Dec 1, 2015 | Marmot, Winter 2015

NEWS in Brief

Encompassing people, places and happenings at Mount Washington Alpine Resort , the Comox Valley and friends on Vancouver Island.


The Vancouver Island Mountain Centre has a new Manager, and she’s already a familiar face at Mount Washington Alpine Resort. Bridget Orsetti and her husband John have owned and operated Beaver Tails outside the main doors of the Resort’s Alpine Lodge for 12 years. Orsetti started working at the VIMC on Ocober13, 2015. She replaces Andrew Scherck, who has moved to Rossland after spending three years as the VIMC’s Manager.

“It really is the perfect job for me,” says Orsetti. “I have a huge outdoor guiding and education background so just for that alone, it excited me. I love the mountain. We’ve been at Beaver Tails for 12 years and our kids are huge skiers. That’s our passion.”

Orsetti is a graduate of Thompson Rivers University’s adventure guide program, is a former whitewater rafting guide and has spent time teaching outdoor education programs at places like Strathcona Park Lodge. “I’m all about outdoor education, keeping kids healthy, especially kids that might not have the financial means.”

Orsetti, John and their two children (11 and 13 years old) are living on-site at the Mountain Centre. John will run Beaver Tails in the winter when he is not busy with his grizzly bear guiding business in the summer, and they will home school their kids. “It’s a busy place,” Orsetti said of the Mountain Centre, less than two weeks after taking on the job. “Andrew obviously did a ton of work.”

The Mountain Centre is popular with quilting groups, yoga retreats, artists and organizations such as the John Howard Society, which runs courses there. Hinterland Studios, a gaming company based in Cumberland, invited gaming developers from all over North America to a gathering in mid-November.

“We even have two weddings booked already for next summer,” Orsetti said. Aside from hosting events and groups, the Centre is open to residents and visitors alike for use of the gym or thai massage. “It’s a centre for everyone, not just athletes or not just a ski team,” says Orsetti. “It’s a centre to be used by whoever.”

Anytime an outside group uses the Mountain Centre it helps make money to support local athletes through the Vancouver Island Mountain Sports Society, she explained, and that is a great motivator for her. “That’s always been our focus, to take care of the youth in this area.”


The General Store at Mount Washington has been moved from its previous location on the Parkway close to the Alpine Village, into the Alpine  Lodge at the Resort. “The General Store has been integrated into Fresh in the Alpine Lodge,” said Don Sharpe, Resort Director of Business Operations.

“So Fresh is still a café, has takeout food and is now also a General Store & Market… all the things you would find at the General Store,” he said. “And it’s more convenient for skiers leaving the Lodge after a day’s skiing and heading back to their condos and other accommodations. “Fresh will also have beer and wine sales,” Sharpe added. “The old building will still house reception services for the Alpine Village, but it’s not a public facility anymore,” he said. It will instead be used for Resort administration.


Mike Manara accepts the 2015 Lars Fossberg Award from Steve Paccagnan, left, and Hildur Sinclair during a CWSAA presenttion in Whistler earlier this year.
Mike Manara accepts the 2015 Lars Fossberg Award from Steve Paccagnan, left, and Hildur Sinclair during a CWSAA presenttion in Whistler earlier this year.

The Canada West Ski Areas Assn. (CWSAA) last spring honoured Mount Washington Alpine Resort Snow School Director Mike Manara with the Lars Fossberg award. He is the 12th annual recipient of the award, created after Fossberg passed away in 2001 and is presented annually to a manager or supervisor who shows a high degree of initiative, creativity and improvisation when dealing with the unexpected.

“The CWSAA would like to congratulate Tom and Mike on being the recipients of these prestigious awards,” CWSAA president and CEO David Lynn said. Tom Prentice, a partner with Multi-Line Claims Services, won the Jim Marshall Award.

After Manara graduated from Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Que., with a double major in business and economics, he worked as an Assistant Head Coach at Jay Peak in Vermont. He eventually moved to Jasper, Alta., where he worked as Director of Skier Services at Marmot Basin before coming to Mount Washington.

At Mount Washington, with more than 250 staff working for him, his responsibilities have grown to include the adult and child snow and board schools, rental shop and daycare.

Outside of his duties at the Resort, Manara helped found the United Riders of Cumberland (UROC), a non-profit organization that promotes and supports the mountain bike community in the Comox Valley. He also worked with the Vancouver Island chapter of the MS Society to put on a fundraiser at Mount Washington after a longtime friend was diagnosed with MS.

This is not the first honour for Manara. In 2013 he was named one of the Top 40 Under 40 in the Comox Valley for his community and professional work.

Photo: David Buzzard


Cassie Sharpe joins the 2015/16 Canadian Freestyle Ski Team as a member of the Women's Halfpipe Team.
Cassie Sharpe joins the 2015/16 Canadian Freestyle Ski Team as a member of the Women’s Halfpipe Team.

Cassie Sharpe of Comox has been named to the Canadian Freestyle Ski Team for 2015-16 as a member of the Women’s Halfpipe Team. “I’m really looking forward to having a ton of fun doing what I love!” Sharpe, 23, said in a Canadian Freestyle Ski Assn. news release. “That’s always my main goal; to enjoy myself fully but I’m also really excited to compete some new tricks and a fresh new run that no girl has ever done before. “I would really love to make finals at every contest I am in, as well as continue to push myself every day out of my comfort zone,” she said. She’s also looking for her first X Games invitation in 2016.

One of four women on the halfpipe team, Sharpe will be looking to take the next step in her career after winning Silver at the World Championship last year. The Freestyle season will include two domestic FIS Freestyle Ski World Cups for mogul athletes on January 23 in Saint Côme, QC and Jan. 30 in Calgary, AB, as well as X Games Aspen (Jan. 26-31) and the return of the X Games Europe held on Feb. 24-28 in Oslo, Norway.


Gladstone Brewery Porter won a Bronze Medal at the 2015 Canadian Brewing Awards.
Gladstone Brewery Porter won a Bronze Medal at the 2015 Canadian Brewing Awards.

Gladstone Brewing Co. is doing a brisk business at the corner of Fourth Street and Cliffe Avenue in Downtown Courtenay, between winning national awards for its beer, collaborating with other businesses on new product and winterizing its patio. Gladstone’s Porter won a bronze medal at the 2015 Canadian Brewing Awards on June 6 in Niagara, Ontario. The dark beer is one of seven on tap at Gladstone, which sells by the glass and by the growler. Gladstone produces about 20,000 litres of beer monthly according to its website, enough to fill more than 10,000 growlers per month. Gladstone, owned by Daniel Sharratt and managed by Alexandra Stephanson, has teamed with Wayward Distillation House and are working on a “top secret” limited-edition brew involving 640 pounds of honey and some ingenuity from head brewer John Adair.

Across town, Forbidden Brewing held its grand opening Oct. 25 at its location inside the Best Western The Westerly Hotel and Convention Centre in Courtenay. The celebration came a day after Forbidden Brewing took home second place in the UK Pale Ale category at the 2015 BC Beer Awards. “Winning an award in a competition with top BC breweries, on our equipment and with our experience, is a great achievement,” owner Michael Vincent said. “We are very proud to be included with many of the best beers in B.C.”


Mount Washington earned some 2015 Readers Choice awards from the Comox Valley Record, as voted on by members of the public: Best Mountain to Climb; Best Place to be a Tourist; Best View Lookout; and Best Place to Propose. More than 1,200 ballots were cast in the inaugural awards, which were published in an October 2015 issue of the Record.


The Mount Washington Ski Patrol Association screened its first-ever film festival in November, the 2015 Chute Shorts, as a unique fundraising event. The Association is raising funds this year to replace and upgrade urgent care equipment and supplies. The volunteer patrol has both Nordic and Alpine sections with 142 active duty patrollers as well as auxiliary members. For more information, check them out online at


The Strathcona Wilderness Institute celebrated its platinum anniversary in 2015, marking 20 years of providing interpretive programs and information services in Strathcona Provincial Park. The institute is responsible for the small interpretive centre at the trailhead to the park, beside Raven Lodge. More info is available online at


Horne Lake Caves won Destination BC's inaugural Remarkable Experience Award for 2015.
Horne Lake Caves won Destination BC’s inaugural Remarkable Experience Award for 2015.

Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park and Outdoor Centre has won one of Destination BC’s inaugural Remarkable Experiences Award for 2015. The award, presented at the Vancouver Convention Centre in October, recognizes a business that has developed and delivered a consistently exceptional visitor experience that exceeded expectations and triggers visitors to share through social media and word of mouth.

This is the second major tourism award for Horne Lake Caves in 2015. In September they received the 2015 Innovator of the Year from Tourism Vancouver Island for the new slides, ramps and ladders recently installed in the Horne Lake Main Cave.

The aluminum walkways were initially envisioned as a conservation measure to protect the cave’s crystal formations from foot traffic but in the final layout, it became clear they could be installed in such a way to add a wild thrill at the same time as preserving the cave environment. The new hardware is part of an ongoing restoration initiative for Main Cave, which has involved hundreds of volunteer hours.

“The cave is looking better than I’ve ever seen it,” says Richard Varela, Park Director at Horne Lake Caves and a Comox Valley resident. “There is already a new layer of sparkling crystals growing over the top of the previous mud and grime. It’s inspiring to see we’re on the right track.”

Horne Lake Caves, open year round, is located an hour south of Mount Washington Alpine Resort, off of Highway 19, and offers a wide range of underground tours and self-guided experiences.

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