Vancouver Island Mountain Sport Society Partners for Success

Things are starting to steamroll for the Vancouver Island Mountain Sports Society. Earlier this year the Society, which was created four years ago in response to the growing financial needs of Vancouver Island mountain athletes, took on the Nordic training centre project.

Photo: Susie Quinn. Vancouver Island Mountain Sports Society Then that project was twinned with B.C. Parks’ efforts to build a visitors’ centre near the new trailhead into Strathcona Park, which will be located near Raven Lodge.

 “What’s really unique with this project … it’s a project that not just one group has owned,” VIMSS Chairwoman Vivian Dean said.

The VIMSS has received $674,000 in public and private money, which will be spent on the first phase of the project – planning. Work will continue on trail upgrades this summer and project manager Len Apedaile hopes to complete site surveys for both buildings before the snow falls

The second phase of the project will be the building itself. “This is all about bricks and mortar and design – about building the building,” Apedaile said. A final location will have to be decided. Then various user groups will be asked for their input on what they want to see in the building.

Along with the physical structure will be consideration for an educational component. What sort of programming will work for both the sport and visitors’ centres?

“You don’t design a building and then figure out what to do with it,” said Mount Washington Director of Business Services Don Sharpe.

StPhoto: Susie Quinn. Vancouver Island Mountain Sports Society Site on Mount Washingtonrathcona Park proponents are excited at the prospect of offering interpretive programming for park users.

Sharpe and Apedaile are excited at the prospect of teaming up with Camosun College in Victoria to offer an elite sports centre. Camosun will spend $32 million to build such centres in five or six locations around the south Island. What they don’t have down there is an alpine environment and Sharpe will do his best to convince the college president to look north to Mount Washington.

The third phase will be to put together a business plan, showing sustainability of both the sports centre and visitors’ centre.

Of course, all these plans have to dovetail into Mount Washington Alpine Resort’s operations in and around the centres, Apedaile said.

The key component to the whole plan is group accommodations, Apedaile said. “The programming would not be sustainable because we would be limited to day use only,” he said. “And day use is a small time in the whole of 24 hours.”

A hostel-type accommodation would allow the centre to diversify. It would provide accommodation for world-class athletes coming to train at the Centre, but it would also allow the VIMSS to rent out the facility to school groups, visiting teams and park use groups.

B.C. Parks is also looking at creating a group campsite somewhere in Paradise Meadows, Andy Smith said. Any revenue from the campsite would go back into a proposed Strathcona Park Visitors’ Centre.

The VIMSS doesn’t want to end up in a situation like the Nordic Centre in Canmore, Alberta, which was built for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Alberta’s provincial government continues to heavily subsidize that particular centre, and just sunk $23 million into upgrades. “That’s not where we want to be,” Sharpe said. 

A group of people from VIMSS, Mount Washington, Strathcona Wilderness Institute, Rehabilitation in Motion and interested individuals met in June to talk about moving the project forward.

Volunteers were assigned to different sub-committees examining building design, sport needs, educational opportunities and twinning with a Strathcona Park Visitors’ and Interpretive Centre.

More volunteers are welcome. For more information on the VIMSS or if you’re interested in joining one of the working committees, please call Anya MacLeod at 334-1144 or e-mail her at