Dec 1, 2015 | Marmot, Winter 2015

In Profile: Tom & Heather Presnail

Tom and Heather Presnail moved to Bear Lodge at Mount Washington Alpine Resort in October 2014 to take over as caretakers of the 59-unit condo building. No strangers to the Resort, they have owned a unit at Deer Lodge since 2007.Their journey back to Mount Washington has been circuitous.

Both originally from Montreal, they married in 1977, “during the René Levesque years,” says Tom. Since then, his job with KLM Dutch Airlines’ cargo operations has taken them to Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, back to Montreal, to Tokyo, Japan in 1995 for seven years, Singapore twice and Victoria twice (in between Singapore stints).

While living in Victoria the first time, they purchased their condo at Deer Lodge as an investment before returning to Singapore for three years. They returned to Canada for good in 2011, settling in Victoria before arriving at Mount Washington.

How did you come to own a condo at Deer Lodge?

Tom… We first came up to the mountain in 2007; that’s when we bought our place at Deer Lodge. We didn’t live here at that time; we bought it as a recreational property. Right after we bought our vacation condo we went back to Singapore (for three years).

Why buy a place at Mount Washington if you weren’t living in the area?

Tom… For all the years we lived in Canada, we were skiers. Our kids had season ski passes at some place, whether it was Grouse Mountain when we were in Vancouver or elsewhere. We liked skiing. With this being a lovely place and convenient, with us living in Victoria, we wanted to have a place we could come up and visit. I was working from home and it made it easy for me to come up here. It was something we really wanted to do. We love the great outdoors and the mountains are so picturesque.

Heather… And it’s all seasons, too. That was important.

So you own at Deer, but instead of enjoying your recreational property you are caretakers at Bear Lodge. How did that happen?

Tom… We decided it was time to make that life changing shift and moving to the mountain permanently, and we did that in October 2014. We always thought it would be great to come up here and do the required tasks of our job, it’s not an earth-shattering job for two people to manage, and still be able to enjoy the outdoors. The beauty is we still have our great recreational property if family wants to come up. In Bear Lodge, we downsized into a one-bedroom condo from a six-bedroom house.

Heather… We have two grown children (a daughter, who is studying law at the University of Victoria and a married son with three grandchildren living in Surrey.

What sort of duties does your job as caretaker entail?

Tom… Our duties are related to the common areas. Bear Lodge consists of privately owned condos and some of those are rented out. We’re not in the business of cleaning rooms or changing sheets. We make sure the front door stoop is clean, we look after the hot tub. We cut the grass in summer and rake the leaves (in autumn). We kind of look at it as our big house. We love do to gardening and vacuum the hallways, just like it’s in a house; just larger.

What sort of experience do you bring to the job?

Tom… Just being a homeowner. Having travelled a lot we saw our share of hotels and we know what is good and what is not good for customer service.

Heather… The caretakers at Deer Lodge have been there for 10 years. Us being the new kids on the block, they have really helped us. If we see them doing something, then we do it. It’s been a real learning curve, but it’s been exciting. (Heather also worked part time with Slopeside Accommodations in 2014-15, but will concentrate solely on Bear Lodge this year.)

What is your favourite outdoor winter activity?

Tom… Skiing or snowshoeing. I’m desperate to get back into Nordic cross-country. Heather was always into doing that…four or five years ago we went cross-country skiing and I loved it.

Heather… We are only fair-weather skiers.

How about summertime?

Tom… More like hiking. There’s Strathcona Provincial Park here, so there’s lots to do. We like to go to Lake Helen McKenzie.

Heather… We’ve also been exploring the mountain itself. We’re looking at a million-dollar view. We love it. We walk through the Alpine Village sometimes and see people packing their cars up and think it’s great that we don’t have to.

Now that Mount Washington Alpine Resort has been sold, what are you looking forward to under new ownership?

Heather… Development on the mountain.

Tom… We’re looking forward to the new ownership being able to build more infrastructure on the mountain, and put more in for summertime. The skiing will always be here, despite the winter we had last year. We’re so delighted the mountain has been sold to someone willing to invest, particularly in summer.

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