The regional district board approved a $9,000 grant-in-aid to assist the Vancouver Island Mountain Sports Society (VIMSS) with operating expenses for the Vancouver Island Mountain Centre, as requested by Area C director Edwin Grieve.
“I have always maintained that this is a Valley-wide initiative that benefits everyone,” Grieve said.
“Much like the support the electoral directors give to community halls, I support base funding to sustain operations.”
The society owns the centre at Mount Washington, where groups such as the Girl Guides and the Avalanche Society have rented space. The biggest user group has been quilters.
In 2013, the CVRD board approved a $60,000 contribution to the VIMSS over a five-year period — $20,000 the first two years, $10,000 this year, and $5,000 each in 2016 and 2017. Earlier this year, society members asked directors to consider increasing this year’s grant.
Grieve says the lack of snow in the last two ski seasons has impacted the entire resort community at Mount Washington, and as a result the economy of the Comox Valley.
“Mount Washington and the spinoffs in tourist accommodation, retail, restaurant and entertainment industries account for what is the second biggest economic driver of the district in terms of private dollars and deserves all our support,” he said.
“We’ve certainly been struggling with the weather the last couple of winters,” said Karen Bonell, chair of the VIMSS. “The regional district has been so incredibly supportive.”
The society expects to eventually be self-sustaining.
The first challenge is to pay off the mortgage.
“When you’re running a non-profit, your budget at the end of the year is zero,” Bonell said. “It’s (weather) challenged us to diversify the business. It’s actually forced us into doing additional things. Now we have adapted some new programming that allows us to go, even if there isn’t enough snow for a snow-based program.”
For instance, various rope courses have been taught indoors and outdoors.
“We did a lot more biathlon programming last year because you don’t need that much snow,” she said. “It was extremely successful. The biathlon club donated $1,000 to us this year because of all the programming they received.”
She notes the variety of user groups, which include yoga practitioners, painters and artists.
“It’s really become a community-based facility,” Bonell said. “I think we just have to adapt to the changing weather climate that we have.”
In spring, summer and fall, the society allows individual room and/or campsite bookings if the centre isn’t booked with a group. In winter, it’s restricted to groups.