Condition of the Coquihalla concerning for tourists

“They don’t make a show called Highway thru Hell for nothing…”

Big White officials are concerned with a growing number of complaints about the highway that links the resort to its most significant client base.

“The reliability of the Coquihalla has never been this prominent in conversations with us,” said Michael Ballingall, senior vice-president of sales and marketing at Big White Ski Resort.

“We hear about it every day.”

Regular reports of highway closures, eye witness accounts of transport trucks skidding out of control and a series of weather alerts from Environment Canada are making their way to their Lower Mainland clientele and they’re responding, said Ballingall. With every issue that arises, central reservations staff fields queries about road safety and requests to cancel reservations. Just last weekend, portions of the highway were closed at least twice.

RELATED: COQUIHALLA CLOSED AND REOPENED

That kind of frequency has even the mountain’s most loyal guests chiming in.

“Last year, family day weekend, we spent the night on the highway. It had become a skating rink. It was mayhem. Trucks and cars everywhere. We left at 2 p.m. and didn’t get to Big White until 6 a.m. and we were one of the fortunate ones. Our friends were turned around after spending hours on the highway and never made it. Others never made it to Big White until noon the next day,” reads one of the letters to Ballingall.

“This year, again on Family Day weekend we were once again re-routed due to the highway closure due to a multi-car accident and had to take Highway 3. We were also stuck on this highway as three semis had jack-knifed and cars couldn’t get through. This time it took us over eight hours to get through. We are re-considering Big White now as a vacation destination as we will not continue to drive the highways the way they are currently maintained and jeopardize our safety… they don’t make a show called Highway thru Hell for nothing”

All in all, it’s the foundation of a perception problem that Ballingall says spells big trouble for tourism.

“A good portion of the tourism business is centred around perception, and when it comes to the Coquihalla, it’s at an all-time low,” he said.

That, he said, means it’s time to act.

“If someone asked what we’d do, I’d say the laws and the fines (for rigs) to chain up should be addressed,” he said, adding the fine’s for non-compliance are not high enough to obey the law.

He’d also like to see messaging change. When closure alerts are issued, he said there isn’t a great deal of follow up.

“We can only alert the powers that be on what the consumer is saying about the road,” he said.

Through that process he hopes some change can be delivered—it’s been the case previously.

Avalanche protocols through the Rogers Pass were such a concern at one point, that resort officials lobbied the government for change and it came to pass.

When asked for comment, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure acknowledged this has been a challenging winter, with “well above average amounts of snowfall for the Coquihalla.”

“In fact, this January the highway experienced 235 centimetres of snowfall, which is 153 cm more than last year,” said a ministry representative.

“On a high mountain pass, such as the Coquihalla, storm systems often bring extremely heavy and wet snowfall events and it only takes a few minutes for snow to accumulate and become compacted on the road surface.”

During winter storms, contractors have every available piece of equipment in use, and also increase the frequency of patrols when a winter weather event is forecasted and add extra enforcement for chain-up on the Snowshed Hill.

“The ministry recognizes the importance of this highway to the ski industry and makes every effort to ensure that the snow drawing skiers to the interior is not the same thing that keeps them away,” said ministry staff.

They added, that while the highway travels through some very challenging terrain, it’s important to recognize that the number of serious crashes continues to trend downwards over the last 10 years. They did not offer a number that could support that assertion.

“While we are concerned about the perception that highway conditions affect B.C.’s tourism industry by limiting skier visits, we are pleased that resorts like Sun Peaks near Kamloops posted a new record for skier visits last year,” said ministry staff.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey councillors wary of ‘streamlining’ environmental development permits process

Mayor Doug McCallum notes B.C. government only agency that can issue environment permit

Lost season ‘disappointing’, but White Rock Renegades eager to play outside competition

South Surrey softball organization president hopes inter-city play is a few weeks away

City buys century-old East Delta church

St. Stephen’s Church to be renovated and restored, used as community services and programming space

Oh baby, what a birthday gift: $2.8M raised to help Surrey boy with rare disease

‘We are very thankful to everybody,’ Aryan Deol’s father says

COVID-19 exposure at Surrey rave prompts warning from Fraser Health

Party was held at Royal Beauty Supply in Whalley

B.C. records 30-50 new COVID-19 cases a day over weekend, no new deaths

Many of those testing positive were identified by contact tracing for being linked to other confirmed infections

Five B.C. First Nations call out Canada for ‘discriminatory’ food fish practices

West Coast nations say government ignoring court-won right to chinook and coho

Salmon arrive in larger numbers at Big Bar landslide

Arrival follows historic hihg-water levels that halted migration runs

Rent-relief program becomes new front in fight between Liberals, opposition

Opposition trying to draw parallels between decision to have Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. run program and the WE controversy

Ottawa sets minimum unemployment rate at 13.1% for EI calculation

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July

$45K in donations received after couple’s sudden death in Tulameen

Sarah MacDermid, 31, and Casey Bussiere, 37, died August long weekend

Famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer brings movements of joy to Long Beach

Internet-famous dancer is exploring Vancouver Island, visiting the B.C. Legislature and more

Battle of Fairy Creek: blockade launched to save Vancouver Island old-growth

‘Forest Defenders’ occupy road to prevent logging company from reaching Port Renfrew-area watershed

Most Read