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Backers of proposed B.C. ski resort urge hockey star to visit before criticizing

Officials with the proposed year-round development on a pristine hillside in southeastern B.C. hope Niedermayer will be their guest for a tour of the Jumbo Glacier Resort in the Purcell mountain range west of the Rockies.

Grant Costello, vice-president of Glacier Resort Ltd., said Monday he'd be pleased to host Niedermayer on a hiking tour, helicopter overflight or any type of visit the 34-year-old Anaheim Duck and NHL most valuable player might enjoy.

"We're surprised to hear Mr. Niedermayer get involved in the debate at this late hour because there have been many, many public hearings and public open houses on the project over the years and we've never seen him at those," Costello said.

"We think that he may have kind of a distorted view of what the project actually is. For example, does he know that Jumbo Glacier Resort will be the home of the permanent facilities for Canadian ski and snow sport athletes? Would he reject a project that would help members of his sport reach Olympic levels?"

The 5,500-bed, four-season resort will offer 20 lifts and put hiking and skiing tourists atop some of the highest glaciers in North America.

Costello said Niedermayer may not understand that provincial regulations require developers to build accommodation in direct proportion to the number of lifts planned.

Niedermayer, who is currently on suspension from the Anaheim Ducks, has joined opponents of the Jumbo resort who fear the development in the wildlife-rich area is too large and is proposed for a region that already boasts more than a dozen ski developments.

Costello said the size of the resort has been exaggerated compared to other resorts such as Sun Peaks and Big White.

Before voicing his opposition, Niedermayer made a donation to a conservation group that has spearheaded the fight against the resort.

"I don't know if I'm going to change anybody's mind," he has said in an interview.

But Niedermayer, who grew up in the East Kootenay area and enjoyed hiking, climbing and fishing in the wild, hopes to bring some awareness to the issue.

Opponents to the resort are calling the area a major grizzly habitat that should be protected but developers have said there's only been evidence of two grizzlies in the region while several dozens live in nearby valleys.

In 2004, the province's Environmental Assessment Office announced the project had received its environmental assessment certificate.

The Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts approved the master plan at the end of July.

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