After several days of being stranded due to a disastrous landslide, a vast number of Sasquatch Mountain Resort guests, employees and Hemlock Valley residents breathed a collective sigh of relief. They could finally make their way down the mountain.
Activity to and from the resort came to an abrupt halt this past weekend as the adverse weather conditions worsened and caused a landslide that rendered Hemlock Valley Rd. – the one way in and out of Sasquatch Mountain Resort by ground – completely impassable. The mountain was originally closed on Friday afternoon due to avalanche risk, high winds and heavy rains.
While the road remained closed to the public throughout the weekend and early this week, an evacuation lane opened at 12 p.m. on Monday and again early Tuesday morning. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) escort vehicles led groups down the mountain and the lanes opened again later in the day on Monday to allow locals and staff time to head back up the mountain with supplies.
Some locals took the ordeal in stride.
“It wasn’t too big of a problem, honestly,” said Donovan Weiss, who works at Sasquatch Mountain Resort. He said he had enough food to last while stranded and knew power would be out for a little while.
“We just kept the mood positive; I hung out with my homies up there and just made the best of it,” he added. After a quick gas station fill-up and a supply run, he said he’d be heading right back up to the resort before daylight faded.
Hemlock Valley volunteer firefighter Jim Briar filled up his snow-covered pickup truck at a gas station not far from the scene on Monday. He joked that on the plus side, he wouldn’t have to go to work that day.
Briar is no stranger to losing power up on the mountain. His concern was primarily for the resort guests and tourists who didn’t have the supplies for this unforeseen disaster.
“Generally people go up to the cabins for the weekend, so they only take food for the weekend,” Briar said. “It was really neat to see to see the unity. The residents came together, we collected food so that the people who didn’t have as much food would have availability to get food, gasoline was made available for those people on the hill. It was really, really nice to see.”
BC Hydro restored power to the resort and village on Sunday afternoon; until that point, the resort’s lodge had power and the guests were able to utilize the cafeteria for their needs.
Throughout the weekend, TRK helicopters offered shuttle services to Chilliwack Airport for those stranded at the resort for $150 per person; 12 people could travel per run.
Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness tweeted his thoughts on air evacuations late Monday night.
“[Hundreds] at Hemlock Valley in my riding had to pay $150 to be evacuated by helicopter this weekend,” he wrote. “According to B.C.’s Evacuation Operational Guide, this is the responsibility of the government and should be repaid.”
“I think the people on Hemlock should be treated like every other one trapped in that situation,” he added. “We had about 40 homes on Rockwell Dr. that were stranded by the flood, and they were evacuated for nothing.”
Throness further chastised the government for its lack of maintenance to Hemlock Valley Rd. in the first place.
“The substructure of that road has never been properly done,” he said. “Some of the grades are very steep – up to 19 per cent. That’s too steep for any normal road. The government needs to do some work in the long-term future, paving all the way up to the resort.”
Throness said he is in touch with the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth concerning the state of Hemlock Valley Rd. and Rockwell Dr. in Harrison and concerning reimbursement for those flown out of Sasquatch Mountain this past weekend.
Drive BC says there is no detour available.
Black Press reporter Katya Slepian contributed to this report.