Jul 1, 2006 | Marmot, Summer 2006

Ski Area… “Closed”

Mount Washington Alpine Resort finishes their ski operations in late April but this has never deterred people from visiting the Resort and nearby Strathcona Provincial Park during the so-called shoulder season

Shawn Quinton is a snowshoe guide and luge coach at Raven Lodge in the winter, but doesn’t stop enjoying the Park once the final chairlift is turned off for the season.

On a sunny June weekend he brought his kids – Phillip, 5 and Sierra, 3 – for an afternoon hike. “We’re just going to play in the snow,” he said as he portaged his kids over the gravel-encrusted snow piles beside the Raven Lodge parking lot to their sled a few metres away.

He brought his own skis, just in case. And he says he’s familiar with the terrain and its hidden springtime dangers.

This time of year visitors to the Park want to watch out for snow bridges, made when runoff melts the underside of a snow pile, leaving a weakened bridge above with no sign of the danger below.

“People can use the Park whenever tnhey want,” B.C. Parks spokesman Andy Smith said. “What is restricting people right now is all the facilities, campsites and bathrooms are buried in snow.”

The Park becomes a safety hazard for about a month, as warm temperatures quickly melt the snow. Crevasses form around the boardwalks snaking through Paradise Meadows and they’re big enough to give people grief if they are unfortunate enough to fall into one. “That’s the time of year we put a lot of caution out there.”

Smith is excited about how the Vancouver Island Mountain Sports Centre and Paradise Meadows Visitors Centre are progressing, saying it will affect how people use the Park.

A proper Visitors’ Centre will make Paradise Meadows an all-season place to visit, and an interpretive program will help get the message out about safe recreation.

In late June, when most of the snow in the lower elevations is gone, it’s all right to hike without skis or snowshoes. But it’s best to be prepared to spend a night out in the weather, Quinton said.

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