Summer 2017 In Review

Summer was a great season for Mount Washington Alpine Resort, says General Manager Peter Gibson. “We were really pleased with the numbers, especially with the chairlift numbers,” he said. 

BeerFest had to vacate Raven Lodge due to capacity booking for weddings.
BeerFest had to vacate Raven Lodge due to capacity booking for weddings.

Summer was a great season for Mount Washington Alpine Resort, says General Manager Peter Gibson. “We were really pleased with the numbers, especially with the chairlift numbers,” he said. 

The Resort saw some visitors who traditionally spent summer in B.C.’s Interior, that decided to try out Vancouver Island due to the intense forest fire season the Interior experienced. 

There were 40 weddings that took place in the spring and summer - 30 of which were already booked by March - with Raven Lodge being a popular location, he said. 

A solid snow season meant the Resort still had snow when it opened for the summer: one-third of the trails were open in July, but had to wait for the snowpack to melt. A heat wave in the second and third week of July ensured the snow was gone.         

The annual Wine and Beer Fests were sold out again this year, signaling the Resort’s popularity with those events. 

After a couple of quiet seasons while Pacific Group Resorts settled in as new owners, Mount Washington Alpine Resort has made some investments in infrastructure and equipment. “This summer Pacific Group Resorts invested $75,000 in new uniforms for staff, $50,000 in new bicycles for mountain biking and $145,000 in new rental gear,” Gibson said.    

They have also ordered a new Nordic Cat for $300,000, and while it’s not brand new, it will replace one of the older grooming machines. “Our two Nordic Cats have 10,000 hours, and this one has 3,000 with new implements on the back,” he added. 

The Alpine Lodge has also received a bit of a facelift. Crews stripped the old stucco off the front,  and replaced it with board and batten wood siding. The Resort will be replacing the whole outside of the lodge with similar siding, but will do it in pieces, said George Trousdell, Resort Director of Operations and Maintenance. 

The Whiskey Jack Chairlift was painted green this summer, as part of the Resort’s ongoing plan to paint all the chairlifts so they blend into their natural surroundings.     

Trousdell and his maintenance team also spent some time refining plans for the new snowmaking system that Mount Washington will be installing in the next couple of years (see story on snowmaking elsewhere in the Marmot).

The second full summer for mountain biking since it returned to Mount Washington was a success, says Mike Manara, Director of Sport and Guest Services. “We saw continued growth despite having a really big snowpack in the spring,” he said. 

The Resort added an extra night of extended hours for mountain biking, which was popular, Manara said. 

They offered a guide school for potential instructors and saw an uptick in their Learn to Ride classes. This was heartening because the Resort is focusing on growing the sport of mountain biking, and offering an avenue for people to ride mountain bikes. 

They have worked hard to create a niche market of providing people an outlet to learn to ride, as well as developing a place for families to come and bike then take a chairlift ride. “We really kind of see it as a family and all-inclusive sport,” he said. “It’s shed its image of being a hardcore, diehard sport.”

Expansion work had to be put on hold due to a hot, dry summer that shut down much of the backcountry and treed terrain on Vancouver Island. They were able to do some grooming and build a trail that will have an advance flow trail with jumps and berms. 

They also created better drainage in some areas, which helped minimize erosion while the snow melted. Next year they will look at another blue trail and an extension of the green trail, Manara said. "The goal is to have more consistent trail, that speaks to their tag line: “It’s fun and it’s flowy.”

Two big snow years in a row have taught the mountain bike team to expect a mid-July season opening. “Targeting mid-July is good for us. The big focus in spring time is on maintenance, as well as receiving retail bicycles, etc.,” he added. 

Mount Washington hosted the three-day BC Cup Downhill Racing Finals in September, featuring the iconic Monster Mile race track. "People have raced the Monster Mile since the late 1990s. “It’s got a lot of tough, challenging sections. It was not machine-built so it’s not buff,” Manara said. 

“It was our first year back in mountain bike racing. It allowed us to show how great our product is here. There’s a generation of riders that never had a chance to race on something like this.”

Both the trail crew and food and beverage team worked hard to pull off the three-day race, and Manara said it can be considered part of the summer growth at the Resort.         

“The race was held in honour of the late Stevie Smith, a World Cup calibre mountain biker from Nanaimo who used to race at Mount Washington before his death in May 2016. It was a way to honour his legacy in mountain biking,” Manara said. “It made the event that much more special.”

The BC Cup finals drew 200-plus riders each day. It was so successful that Mount Washington has been placed on the 2018 schedule, he said.