Cypress Mountain Resort is responding to criticism about long lines to get up to ski and snowboard on its North Shore slopes.
The ski hill allows pass holders to ski and snowboard without pre-booking, but like the other hills in the area, has a limit on the number of lift tickets for sale each day, which must be bought ahead of time.
On Tuesday, Alex Mandy posted a time-lapse video on Reddit, which showed long lineups of vehicles on the Cypress Mountain access road, which generated some complaints online about the number of people allowed on the mountain at the same time.
On Wednesday, Cypress issued a news release placing some of the blame for lineups on B.C. Parks, which is responsible for nearby areas located in Cypress Provincial Park.
It said it asked B.C. Parks this fall to implement a day pass system for the area to control visits this winter. The resort said it was willing to help manage the reservations, but was told on Dec. 14 that the province wouldn't be moving forward with it.
Blames B.C. Parks
"After explicit warnings were issued by Cypress Mountain Resort to B.C. Parks, regarding the expected effects of uncontrolled visitation, no meaningful proactive action was taken," said the release.
To deal with the pandemic, the resort has reduced its capacity to keep everyone on the mountain safe as its "top priority," according to the statement.
It said visits on Tuesday were around 80 per cent of normal peak visitations at this time of year, and it expects those numbers to drop further over the next two weeks.
"Lift lines, although they may appear excessive due to physical distancing requirements, are in fact within 10 per cent of normal peak times despite the reduced capacity," it said.
Cypress says it is also introducing a parking fee in some of parking lots in the Nordic Area for Lot 4 and in Lots 1, 2, and 3A and adjacent roadsides in the downhill area. The fees will be charged to vehicles entering the parking lots whose occupants have not pre-purchased a ticket or a season pass for activities in the downhill or Nordic ski areas.
Cypress says it needs to charge the parking fees to help it manage demand at the resort.
B.C.'s Ministry of Environment which oversees parks responded to CBC with an emailed statement Wednesday evening saying Metro Vancouver residents should check the Twitter accounts of the Cypress and Mount Seymour park operators for the latest traffic information before heading out.
"If the highway signs indicate the parking lots are full, please plan to visit another time or find somewhere less crowded so you can have a safer, more enjoyable experience," says the statement.
"We are asking everyone to stay local and explore their own communities, which may mean choosing another activity if your favourite destination for winter recreation is too crowded."
On Monday, B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman and other officials spoke at the base of Mount Seymour about the desire for many people to enjoy the snow and mountains over the holidays.
Amid heavy snowfall, they asked outdoor enthusiasts to heed weather and traffic warnings, and adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Cypress, Mount Seymour and Grouse Mountain were all popular destinations on Wednesday for activities like downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
In the past week, the area has had a significant amount of snowfall, which has made for picturesque winter conditions.
Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour resorts have sophisticated booking systems to allow people to pre-plan their trips, which has cut down on line-ups to get up to those destinations.
Jeff Stearns was on Cypress on Tuesday to snowboard. He said it took him two and half hours to get to the top from Burnaby.
"It was unbelievable, I've never seen like that in the 20 years I've been snowboarding here," he said.
Stearns said he left earlier on Wednesday to get up to Cypress and only took an hour.
"It was worth it," he said about the good conditions for snowboarding.
Simon Whitehead, who speaks for the resort at Mount Seymour, said its new pandemic rules were actually improving peoples' experiences at the resort. It instituted a four-hour window for activities on the mountain that must be booked in advance.
"Because we've had people coming to the mountain in stages, we've been able to manage our road really well," he said.
By spreading almost the same number of visitors evenly over the course of a day, there haven't been long lineups on the road up to Seymour, which has been a challenge in the past.
"It's one of the positives we've been able to implement this year," said Whitehead.
He said staff are enforcing distancing rules in the lift lines and on chairlifts, as well as making sure people are wearing masks in all lines and indoor spaces.
When asked if the resort was worried about the possibility of COVID-19 transmission among visitors, he said the resort is concerned and wants people to stay home if they are sick.
"There's always a risk, but that's the case for everything," he said. "We're managing as best as we can."
Skier Bruce Stedbings was skiing at Seymour on Wednesday and said it was a good experience.
"It's been great so far, we feel safe and are happy to be here," he said.