Dec 1, 2003 | Marmot, Winter 2003

Turning 25

"It's amazing what one quick, seemingly innocent glance out of a car window can set in motion."

The weather was perfect that February day in 1975 with lots of sun and Alex Linton, a Campbell River businessman, was driving home that Sunday afternoon after a day skiing the Kandahar at Forbidden Plateau…

An avid skier, Linton glances out the window of his moving vehicle and spies the bulk of Mount Washington looming in the distance. His first thought was to marvel at the massive blanket of snow that covered the mountain. Wondering how deep the snow was on the backside of the mountain, which was hidden from sight, Linton finished his drive and called his friend, Henry Norie to see if his new helicopter might be available in the morning for a look around the mountain.

The next day, Norie and Linton are ensconced in the chopper a few hundred feet above the mile high summit of Mount Washington. Linton’s eye has already spotted natural bowls, lots of vertical and tons of snow. Norie, who doesn’t ski, is infected by his colleague’s enthusiasm. Both were amazed at the sheer amount of snow and that no one had yet established a ski area on the mountain. Flying back to Campbell River, the two formulate a plan. A plan that will see them shaking the hand of the Chairman of the Board of Crown Zellerback a mere 16 months later. It seals the land purchase and Mt. Washington Ski Resort Ltd. is born.

The word gets out and in December 1979, the world begins to flock to a snow-choked mountain on an Island in the Pacific.

Twenty-five seasons. Twenty thousand, four hundred and forty six centimeters of snow. Still no snow making equipment… who needs it, considering the massive amount of annual snowfall? And enough visitors each year since 1998 to populate a city larger than Victoria. A whimsical glance out of a window at a mountain of snow over a quarter century before has brought us here. Mount Washington is truly what dreams are made of. Dreams of ocean views and knee deep powder.”

From its humble beginnings in 1979, with two chairlifts and a rough road, Mount Washington is now the third most visited ski resort in British Columbia. Resort staff will celebrate the Alpine Resort’s 25th anniversary in December.

It’s a far cry from a sunny day in 1975, when Alex Linton, a Campbell River businessman and avid skier, first spied the looming hulk of Mount Washington. The next day, he asked friend Henry Norie to fly over the peak in his new helicopter. The pair spied the wondrous blanket of snow on a pristine Mount Washington peak and an idea germinated. Four years later, on the snow-choked slopes of Vancouver Island’s largest ski resort, reality was born.

“The mountain was a dream of Alex’s (Linton) and Henry’s (Norie) and I think it far exceeded anything they dreamed of,” Mount Washington General Manager Peter Gibson said.

Hampshire asked CH Television to create a video for the 25th anniversary. “We had to gather up all the old news footage from 1977 … when they were building the original Resort. Of course, it was all on 16-millimetre film.” The television station went through its own archives too, and came up with the video.

“Amongst the group that was planning this (25th anniversary), very little attitude-wise has changed,” Hampshire said. “It’s still very much a humble place. We don’t have a ‘boutique look’ to the mountain like some places do.”

Hampshire said attitude is something Resort staff looks for when hiring new personnel: how they fit in not only with the public, but with the Resort team itself. “The main thing we’re selling is fun,” he quipped.

After 25 years, Mount Washington is making more of a name for itself than ever, he added. “It’s amazing how everything’s just falling into place. We’re starting to be recognized by people across the country and in the United States as a desirable destination.”

For many years Mount Washington was regarded as a ‘rubber tire resort’ – people only drove there. Now, with WestJet connecting Albertans to the Island Resort, the world has opened.

“We’ve got a pretty strong vision of what we want to be and do,” Gibson said. “I think the times are pretty exciting.”

More from this Issue