Dec 1, 2003 | Marmot, Winter 2003

To some, Mount Washington is called Home

When Mount Washington first opened its slopes 25 years ago, it offered two chairlifts and “rubber tire” service for people driving up the dirt road to the day lodge. Now, close to 400,000 people visit the resort every winter, and six to 10 families live at the resort full time. They’re even getting their own post office at the Resort.

Steve and Lynette Acciaroli have lived at Mount Washington for seven years; Lynette has worked at the Resort in Fat Teddy’s Bar and Steve is a commercial seafood diver with a scallop farm on the Sunshine Coast. Last year, they extended their family by one with the birth of their daughter, Holly, in April. This will be their first winter living on the mountain with an infant.

Debra Dahl and her husband, Bob Harrison, are also full-time residents at the Resort, during the winter. Harrison is a yacht captain; Dahl, a former yacht chef and hospitality co-ordinator, works at various jobs at the resort. She has been a Snow Host, worked in Fat Teddy’s Bar and this year will work in the General Store/ Liquor Store for the second year in a row.

Their son, Dylan, eight, is home schooled; he goes to “school” in a designated area in his home in the morning, and is finished in time to hit the slopes in the early afternoon.

“On the days when it’s really ugly out, we stay in and do more school so when it’s great out, we can go out and enjoy (the slopes),” Dahl said.

Dylan, in Grade 3, studies the core subjects with Dahl, and is assessed using provincial guidelines. He does his schoolwork through North Island Distance Education School in Courtenay, which provided him with a computer for his classes.

Dahl and Harrison have lived on Mount Washington since they bought their condo in 1999. They both worked for Vancouver billionaire Jimmy Pattison, running his luxury yacht. Harrison still works full-time in the yachting industry in the summer, delivering yachts or piloting as a relief captain for trips around the world.

“It’s a very outdoors life,” Dahl said. “We don’t like the rush of the city. It’s relaxing and healthy (up here).”

Dylan has grown up surrounded by the outdoors: the family has worked and lived together on a heli-log vessel in remote areas of B.C.; in the summer they move to their summer home on Galiano Island. Dahl said their five-acre, waterfront property is a “work in progress”. Harrison spends the summer piloting yachts and Dahl will be starting a new business venture next summer, also in the yachting field.

“We call ourselves the ‘sea to sky family’,” she quipped.

Living on Mount Washington has presented unique challenges to the two families. When Acciaroli was pregnant last winter, she had some anxious moments. “You’re looking at a 40-minute drive down the hill then getting into town,” she said. She had a friend stay with her throughout her pregnancy; however, there was one time her friend was stuck at the bottom of the hill due to heavy snowfall.

“The road crew brought her up for me,” she said, adding that resort staff has always given the families living on the hill that kind of support.

Acciaroli also suffered from gall bladder problems (she has since had her gall bladder removed), and found the isolation on the mountain a bit of a challenge. “In case of an emergency, I either had to ride out the pain … I couldn’t drive down the mountain on my own with a baby,” she said.

As she re-enters the workforce on the mountain, babysitting has become an issue, too. The resort’s daycare only takes children who are 18 months or older and babysitters are at a premium. Things are working out, though, as Acciaroli’s boss has two teenage daughters available to mind Holly.

Still, Acciaroli said she and Steve didn’t think twice about where they lived when they decided to start a family (Steve’s two sons from his first marriage, Zakari and Dominic, both stay with the Acciarolis every second weekend and for a month in the summer). They both regularly commute down Strathcona Parkway in the winter – Steve regularly travels to Sechelt to attend to his scallop farm, or for a commercial diving contract.

“It’s no further than Merville,” Acciaroli pointed out.

Dahl brings Dylan into Courtenay once a week to attend school at Huband Park Elementary with other home-schooled children (so they can use resources they don’t have at home, like the labs). She uses the time to shop and run errands.

Dahl and her husband are content with their alpine lifestyle; she admits they home school Dylan so they don’t have to commute down the mountain every day, and to give him the freedom to explore.

“Living on the mountain, what better backyard for Dylan than an alpine resort where the regular staff are Dylan’s extended family?”

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