People turned away at packed North Shore ski hills; new parking fees introduced

People turned away at packed North Shore ski hills; new parking fees introduced

With outdoor enthusiasts flocking to local mountains over the holidays, some skill hills have started to turn drivers away and implement new parking fees to manage crowds.

Both Cypress Mountain and Mount Seymour have prepared for “unprecedented demand,” BC Parks says, warning park goers that lots could fill up before 9 a.m. on weekends, holidays and when the weather is good.

“Digital message boards will be posted on the access road with live updates to notify of current traffic conditions,” a notice on BC Parks’ website says. 

“Visitors should heed these signs and if the signs say the lots are full, park visitors should plan to come to the park another time.”

That proved to be the case on Monday. On Twitter, Mt. Seymour Park Operator, which is an account created by the province this month to give traffic updates, said the backcountry lots were full just before 9 a.m. Parking was still available for pre-booked ski hill clients, however. By about noon, Cypress Provincial Park Operator had also tweeted that parking lots were full. 

But even with congestion, provincial park passes introduced by the province to curb crowds over the summer haven’t been reintroduced in spite of requests from Cypress. 

Under that system, free passes were required for parts of Cypress, Mount Seymour, Garibaldi, Golden Ears, Stawamus Chief and Mount Robson parks. The passes went live each morning at 6 a.m. for that day, and sometimes were fully reserved just minutes later.  

“Since Oct. 26, 2020, Cypress Mountain has been urging BC Parks to get engaged in the anticipated COVID-19 realities of winter visitation at Cypress Provincial Park,” a statement from the resort’s president, Russell Chamberlain, says.

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“As the second COVID-19 wave gathered momentum, BC Parks agreed that it would implement a ‘day pass system’ similar to what was utilized to control demand during the first wave of the pandemic.”

But Chamberlain says they were told on Dec. 14 that the park pass program wasn’t being reintroduced after all. 

“After explicit warnings were issued by Cypress Mountain Resort to BC Parks, regarding the expected effects of uncontrolled visitation, no meaningful proactive action was taken,” Chamberlain’s statement says.

To manage the crowds, Cypress introduced new parking fees in most of its lots for anyone who hasn’t pre-purchased a pass. The resort says the new fees are directly “due to BC Parks cancellation of the reservation system used this summer to control demand.”

The fees are in place in the Nordic area lots 1, 2 and 3A and in the adjacent roadsides near the downhill area. Premium charges are in place for 1A and parking is free in 3B. 

For now, BC Parks says people should follow their new Twitter accounts for up-to-date traffic before planning their trip to one of the popular parks.  

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