Commentary Jamaica Magazine

A winter resort for Jamaica’s Blue Mountains???

It was with intense interest that I listened to a recent BBC Internet radio newscast. The newscast highlighted a desire on the part of Australian officials to invest some US$40 million to develop a comprehensive winter sport facility near Melbourne on a continent that is considered to be (on average) the warmest, driest and flattest of all. On hearing this (seemingly outrageous) proposal my mind ran to a recent trip taken to a mountain resort here in California called Big Bear. This resort, lying at an average height of somewhere between 6000 to 7000 feet, has a similar elevation to that of Jamaica’s Blue Mountain range. Given its geographical conditions the Big Bear resort area employs artificial snow making technologies in order to attract a profitable level of tourist arrivals during periods of low precipitation and/or slightly higher temperatures (higher temperatures here meaning those in the 40* to lower 50* Fahrenheit range). Although Jamaica’s latitude and distances from the warming influences of the sea are not as favourable as those in southern California, average temperatures on the highest peaks within the Blue Mountain range tends to foster frost (and significantly cooler temperatures) during the December to March time frame. Such cool Blue Mountain temperatures (which often drops into the critical 30* to 40* Fahrenheit range) seems to offer the climatic conditions that favour the establishment of a mini winter sport village: one that could both provide Jamaica with a unique Caribbean tourist attraction and a training venue for Jamaica’s national bobsled team. With an emphasis on snow boarding, car tyre tube sliding, a Blue Mountain winter resort (using artificial snow and ice technology) could attract droves of foreign visitors: ones seeking the thrill of snow boarding or even bobsledding ina “tropical” resort. In order to help recoup/offset the potentially high investment outlay required the suggested Blue Mountain winter project could generate an international buzz by highlighting Jamaica’s bobsled endeavours (in recent winter Olympics). In essence, this Blue Mountain project would promote a mini bobsled theme park and casino: one complete with an indoor skating rink, reggae music, Jamaican cuisine, and if possible, Bob Marley memorabilia. From a competitive land use perspective, a well designed Blue Mountain winter park could be both environmentally friendly and economically productive (the latter benefit being achieved by utilizing marginal terrain that is either too steep or characterized by thin soil and thus not favorable for agriculture). The Jamaican bobsled concept which has attracted visitors to bars and restaurants in the Montego Bay area could conceivably do the same in a well designed Blue Mountain (winter) resort. A bit far fetched? Maybe, maybe not! Keep in mind however that Hawaii, with its solid image as a tropical tourist paradise, also has winter sport activity on the higher mountains of the main big island. An official comprehensive feasibility research study on such an unusual project would thus be of value towards diversifying our tourism product. Let’s think outside the box for Jamaica’s ultimate development!!

About the author

Garfield OWhittaker