The Mountain Project: Development For Skiers By Skiers

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
November 13th, 2008

If you’re like me and many other skiers in the world, you’ve likely spent a fair share of time sitting around your favourite brew in your favourite ski bar with your favourite ski buddies talking about endless ‘what ifs’ and grand ideas on how you would create your ideal ski experience.

Albert Liu, Rob (Bernie) Bernthall, Thor Arnold and their crew are currently doing just that at the base of Red mountain through their “The Mountain Project” vision, which includes the “TMP” building at the base of Red as well as the new townhouses popping up just above the pump house at the end of Centennial Trail in the Red base area.

“We’re basically all refugees from mountains somewhere in the world, and we thought it would be an opportunity to get together and build something really cool,” says Bernie of his group’s motivation for the current project. “We put our design connections and ideals behind it, and our feeling was that people didn’t want to have 10,000 square foot houses empty all winter on the side of a mountain that nobody uses, so let’s build something for real mountain users, professionals.”

Living in the San Diego area, Albert and Bernie are long-time outdoors enthusiasts and self-described ski and surf bums. Albert spent many years living and skiing in Colorado, while Bernie spent time in Switzerland before both converged in So-Cal. They both worked in the surf industry, with Albert designing artificial surf waves and Bernie working as a sports marketing professional.

“We heard from a friend that someone who lived in our neighbourhood had bought Red Mountain, and we were like, ‘Really? Someone from this area has bought Red Mountain? That’s such a cool place.’ I had heard all about Red from friends who had skied there but I had never visited and it was kind of like this mystic ski resort to me. Then we met Howard and [saw he was] one guy who had a vision to keep it real and try to steer away from the mainstream experience. That made it doable for us. You know the place is cool but now we have somebody who has the same vision for a resort as we do.”

Thor Arnold, living in Bozeman Montana, came up to Red with Albert and Bernie to meet with Howard and the Red team to get everyone excited about this new vision for a base area development. After growing up in Colorado and seeing community after community gobbled up by big resort development, Thor wanted to do things differently, to develop a community for core skiers and mountaineers that resembled the ski communities he remembered from his youth, before the resort developers moved in.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if we just built ourselves a little community right at the base of the hill so that we could celebrate all of these things with reference back to a lot of places that Bernie has lived and that I’ve lived over the years. You know these great little communities of funky not fancy, on-the-mountain houses for people that are really passionate about being up on the hill.”

While cautious in his use of the buzzword ‘sustainable,’ Arnold, known for his alternative buildings, has designed an efficient development utilizing the core values of durability and sustainability. A self-described non-‘green-flag waver’ or ‘green-smoke-blower’, Arnold works more on the principle of doing the best job possible on every project which often means being as energy efficient as possible and using recycled and local materials wherever possible.

Designing a community with a small footprint is an example of the efficient ‘sustainable’ ideas used in the project. Townhouses will range from just over 900 square feet in the two bedroom units to just over 1,600 square feet in the three bedroom units. Centering the new community will be a clubhouse of sorts where residents will be able to gather and celebrate the mountain lifestyle.

“Every time Bernie and that crazy crew come to town, we love to share tales and beers and drinks over a great meal, and yet the idea was we don’t all need a giant house to entertain,” says Arnold. “We can all have a nice little place and then have one big shared space that we can go make noise and make a mess and not affect everyone in the community.”

The first ten units are expected to be complete by Christmas, with six already sold. The buildings themselves will be a new look for Rossland: modern designs and exteriors made largely from recycled metal.

Providing durability and the innovative feature of never having to paint the exterior of the home again after construction, the lower one or two stories will be clad in three different types of metal which are expected to age and patina gracefully over time. The upper levels will be sided in vertical Douglas fir siding milled from off-fall lumber: essentially scrap material from the local mill. Kevin Fairweather of K2 construction, who has been working on the project, has been instrumental in pushing the developer’s idea of sourcing materials that would otherwise get thrown away or burned.

Inside, the units are designed to be durable and simple for the active skier, biker or outdoorsman. All of the units will have acid-edged stained concrete flooring featuring in-floor radiant heating by a super-efficient on-demand hot water boiler. One of the developer’s goals with all of his projects is also to ensure that no one ever gets sick from materials or products used in his designs. He will ensure that no off-gassing will occur from any materials in the development. Heat recovery ventilators will also be installed in each unit, providing clean air inside the units at all times.

Both Bernie and Albert have purchased units in the development, and they expect to spend a significant amount of time enjoying the year-round Kootenay lifestyle. When asked what they are up to next, Bernie explained.

“We have a few crazy projects that are on our mind. But right now it’s tough economic times. It’s best to just let the dust settle this season, and we want to go skiing. We don’t want to work all the time. Our goal for Red mountain is to keep doing the funky stuff. We want to keep putting forward alternative funky kind of developments that are not your classic, shops, restaurant or residential at the base of the mountain. When people show up at Red we want them to go, “Wow you know this place is completely different! We‘ve never seen anything like this before’.”

For more information, check out:

The Mtn Project at Red
The Mtn Project Resources
Zimtor Architecture

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