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Organizers of annual fundraiser praying for snow on Mount Washington

The 2013 Herb Bradley Pepsi Challenge was a success, although the 2014 event needs snow on Mount Washington. - Photo submitted
The 2013 Herb Bradley Pepsi Challenge was a success, although the 2014 event needs snow on Mount Washington.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Mount Washington is closed for skiing, at least for the time being, though the organizers of an adaptive snowsports event still hope to host an annual fundraiser on the slopes.

Despite the lack of snow, organizers hope to host the annual Herb Bradley Pepsi Challenge on Feb. 16. Named after the founder of adaptive snowsports in the Comox Valley, the event is the main fundraiser for the Vancouver Island Society for Adaptive Snowsports. Proceeds support programs for 500-plus participants each season.

“To join in the fun, just round up three people willing to attach themselves to skis or snowboards and navigate down a gentle slalom course,” said Brian Lees, co-organizer of the 2014 HBPC. “No experience is required.”

Entry fee is $300, which includes lift tickets and lunch. For more information, contact Lees at 250-202-1513 or twinsport@shaw.ca, or Brian Gorman at (250) 218-6335 or givebrianahug@gmail.com. You can also visit www.visasweb.ca.

The Mount Washington Alpine Resort received a double whammy of no precipitation in recent weeks combined with an aggressive inversion weather pattern. As a result, the snowpack is too lean to continue with alpine and nordic operations.

For the time being, the nordic centre is open on weekends only. For the latest mountain information and to check webcams, visit mountwashington.ca.

“We knew we could make it through the first inversion which began a few days after our opening day on Jan. 12,” said resort spokesperson Brent Curtain. “But the next inversion wave was even warmer and deteriorated our snowpack so much it has forced us to close the mountain. Our plan is to reopen with the next significant snowfall.”

In a move to put season passholders' minds at ease, Mount Washington will implement a new '100 day assurance' clause that guarantees 100 days (which is equal to 100 per cent) of skiing or boarding per winter season. The mountain will then deduct a point per day that the mountain is open.

So for this season, the mountain is counting 14 days of open operations from Jan. 12 to 26. With the 100 day assurance, passholders are entitled to an 86 per cent credit towards the cost of next winter's season pass purchase.

Mount Washington is waiting to see what the season brings before making a decision on what to do with 6ixPak customers. A final decision will be made by March 31. The mountain would reopen if the drought breaks and snow returns.

The inversion, a weather phenomenon where temperatures rise with elevation, brought temperatures as high as 16 Celsius to Mount Washington's alpine. The warm weather event, coupled with the lowest three-month snowfall totals since the resort opened in 1979, proved too much to handle for the snowpack.

The contrast in snowfall from last winter is stark. Last year, the mountain received more than 500 centimetres in December. This year, it has received less than 150 cms from the beginning of November to the end of January. A yearly average is close to 12 metres in a winter season.

“Our crews worked hard to move snow around the mountain and fill in the gaps,” says Don Sharpe, director of business operations and marketing. “But we're now at the point where there's simply not enough snow to farm.”

“Our staff are still optimistic that we will get more days in before the season ends,” Sharpe said. “This season has been extremely challenging for everybody. We feel for our customers, our community, but also our staff who are trying to persevere through work shortages and layoffs.”

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