The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Editor, Valdez Star 

Mountain recreation development report sheds light on projects

Three competing locations and developers have a vision for Valdez and its peaks


Source: City of Valdez

The view from East Peak, one of the three sites up for consideration for mountain recreation development.

A long anticipated report that compares the merits and drawbacks to three competing projects to develop mountain recreation in Valdez has been published.

The report, commissioned by the council in 2015, is a voluminous compilations that takes an in-depth look at existing summer tourism in Valdez and lucrative winter sports industry.

The Valdez City Council and the Economic Diversification Commission are holding a work session to discuss the report tonight (Dec. 7) at council chambers, beginning at 6 p.m.

According to the report's executive summary, the purpose and goal of the study is twofold.

"Provide objective market, technical and financial information, and identify the opportunities, challenges, and costs associated with the potential developments," the report says first, then adds "Understand if sustainable mountain recreation development in Valdez is reasonably possible, and what steps might be taken to enhance the community's opportunities in this regard."

In addition to pointing out the pluses and minuses of the three proposed recreation sites of East Peak, Mineral Creek and Sugarloaf, the report looks at the existing infrastructure and breaks down data on existing visitor information.

"Valdez' tourism industry is heavily seasonal, concentrated between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend," the report notes. "Snowsports bring visitors in March and April. Valdez is internationally recognized as an extreme skiing destination, having hosted the World Extreme Skiing Championships throughout the 1990s."

The report also looks at potential climate change effects in Valdez, as well as a market assessment for year-round mountain industry worldwide.

It also spells out the infrastructure needed to develop a successful year-round mountain recreation site. The report notes that the current infrastructure is limited and in some cases is considered sub-standard to attract well-heeled travelers.

In other words, Valdez has much to offer, but also has a long way to go if it wishes to capitalize on its natural assets.

Winter tourism with an emphasis on skiing and snowboarding has long been seen as a key to diversifying the Valdez economy and weaning it from its oil-based economy.

Source: City of Valdez

"Mountain recreation development has the potential to create new jobs and attract new residents to Valdez," the report says. "The Market-based economic impact analysis indicates an annual average of approximately 140 new jobs would be created, with higher employment during peak season."

Housing for an expanding population would also be needed the report notes.

"Current residents would fill some of these jobs, but some in-migration would be required to fully meet labor demand," it says. "These jobs would primarily generate service sector-level wages (along with some management-level wages), which has implications on housing affordability. The City will need to work closely with mountain recreation facility developers to plan for and meet the housing needs of the new workforce."

The report was created by SE Group, in association with McDowell Group, RRC Associates and Design Alaska.


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