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Cypress Letters and Articles

December 20, 2017

RE: 272492 – Cypress Bowl Road

Dear [British Columbia Mountaineering Club]:

Your email of November 20, 2017, regarding Cypress Bowl Road, has been shared with me. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.

I appreciated the opportunity to review your suggestion to open Cypress Bowl Road one hour earlier in the morning to accommodate visitors to Cypress Provincial Park. While the Ministry owns the road, winter maintenance is funded and delivered by Cypress Mountain Resort. I understand the gate at the Chippendale Road intersection is closed until 7 a.m. to prevent unauthorized overnight access into the park. As such, you may want to share your interest in having the road open earlier in the morning with the resort directly.

Should you have further questions or concerns in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact the ministry’s local Operations Manager, Don Legault. He is available by telephone at 604 527-2236 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and would be pleased to assist you.

Thank you again for taking the time to write.

Sincerely,

Kevin Richter

Assistant Deputy Minister, Highways Department

Copy to:          Grant Main, Deputy Minister

                       Don Legault, Operations Manager, Lower Mainland District

                       Jesse Morwood, Area Manager, Squamish/Whistler Area Office

November 20, 2017

Grant Main
Deputy Minister
Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure
PO Box 9850
Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC V8W9T5

By Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dear Mr. Main,

RE: Earlier opening of Cypress Bowl Road in winter

I represent the British Columbia Mountaineering Club which is an organization of over 1,000 members in the Lower Mainland. We engage in backcountry ski trips in Cypress Provincial Park which is reached from Cypress Bowl Road in West Vancouver. One trip requires a full day to traverse the Howe Sound Crest to Lions Bay. An early start is required for avalanche safety and to avoid coming out in the dark. During winter and spring Cypress Bowl Road opens at 7 AM. I am writing to request the road open at 6 AM in winter and 5 AM in spring.

I have spoken with Jesse Morwood, the area manager for Squamish about an earlier opening. He has said that an earlier opening by one or two hours would require additional maintenance services that are not currently budgeted for. I understand that position. However, I would like to understand what those costs are. Could not accommodation be made by using road sensors to determine actual conditions combined with weather forecasts and weather station observations to determine when road crews should be present or on standby?

Currently, with the road opening at 7 AM it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to drive up the road, park, gear up and enter the backcountry. That one hour is often a critical safety factor in the mountains for parties traveling the Howe Sound Crest on skis. I did an informal poll on Facebook in the South Coast Touring group last winter to gauge the number of parties attempting the crest traverse. In a short period of time of a few weeks in January, 28 people had done the traverse and another 92 were intending to do it. I suspect the actual numbers would be even higher. In my opinion, that is a significant amount of increased risk that each person takes on because of the relatively late start that is the only option available.

Currently, a Cypress Mountain Resort employee mans the gatehouse near the bottom of Cypress Bowl Road. I ask that your ministry instruct C.M.R. to open the road one hour earlier for the winter season. Even 30 minutes earlier would allow parties to maximize daylight for backcountry travel during the shortest days of winter.

Sincerely yours,

[British Columbia Mountaineering Club]

December 2, 2017

Jesse Morwood, the area manager for MoTI spoke with me about two weeks ago and subsequent to my letter to him on November 19, 2017 regarding "permit for sign, erection or obstruction on Cypress Bowl Road by Cypress Mountain Resort." Here is what I heard.

I explored with Jesse Morwood of MoTI the idea of opening Cypress Bowl Road earlier by one or two hours. A 24/7 opening would probably be impractical because MoTI would not agree to have the road open and not maintained. Of course, maintaining the road overnight would be cost prohibitive and largely of no benefit. Most people don't snowshoe or ski at night. Mr. Morwood suggested the best way to explore an earlier opening is by writing to the minister. I also discussed removing the blanket road closure so that the road is open when sensors and telemetry indicate there is no snow or ice hazard. This type of solution is in place on the Sea to Sky highway and is what controls the variable speed zones. Lasers sense road temperature etc. MoTI already has two telemetry weather stations in Cypress Bowl. They can be viewed in avalanche.ca. There is another one on Deeks Peak.

Cypress Mountain Resort mans the gatehouse at Chippendale to close Cypress Bowl Road in winter between 11 PM and 7 AM. The closure is authorized by MoTI although there is not a written permit, according to Jesse Morwood of MoTI. Cypress employees are permitted to drive the road when closed because, according to Mr. Morwood, it is as though they are in a work zone. The road closure does not apply to them. The implication is that in work zones different rules apply. Where are these rules for work zones written down? Cabin owners, be they private or leaseholders, are an identified grey area. According to Mr. Morwood they are not permitted to drive the road when closed. I pointed out the grey area in that a cabin owner returning home late or having a medical emergency will ignore the gatekeeper and the road closure. Or perhaps the gatekeeper has an "understanding". Mr. Morwood did not contradict this scenario but neither did he add credence to it. So, it remains unaddressed and a grey area. Finally, there is the general public such as North Shore dawn patrol and ski mountaineers. These people are not permitted to drive the closed road.

Cypress Bowl Road is classified as an "arterial highway". For purposes of highway snow removal under the Ministry of Transportation maintenance specification chapter 3-300, the road is categorized as Winter Highway Classification A, which is the highest classification or possibly B, the second highest, according to Jesse Morwood.

The gate house was moved to Chippendale Road at the request of West Vancouver municipality as Chippendale residents wanted access to their homes from Cypress Bowl Road. MoTI gave permission to move the gatehouse but it was not written into a permit. The gatehouse belongs to BC Parks and authorization to move it from the West Vancouver works yard was communicated to MoTI by Larry Syroishko, park ranger.

November 19, 2017

Jesse Morwood
Area Manager, Squamish/Whistler Area Office
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
Suite 310 - 1500 Woolridge Street
Coquitlam BC V3K0B8

By Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dear Mr. Morwood,

RE: Permit for sign, erection or obstruction on Cypress Bowl Road by Cypress Mountain Resort

It is my understanding that Cypress Bowl Road was classified as an "Arterial Highway" by Order in Council no. 116 in 1992. As recently as 2011, I am in receipt of an email message from Freedom of Information request no. TRA-2016-65250 addressed in part to yourself that the road continues to be classified as arterial. The message is online here: https://backcountrybc.ca/component/edocman/?task=document.viewdoc&id=190&Itemid=

Earlier last winter, Cypress Mountain Resort moved its gate house on Cypress Bowl Road from the West Vancouver Municipal Works Yard to the intersection with Chippendale Road. I am questioning whether or not the necessary permit was obtained from MoTI either to erect a structure, place a sign or obstruct Cypress Bowl Road. According to the Highway Act, section 32(1)(c) a person must not place a sign, erection or obstruction on an arterial highway, except with the consent of the minister and after having obtained from the minister a permit in writing.

Also, in the FOI package is speculation by Mr. Gary Watt, Superintendent, Road of District of West Vancouver that such a permit is required for a gate house, as he terms it. That communication is online here: https://backcountrybc.ca/component/edocman/?task=document.viewdoc&id=191&Itemid=

I request a copy of the permit, if you have it, or that you refer me to someone that can provide it.

Sincerely yours,

[British Columbia Mountaineering Club]

May 24, 2017

BCMC spoke with Jesse Morwood of MoTI about the winter road closure. He's the Area Manager for the Squamish/Whistler Area Office of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Point summary of Mr. Morwood's statements

  • The closure runs from 11 PM to 7 AM during winter only
  • There is no summer closure
  • The road is not maintained during the hours of the closure and therefore it is not safe for public use
  • The winter closure has been in place since way back before the downhill ski area was privatized, i.e. when it was run by the provincial government
  • The contract to maintain the road in winter is based on the hours stated and an adjustment of those hours would likely incur additional costs
  • The contractor in winter is Cypress resort.
  • MoTI is not concerned that Cypress employees are able to transit the road during the closure as MoTI bears no liability should they be injured, whereas, in the case of public use there is potential liability. [ We suspect that the liability for a resort employee would be covered by the resort's comprehensive general liability insurance that protects the Province, which the resort is required to have as part of its contract with the Province.]
  • MoTI is not aware of a special deal for Hollyburn cabin owners to be able to transit the road during the hours of closure.

It was not explored what would happen if a cabin owner was injured or killed on the road during the road closure, if they had been let pass by a Cypress employee to transit the road during the closure. I did not think it was a fruitful line of inquiry. It would likely result in any such unofficial policy on the resort's part being immediately withdrawn, if such a policy exists.

I brought up the idea of an earlier opening to accommodate dawn patrol and early starts on the HSCT. Mr. Morwood agreed it was an issue that was worthwhile raising. I asked what would be the best way to get an earlier opening. He suggested a petition and lots of letters directed to senior officials or the minister. He is not able to make changes at his organizational level.

Next steps

I suggest a petition be started to have an earlier opening. What would the wording be?

Secondly, a letter writing campaign should be undertaken with the new government. Who would coordinate it? Need to engage on social media outlets. Is there a template that could be developed as a guideline for letter writers? The Federation of Mountain Clubs of B.C. has raised some key points such as "nowadays the ski operation permit owners pay $2.5 million annually to Victoria for their Permit Fee alone [2% of revenue.]" Some of that revenue could be used to fund an earlier opening.

Options to consider would be the opening time. 6 AM? 5 AM? Probably 6 AM is sufficient for HSCT skiers. 6 AM would probably be cheaper than 5 AM. Who can speak for dawn patrol?

I should add that I have downloaded a copy of an FOI request labelled TRA-2016-65250. The response letter and package are stored on Backcountry BC Here:

file_59dfb1feb18fa_Response_Letter_TRA-2016-65250.pdf

Cypress Bowl FOI Response Package TRA-2016-65250 (2017)

OR

can be downloaded here: http://docs.openinfo.gov.bc.ca/TRA-2016-65250.html On page 80 there is a Schedule "A" of the road clearing contract granted by the Provincial Government to Cypress Bowl Recreations Limited Partnership. Clause #2 of the Services states, "The Contractor may close the Road in order to facilitate the performance of the Services and to ensure public safety at such times and for such duration as authorized by the Minister." So, the closure appears to have legal basis.