Cypress Provincial Park
backcountry closure 10pm to 9am!
[Dec 8th] In January, 2016 Cypress Mountain ski area unilaterally implemented a closure of the Backcountry Access Corridor to Howe Sound Crest Trail, Black Mountain Trail and Bowen Lookout Trail. The closure is not sanctioned in the park master plan. The BCMC recently wrote to the Assistant Deputy Minister about this problem.
UPDATE [Dec 12th]: After discussion with a senior person involved in the matter of the closure of the Backcountry Access Corridor through the Cypress Mountain controlled recreation area I am able to suggest an interim access alternative.
I led an operation to test the Cypress Resort's defense perimeter around the Howe Sound Crest backcountry access corridor (BAC). Our group of 7 and another group of 4 also known to us arrived at the designated overnight parking at the north end of lot 3B about 6:45 AM. We gained Cypress Bowl Road from Chippendale Road (reached from the 21ST Street entrance off Highway 1) encountering no resistance up Cypress Bowl Road. I had intended arriving even earlier but deadheading a couple of vehicles at Lions Bay took longer than planned. There were a lot of vehicles on the road at that time and certainly, after parking our party would have been in full view of resort employees.
The second group of 4 skinned up ahead of us by a couple of minutes. We skirted lot 3 on the cat track on the way to the BAC. At some point, a pickup truck veered off the road and drove parallel to us before driving off. I couldn't ascertain if it was a private vehicle or that of the resort or BC Parks. By the time we approached the end of lot 3, the first party was already engaged at the defense perimeter with a man who appeared to be a resort employee. He came from the entrance to the paid parking lot in front of the BAC. As the first group crossed the road, the man ran towards the ski party. From my vantage point back in lot 3 I could already hear him yelling.
The man was wearing a jacket that identified him as a resort employee by name of Lyons. When our group of 7 approached the skirmish, I skied up to Lyons and stated that his actions were putting our parties "at risk". Lyons started yelling at me. He did not ask what I meant by "at risk." He did not ask what I was doing. He stated words to the effect that the resort is private land so I assume he concluded we were there to poach ski lines. He appeared to be beyond the point of reason. I accepted that our plan B would need to be put into action- go to over Mount Strachan and down Christmas Gully to rejoin the Howe Sound Crest Trail beyond the resort.
I stated to my group that we would skirt the controlled recreation area (CRA) and go down Christmas Gully. Lyons followed us. When I started up next to lot 2 (adjacent to the ticket booth) Lyons became further incensed. So we backed off and I said to him we would go up the embankment further down. He continued yelling that it was all in the CRA. (Actually, it turns out he was correct. I did not at the time have a copy of Exhibit 1 to the PUP which shows the CRA boundary extends to the drainage east of Collins run.) We started back along lot 2 but before we could do so, Lyons placed himself in front and slightly to my left but blocking my way. I stated in a calm manner that I had spoken at length with the resort general manager earlier in December. I told him rather impolitely to back off at which point he did so but then yelled from 20 feet away that "we will have your cars towed and we won't tell you where." I caught his eye as he said so. It was one of those telling moments when you get the measure of the man. In that fraction I knew to call his bluff. He then proceeded to pull out a hand held device and start punching into it, presumably to give the impression the tow truck was on its way. (Happily, when we returned after the traverse, all our vehicles were where we parked them. Lyons' bluff had been called.)
We proceeded from halfway back down lot 2 through the untracked woods to the drainage east of Collins and continued up Strachan staying outside the CRA at all times. We arrived at the descent gully. If the gully had not been safe our Plan B would have put us at significant risk from avalanches. Fortunately, it was not the case. It was very stable. Curiously, we engaged in conversation with another Cypress employee who was checking the perimeter ropes at the top of Tony Baker gully. He was friendly but asked us not to make enticing tracks near the Upper Sky Chair so as not to attract guests into dangerous backcountry terrain.
There are several take-aways.
- By forcing us up and over Strachan, Lyons' actions have imperiled the safety of the resort's paid clients. For example, we created enticing ski tracks which resort clients are tempted to follow.
- There is a lot of misinformation being disseminated to or by resort employees like Lyons. The CRA is not private land. It is encumbered with a number of regulations protecting public access.
- I believe the threat of towing vehicles is intimidation and totally unacceptable. We parked responsibly in a designated overnight lot. No roadway was blocked. In fact, Exhibit 1 shows the overnight lot is outside the CRA. If a properly parked vehicle were to be towed I would consider it illegal. Under what authority could a resort employee order a properly parked vehicle towed. I don't believe that authority exists.