High-altitude resort expands twice, earns Business of the Year Award

After completing two $3-million projects, Mount Washington Alpine Resort won Business of the Year honours.

DON SHARPE (LEFT) receives the Business of the Year Award from Andy Carter.

DON SHARPE (LEFT) receives the Business of the Year Award from Andy Carter.

After completing two $3-million projects, Mount Washington Alpine Resort won Business of the Year honours at the 2011 Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce Annual Community Awards Saturday at the Filberg Centre.

The resort was among six nominees for the award that recognizes community-minded businesses with the ability to generate employment and income, and with outstanding achievements through the years.

“The fact that you get recognized for doing the things that you do is a real pleasure,” said director of business operations Don Sharpe, noting snowfalls over the past few weeks have placed the resort with the second deepest snow base in the world.

The mountain typically receives 10.5 metres of snow a year. Last season brought the most snow in resort history.

Mount Washington employs 120 to 900 people at various times throughout the year. Most live in the Comox Valley.

Since opening in 1979 the resort has expanded infrastructure and services to become a year-round operation. Expansions include conveyor belts to replace lifts, and a new centre that is a legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Sharpe said the Olympic year was significant in terms of bringing in athletes from all corners of the world to ski and snowboard at the resort.

“This year we opened up the Easy Acres area of the mountain, which prior was our green beginner area,” he said. “And we added four Magic Carpets (movable walkways). And we upgraded the whole area to allow for beginners to become better skiers and snowboarders. That was a $3 million expansion we just completed.”

In addition, the Vancouver Island Mountain Sports Society opened the Vancouver Island Mountain Centre, which includes a fitness centre, accommodations and a group meeting area.

“It’s been a pretty big year for us to have two $3-million projects go off at the same time,” Sharpe said.

Mount Washington had previously won a pair of Chamber awards: the 2000 George Muir Memorial President’s Merit Award in recognition of valuable contributions to the Valley, and the 2003 Environmental Initiative Award.

The resort has also garnered awards from Ski Canada Magazine, the National Ski Areas Association, the Ministry of Environment, Cycling BC, Attractions Canada and the Business Examiner.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com