Mount Cain, a hidden gem of a ski hill located just southeast of Woss on Northern Vancouver Island, closed early for the season on March 20, a month before expected, due to concerns about COIVD-19.
“We were open midweek for spring break, but opted to close before the kidsfest weekend to stop crowds from coming up,” David Mazzucchi, chairman of the board of directors told the Gazette. That kidsfest weekend would have been one of the busiest of the year.
The Mount Cain Alpine Park Society—the non-profit organization who run Mount Cain—estimate they lost $150,000 in revenue from the early closure. They also lost 15 open days of lift sales and accommodations.
The right choice was obvious, though Mazzucchi said it’s heartbreaking to lose out on such great conditions. “Reports from the mountain say snow coverage is still incredible. You can ski right down to the parking lot.”
The early closure not only took away chances for fresh powder, but 50 local jobs were cut short, most of them youth. Mazzucchi estimates they are one of the largest youth employers in the north island.
As a non-profit run ski hill, Mount Cain operates on a tight budget, keeping prices low and reinvesting any profit to the buildings and equipment at the park. It’s a matter of mission for the crew to keep activities accessible to locals.
“We’re one of the more affordable ski hills in BC,” Mazzucchi said. “Skiing has taken on a white collar flavour in much of the world, whereas we’re still very family oriented.”
The tight budget means with a loss of $150,000 something has to be cut, and this year it means no flush toilets. “We were planning on expanding our septic field and adding flush toilets alongside our compost toilets,” Mazzucchi noted, adding the money earmarked for that project has been reallocated to essential repairs on ski lifts and graders.
The Society expects to be able to re-open next season, but the details are high up in the air.
“We’ve put off our planning meeting that was scheduled for the third week of May because it would be futile,” Mazzucchi said. “What are we planning for? We still don’t know if people are going to be allowed to travel by then.”
Even if travel is less restricted, if the coronavirus is still a threat, will visitors want to stay in the hostels? Most of the accommodation options at Mount Cain are hostels, and they’re a big part of the revenue, Mazzucchi said.
“We will open though. It just might look different, and be more limited.”