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Creature of the Black Tusk

May 24, 2017

BCMC spoke with Jesse Morwood of MoTI about the winter road closure. He's the Area Manager for the Squamish/Whistler Area Office of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Point summary of Mr. Morwood's statements

  • The closure runs from 11 PM to 7 AM during winter only
  • There is no summer closure
  • The road is not maintained during the hours of the closure and therefore it is not safe for public use
  • The winter closure has been in place since way back before the downhill ski area was privatized, i.e. when it was run by the provincial government
  • The contract to maintain the road in winter is based on the hours stated and an adjustment of those hours would likely incur additional costs
  • The contractor in winter is Cypress resort.
  • MoTI is not concerned that Cypress employees are able to transit the road during the closure as MoTI bears no liability should they be injured, whereas, in the case of public use there is potential liability. [ We suspect that the liability for a resort employee would be covered by the resort's comprehensive general liability insurance that protects the Province, which the resort is required to have as part of its contract with the Province.]
  • MoTI is not aware of a special deal for Hollyburn cabin owners to be able to transit the road during the hours of closure.

It was not explored what would happen if a cabin owner was injured or killed on the road during the road closure, if they had been let pass by a Cypress employee to transit the road during the closure. I did not think it was a fruitful line of inquiry. It would likely result in any such unofficial policy on the resort's part being immediately withdrawn, if such a policy exists.

I brought up the idea of an earlier opening to accommodate dawn patrol and early starts on the HSCT. Mr. Morwood agreed it was an issue that was worthwhile raising. I asked what would be the best way to get an earlier opening. He suggested a petition and lots of letters directed to senior officials or the minister. He is not able to make changes at his organizational level.

Next steps

I suggest a petition be started to have an earlier opening. What would the wording be?

Secondly, a letter writing campaign should be undertaken with the new government. Who would coordinate it? Need to engage on social media outlets. Is there a template that could be developed as a guideline for letter writers? The Federation of Mountain Clubs of B.C. has raised some key points such as "nowadays the ski operation permit owners pay $2.5 million annually to Victoria for their Permit Fee alone [2% of revenue.]" Some of that revenue could be used to fund an earlier opening.

Options to consider would be the opening time. 6 AM? 5 AM? Probably 6 AM is sufficient for HSCT skiers. 6 AM would probably be cheaper than 5 AM. Who can speak for dawn patrol?

I should add that I have downloaded a copy of an FOI request labelled TRA-2016-65250. The response letter and package can be downloaded here: http://docs.openinfo.gov.bc.ca/TRA-2016-65250.html On page 80 there is a Schedule "A" of the road clearing contract granted by the Provincial Government to Cypress Bowl Recreations Limited Partnership. Clause #2 of the Services states, "The Contractor may close the Road in order to facilitate the performance of the Services and to ensure public safety at such times and for such duration as authorized by the Minister." So, the closure appears to have legal basis.

April 24, 2017

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure publishes its maintenance specifications including highway snow removal on its website under the heading Highway Maintenance Agreements here: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/transportation-infrastructure/contracting-to-transportation/highway-bridge-maintenance/highway-maintenance/agreement.

Under schedule 8 of the highway maintenance agreement, it shows Cypress Bowl Road is part of the Howe Sound service area. Under the section Value of Agreements, it shows the Howe Sound service area contract was awarded to Mainroad Howe Sound Contracting LP. The contract began October 26, 2003 and ends October 31, 2018. The contract value is $9,123,338.

Schedule 21, chapter 3, Winter Maintenance discusses highway snow removal. That document is here: Highway Snow Removal

This does not jibe with what we know about Cypress Bowl Road snow removal. It is in fact done by Cypress Resort with a subsidy by the Province.

I called MoTI and spoke with an acting supervisor Maziar Kazemi at 604 989-5786. He was aware of the issue as there was a previous recent inquiry. Mr Kazemi stated summer maintenance is by Mainroad Howe Sound Contracting LP. Winter snow removal is by Cypress Resort. I explained the situation of the road closure in winter between 10 PM and 7 AM. We discussed the kiosk, whether it is legal or not. Mr Kazemi thinks it is manned all evening. I asked about the paradox of Hollyburn cabin residents and Cypress employees transiting the road during the closure. He is aware of the paradox and suspects it is "grandfathered" without really explaining what that means. I explained I am looking for the legal documents to support the closure or whether there is just a gentlemen's agreement. He is going to look for those documents and get back to me within one week. His acting assignment is ending tomorrow so the area manager Jesse Morwood is the next point of contact.

Looking into the winter maintenance agreement:

  • there does not seem to be anything authorizing blanket road closures
  • closures seem to be indicated only during bad weather or poor road conditions
  • Cypress Resorts seems to be required to provide traffic advisories when road conditions become unsafe

E.g.

The Contractor must:

a) prepare and deliver an updated Highway condition report to the Province at 5:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. daily from October 1 to April 30
b) prepare and deliver the updated Highway condition report to the Province at 7:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. daily from May 1 to September 30
c) report immediately to the Province any adverse or extreme road surface conditions and changes in weather conditions affecting visibility and/or driving conditions or as specified by the Province
d) prepare and release immediately, upon approval by the Province, travel advisories as necessary to inform Highway Users of conditions identifie

d in 3.1.c) above;

 

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