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Ski pass holders look for discounts as some BC mountains remain closed

“It’s kind of an unwritten rule that there should be some compensation,” said one pass holder who spent thousands on passes for his family but has only skied twice.

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As snow woes close some B.C. ski hills, season pass holders are reading the fine print on their tickets, while resorts say little, if anything, about refunds.

Nick Chen and his family spent about $3,000 on passes and lessons at Grouse Mountain, but they have only skied twice this season.

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“I know the weather is out of the mountain’s control, but there needs to be some compensation,” he said.

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While Grouse has been open for more than the two days he skied, Chen isn’t interested in skiing when conditions are poor or parts of the mountain are closed.

“It feels like a ripoff,” he said.

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Mild weather scenes from Cypress Mountain in the pouring rain as mild weather has forced closures on local ski hills in Vancouver, B.C., on February 2, 2024. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /10103734A

Grouse is one of a few mountains that offers pass protection, but the mountain’s website clearly states that if the protection is declined, “no refund or transfer of the season pass will be offered under any circumstance.” For those who purchase the $49 plan ($99 for a family), refunds are only issued for debilitating injury or illness, or work relocation.

Refunds are not issued for environmental reasons, including weather, says the website.

Grouse’s ski area was closed Friday, but the mountain reopened some terrain on the weekend.

Mt. Seymour’s website said its downhill area was closed until there is “sufficient snow to re-open,” with no word on when that might be.

Cypress Mountain’s website said its downhill area would remain closed Saturday and Sunday. “Our team is working hard to rebuild ski runs and our state of the art snow-making system is in place and ready to go as temperatures cool next week.”

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Mild weather scenes from Cypress Mountain in the pouring rain as mild weather has forced closures on local ski hills in Vancouver, B.C., on February 2, 2024. (NICK PROCAYLO/POSTMEDIA) Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /10103734A

Sasquatch Mountain Resort in the Hemlock Valley was also closed over the weekend, but inside operations manager Troy Raugust said staff were hoping the week would bring new snow, allowing them to reopen by Thursday or Friday.

Snow has been disappearing quickly as rains and warm temperatures hit Cypress Mountain.Coastal mountains had been struggling with poor snow conditions even before a series of atmospheric rivers brought rain and warm temperatures last week, melting whatever snow had accumulated during a mild winter. Many ski hills, such as Manning Park outside Hope, Mt. Washington on Vancouver Island and Mt. Baker in Washington State remain open, but with limited terrain.

“The sun is supposed to come out, colder temperatures are on the horizon, and we’re hopeful for Mother Nature’s co-operation with the rest of our winter season,” said a cheerful message on Mt. Washington’s website. “We greatly appreciate your patience and understanding as it takes our team some time to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

WhistlerBlackcomb warned skiers about possible lift delays while ski patrols worked to mitigate a high avalanche risk in the alpine on Friday. Green runs on the lower portion of both mountains were damaged by rain, meaning beginners had to download rather than ski out to the village.

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“It has been a challenging week,” said spokesman Nicholas Voutour in a statement. But he was optimistic about cooler temperatures and five centimetres of new snow overnight at mid-mountain.

“Heading into the weekend, a colder blip Saturday night will facilitate snowmaking down to 1,000 metres in elevation. Sunday will bring clear skies and a daytime bump of the freezing level back up to 1,200 metres,” he said. “This optimal weather window will allow us to repair some areas that were impacted by last week’s rain.”

Voutour said there is still “plenty of season left to go,” and a couple of good snowfalls will get things back on track.

Scenes from Cypress Mountain in the pouring rain as mild weather has forced closures on local ski hills in Vancouver.That could be one of the reasons why smaller mountains haven’t been quick to reassure pass holders that they will be compensated for a poor season — even as many people take to social media to ask for refunds. With at least a month left in peak season, mountains may be able to reopen and provide customers with more ski days.

In 2005, another terrible snow year, some mountains such as Seymour gave pass holders a deep discount on the following year’s pass, while Mt. Washington, which was only open 32 days, made passes valid for another season. Other mountains only offered a few dollars off renewals. During the pandemic, when the ski season was cut short, deferrals were more common.

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Alan Mijinke, who spent several thousand dollars on six season passes at Sasquatch and a private ski club that runs on the mountain, said he has experienced poor snow years in the past as a season pass holder at various B.C. mountains.

“I am sympathetic,” he said. “But I’m expecting something. If they don’t, then we probably won’t return. It’s kind of an unwritten rule that there should be some compensation.”

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Mild weather scenes from Cypress Mountain in the pouring rain as mild weather has forced closures on local ski hills in Vancouver, B.C., on February 2, 2024. (NICK PROCAYLO/POSTMEDIA) Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /10103734A

As skiers have several options within an hour or two of Metro Vancouver, most ski hills appear to be making an effort to keep their pass holders informed about snow-making operations and when they might be able to get back on the slopes.

But Nikola Vujicic, who spent almost $2,000 on four season passes for his family at Sasquatch, said the mountain hasn’t been responding to customers’ questions about refunds.

“We just need to know, what is the plan?” he said.

Mild weather at Cypress Mountain brings pouring rain and forced closures.Scott Barber, who also has a season pass at Sasquatch, said conditions have been rough all season, with very little snow.

Ryan Goodrich said he is not certain the situation will improve in February unless there are a series of big snowstorms, which he feels is unlikely.

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Sasquatch offers a 60-day ski season guarantee, according to its website, but pass holders must purchase the refundable pass option. For every day the mountain is not in operation under 60 days, pass holders will received a one per cent credit to be applied to the following year’s pass.

Raugust, the operations manager, said Sasquatch plans to do something for pass holders if the mountain closes for the season, but it’s too soon to give up.

“We’re a family resort,” he said. “We take care of our people. Everything we make, goes back into the hill.”

He noted that Sasquatch did not raise its prices this year because management understands the pressure families are under due to inflation. A person needs to ski about eight days to recoup the cost of a season pass.

Goodrich said he paid $2,200 for the year for his family.

“We’ll get passes again. Whether or not it’s Sasquatch is a different story.”

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Mild weather scenes from Cypress Mountain in the pouring rain as mild weather has forced closures on local ski hills in Vancouver, Feb. 2, 2024. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /10103734A

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