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Bear Mountain works to be more than golf

Posted on August 23, 2014

Early in October, golfers will see new shadows cast against the greens at Bear Mountain resort when flying cyclists replace the normal distractions provided by birds and clouds when the venue hosts the extreme mountain bike event Jumpship 2014.

At first glance, it seems hosting a three-day mountain bike aerial event would be a significant departure for a resort community with golf at its heart.

But Dan Matthews, founder of resort owner Ecoasis Developments, said it’s more a shocking harbinger of things to come.

“Jumpship is more extreme, but it gets audiences out and keen — it’s the attention-grabber,” Matthews said.

Set to run Oct. 3-5, Jumpship will feature more than 20 riders competing for more than $6,000 in prize money by flying 25 metres into the air before finding the finish line.

Matthews said he sees the event as a kickoff for Bear Mountain’s new commitment to becoming a hub for the sport of mountain biking — the cross-country and trail-riding style, rather than the extreme sport.

The resort has been working with the mountain-biking community to establish new trails and amenities in the area over the past three months.

Matthews said he was stunned by the sheer numbers of riders in the region.

“Whistler on average gets 110,000 bike visits in a five-month period each year, but the number we see, on an annualized basis, at Hartland dump with no commercialization or organization is 85,000 people.

“We are within 20,000 [visits] of one of the world’s premier [mountain-biking] destinations and no one has been engaging that community,” he said.

Matthews wants to change that, establish Bear Mountain as a destination for all kinds of riders and ensure Jumpship is an annual event that could complement the massive 10-day Crankworx mountain bike festival event at Whistler each August.

“It’s rounding out Bear Mountain to be the most complete resort-residential community in Canada and I think you need to have those amenities — golf, biking, tennis, fitness facilities and trails for biking, walking and hiking,” he said.

To that end, Ecoasis has been cutting new trails on the resort’s 900 acres, and working with the provincial parks system to improve trails in the 3,000 acres that surrounds the resort, improving recreation and swimming amenities at the hotel and making minor changes to its two 18-hole golf courses.

They are also developing a tennis facility, which Matthews promises will be world-class.

“It will be a big program. It will rival our golf course quality,” he said.

That plan is expected to be unveiled later this year.

It’s meant a lot of work since Ecoasis bought Bear Mountain from HSBC Bank Canada in the fall of 2013, and Matthews said there is much more to do before he is ready to unveil the broader vision for the next stage of development.

“What we quickly determined was that six to eight months to establish a master plan for a project that is going to endure generations was too quick, and we found the community here had some great ideas,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I listen to them and weave some of their thoughts and ideas into our plan?”

As a result of an extended period of discussions with stakeholders, Matthews said he expects to unveil a more comprehensive plan for the new development in the first quarter of 2015.

And while he wouldn’t offer numbers, he did say the overriding theme will be less density in the residential development.

“That’s no secret — if it was going to be 5,000 [units], it will now be 3,000,” he said, adding that means better value for those who are already part of the community.

There is some development currently underway with land being cleared for what will be the 51-lot Turnberry subdivision around the ninth hole of the mountain golf course.

Matthews said though nothing is yet for sale at that site, interest is high as a result of pent-up demand.

“It should be well received and that’s exciting for us. It helps pay for all the amenitization we are doing,” he said.

When told it seems like new life is being breathed into the area, Matthews argued the life was always there, but “just needed to be awoken.”

Story by: Andrew Duffy