Jul 1, 2013 | Marmot, Summer 2013

Banner Winter for Vancouver Island Mountain Centre’s First Winter of Operation

Groups such as Strathcona Nordics and the Freestyle Snowboard Team have used the facilities for meetings and Nordic races.

“Aside from outside user groups, Mount Washington user groups have discovered this gem near Raven Lodge and are putting it to good use,” VIMC Manager Andrew Scherck said.

“The first winter was challenging for us because we didn’t know how we would fit in,” he said. “A lot more people understand what’s in our building.”

One strategy that helped spread the word about the facility was holding a health and safety meeting at VIMC for Mount Washington Alpine Resort employees. The centre has also done some promotions with the staff for using the Fitness Centre.

One change that made a difference was Mount Washington Alpine Resort allowing the VIMC to take in smaller groups, Scherck said. Last year groups were limited to 20 or more people; this year, they were allowed to book groups of 10 or more.

From December 2012 until April 2013, there were 39 groups representing 814 people booked into VIMC, translating into 72 overnights. “We have experienced a 29 per cent increase in outdoor adventure programming in just five months compared to 11 months last year,” Scherck said.

Their busiest weekend saw a group booked upstairs, the Biathlon Club’s AGM upstairs and a Nordic coaching clinic downstairs. “We probably had 100 people in the building for three different purposes,” Scherck said.

The cross-section of groups booking into VIMC is surprising, he said. For instance, there are four quilting groups from the Comox Valley, Campbell River and mid- Island, a writers-in-progress group from Qualicum Beach, a family reunion returning for a third time, and even a birthday party for a six-year-old.

The Centre has also booked its first wedding party, and hopes this will be a trend in the future, Scherck said. The party will stay at the VIMC and hold the wedding across the parking lot at Raven Lodge.

The Centre has accepted New Year’s bookings, but at press time didn’t have any Christmas bookings. “We have had groups from 24 different communities visit us from around the Island, Province, Country and World,” Scherck said.

The Fitness Centre at VIMC saw 442 visits this past winter, compared to 95 between Dec. 2011 and Nov. 2012.

Other services available at the Centre include a massage therapist who rents one of the rooms (and also teaches yoga classes), a pingpong tablesatellite TV and a DVD player, for coaching sessions or group downtime. Canadian Tire donated a large propane barbecue suitable to feed 40 people; it’s available for groups to use.

The VIMC earned a ViaSport grant in the winter to put on a biathlon program, and has also been given a grant to run some orienteering programs in the summer. In the winter they partnered with the biathlon club and ran four programs: one for a Scout group from southern Vancouver Island, another for Podium of Life students and two more for smaller groups.

Scherck said they hope to create a permanent orienteering course near the Centre this summer and run a number of programs with the second grant. Mount Washington Alpine Resort Nordic Manager Marc Lyster would like the course to be available year round, so people can do some orienteering on snowshoes, Scherck added.

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