’re hoping to have established hotel bases in all of the significant mountain towns, especially the ones with ski hills,” said vice president of development Darlene Jehn in an interview.
Jehn explained that the Fernie hotel will be the company’s largest project to date, holding the record for site size and number of buildings. Construction will likely start this summer. The project will take two years to complete.
As a company that has set up camp in other Rocky Mountain communities, including Banff, Kananaskis, Golden and Revelstoke, Fernie was an obvious next-step for Basecamp Resorts.
“We like to locate in areas that are year-round destinations with outdoor recreation,” Jehn added. “Fernie, it checks those boxes.”
As Fernie expands its tourism economy, it will face many challenges surrounding affordability and suitable housing. Tourism Squamish chair Kirby Brown, who presented at the event, spoke to these issues. He said that Fernie’s greatest challenge will be reconciling tourism growth and development, with quality of life.
“You can’t really talk about a beautiful location like Fernie without talking about all the pressures that increased population growth and visitation bring along with it on infrastructure and housing affordability,” he told Fernie Free Press in an interview.
“As our beautiful communities become more popular, there needs to be mechanisms in place to make sure the residents there are able to enjoy life for the reasons that they originally moved there for.”
“Fernie just doesn’t have the resources, like a big city does, to deal with pressures that development and developers and visitor influx bring along with it.”
The way forward, he added, will involve extensive consultation between Tourism Fernie, the City of Fernie and residents to ensure that tourism growth is undertaken in a sustainable and contentious way. The goal, he said, is for residents to keep their quality of life.
“Visitors also want to visit places where the quality of life is high,” he explained. “[Fernie is] stable, sweet, beautiful, [it’s] viewed as being sustainable. That is what tourism should enhance.”