Mount Washington winter season opens amid water shortage concerns

Mount Washington winter season opens amid water shortage concerns
Mount Washington opened for the season on Dec. 9, 2022.

The chair lifts might not have been turning Friday for opening day at Mount Washington but the magic carpets were moving and for most skiers and snowboarders that was enough to smile about.

“Great conditions for opening day. It’s not too icy which is great and a nice amount of powder,” said snowboarder Mark Rudston-Brown who travelled up from Victoria.

Freezing rain in the morning turned into a steady, blowing snow by afternoon.

“It’s well-groomed here and staff are doing a great job keeping things going with the carpet and whatnot but yeah you just have to enjoy yourself,” said snowboarder Ignacio Contreras.

The Whiskey Jack chair is scheduled to open Saturday leading to some of the higher terrain but there is no word when the other lifts to the top of the mountain will open.

“This is a dry run for us,” said Nicole Bergot from Merville. “We knew the chairs weren’t open but we’re pretty excited to get going.”

The lack of snow shouldn’t be a surprise considering Vancouver Island is still in Level 3 drought.

Snowpack in the upper watershed where Mount Washington is located is less than 25 per cent of normal for this time of year.

“The springs that produce Mount Washington’s potable water supply have slowed to record low production” states the resort website.

“Heading into opening weekend, water conservation efforts are being asked of all staff, guests and residents of the Mt. Washington community. Please do your part to conserve water and bring your own drinking water supply, use provided outdoor washroom facilities when possible, and if living in the village, reduce your water use in your daily routine however possible.”

Troy-Anne Constable was moving into her new mountain chalet on Fosters Place Friday.

“Yeah we brought our own water for drinking because they said there might be a boil water advisory coming soon,” said Constable. “They suggested trying not to shower or do laundry or do too much using water and just recycle your own water.”

About 200 people live full time in the village, but the population can swell to 3,000 on weekends in the winter.

Long-time resident and real-estate agent Rick Gibson says the situation is unheard of in December.

“Definitely something I’ve never thought of before and definitely just with my resident’s hat on, I’ll be thinking how can we figure out how to have a bigger reservoir or a back-up reservoir or whatever,” said Gibson. “In the meantime I’ll be taking my water up from Courtenay to drink, and make coffee and top up my hot tub.”

Mount Washington says on its website that water for snow making comes from a different reservoir.

More information can be found here.

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