Mount Washington Alpine Village property owners hope new ownership will bring new amenities to draw more visitors to the resort year round.
And they’re hoping to work together to make it happen. “Now that the Resort has sold we need to sit down with them and see where their direction is,” said Ken Armour, president of Tourism Mount Washington, the mountain’s Resort Association. Armour joined TMW two years ago because he wanted a better idea of where his membership fees were going. He felt the Resort Association was under-utilized when it came to community development, and discovered he wasn’t alone. “Quite a few of our members said they wanted more than what we were doing,” he said.
Owners held a strategy meeting last year but were limited in what decisions they could make. This is because the previous ownership group at Mount Washington didn’t want to make significant investments in the Resort while it was up for sale.
What the property owners agreed on, was they want to see more community development and more amenities. They had already started looking at their options and whether they could develop something like a zipline or skating rink without involving the Resort.
They discovered Couverdon, which is the real estate arm of TimberWest, the forestry company that owns a lot of property adjacent to Mount Washington. Couverdon helps TimberWest sell land or form partnerships to develop it. “Considering we have TimberWest surrounding us, we were going to approach them to see if we could partner over something like a zipline,” Armour said. “I’m hoping with the change in ownership they’re going to have more open arms for people coming up here and running businesses. We’re hoping for good things from the sale of the mountain. The Ski Resort has been up here for a long time and (previous owners) developed a good ski hill, but as far as a resort community, not so much.”
Pacific Group Resorts Inc. owns four resorts: Ragged Mountain in New Hampshire, Wisp Resort in Maryland, Wintergreen Resort in Virginia, and now Mount Washington Alpine Resort. Pacific Group Resorts bought its first resort, Ragged Mountain, in 2007 and has invested more than $20 million to turn it into a year-round resort with nearly 1000 residential and second home properties.
Something all three of PGRI’s previous resorts share is a variety of activities not related to snowsports: like ziplines and ropes courses, summer tubing, adventure centres featuring a climbing wall, archery or other outdoor activities, disc golf, geocaching, mountain bike parks, even a golf course and retail shops.
Armour hopes the company is looking to invest in similar activities at Mount Washington. “There’s not much to draw tourists up here,” he said: no extra restaurants, no shopping. “There’s nothing for tourists to do at the end of the day. We’re hoping that’s going to start to change.”
He would like to see the Bike Park reopen, for example. Wisp Resort has a “Mountain Coaster” feature that Armour thinks would be a great idea for Mount Washington. It’s a cross between an alpine slide and a roller coaster; people ride two to a cart that is controlled by hand brakes and a speed limiter and travels along 3,500 feet of track over a 350-foot vertical drop. In the winter the tracks would be covered by snow. “It looks like it would be quite a draw for people around here,” he said.
Tourism Mount Washington would also like to see more correlation between events in the Comox Valley, such as MusicFest, and Mount Washington, even if it means providing transportation to and from the Festival for people who stay at the Resort.