May 13, 2016 10:19 pm
Updated: August 4, 2016 7:38 pm

Why Revelstoke’s mountain coaster could be a game-changer for the city

WATCH: We get a sneak preview of Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s “Pipe Mountain Coaster”, as it tries to become a year-round destination.

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To get a sense of how big the anticipation is for the Revelstoke Mountain Coaster, opening on May 21, you only need two numbers.

7,000: number of people who live in Revelstoke.

1.5 million: number of people who have viewed the Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s preview video on Facebook.

“We’ve had people calling from Italy to call about it, which is crazy,” says Liz Craig, the resort’s media relations co-ordinator.

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“We were expecting that once people saw it and got a sense of what it was they’d be excited, but we were blown away by the response.”

Ever since the Mountain Resort announced they were building a summer ride that sends people down the final mountain of Mackenzie Mountain, the ride has gotten plenty of buzz online.

READ MORE: Rip through the B.C. mountains on a roller coaster

It’s easy to see why. Mix spectacular vistas of the Monashee Mountains and Columbia River and single-person pods that go down drops and curve through forests, and you have a marketer’s dream.

WATCH: John Hua gives a first-person view of what it’s like to ride the coaster

But in a small city like Revelstoke, where virtually everyone is excited about the coaster opening, it also provides hope of a trickle-down effect.

“One of the challenges that small rural towns on major highways have is how do you pull people off the highway? How do you get them to stop in town?” says Alan Mason, Revelstoke’s Director of Economic Development.

It’s a question Mason has worked on ever since he moved from Vancouver 15 years ago, drawn in by Revelstoke’s quaint city life and 360-degree mountain views.

Halfway between the Alberta border and Kamloops on Highway 1, the city is a natural stopping off point for travellers. However, the highway doesn’t directly go into town and family attractions are few.

“We think the town sells itself when you get it – it’s a cute, little, funky historic town – but if you don’t come in, you don’t see that,” says Mason.

“We still have Albertans who come in and say, ‘We’ve been going to the Okanagan for 30 years, and we never came into Revelstoke. We didn’t realize how nice it was.”

With forestry, activity from CP Rail and a large public service base, Revelstoke doesn’t need to be as reliant on tourism as other mid-sized towns in the Columbia-Shuswap and Kootenays.

Ever since Revelstoke Mountain Resort opened in 2007, visitors have gradually increased. But its focus has been on the high-end skiier, and the other big attractions – heli-skiing, mountain bikers, climbers – and also tilt towards a younger, male demographic.

Which is why the mountain coaster (officially known as the “Pipe Mountain Coaster”) might fill a gap.

“I think one of the big things about the coaster is it’s an inexpensive activity, you can take your family, and it gets you into town,” says Mason.

For Revelstoke Mountain Resort, the coaster allows them to enter the growing four-season ski resort market, with a design directly imported from Europe.

“Our ski season is fairly short, so we were looking to add something to our summer menu,” said Craig. “It’s a really great way to use our terrain. Revelstoke is beautiful in the summer, so this was a really natural fit.”

Matt Verwey, Director of Mountain Operations, says the track was designed specifically for all ages, with a braking system that can allow people to go as slow as they want – but a route that will appeal to those wanting to go the maximum 45 kilometres an hour.

“We wanted to do close to the ground, not the roller coaster feel, not a lot of metal, close to the earth so they can have that linear, whippy feel of a bike,” he said.

“This’ll be the backbone that the biking can sit on, and support paragliding, biking, hiking, and this can support it. I just hope we can bridge out from there.”

On the surface, it seems like a win for both the resort and the town.

Now, everyone in Revelstoke just hopes the adage of “if you build it, they will come” turns true.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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