British Columbia

Mudslide traps hundreds at B.C. ski resort with helicopter only exit route

Hundreds of people have to sit tight for days — or pay for a helicopter trip — at a ski resort in the Fraser Valley after a mudslide near Agassiz, B.C., washed out the only access road.

Road access washed away, repairs could take nearly a week

Heavy rains caused a mudslide to washout much of Hemlock Valley Road on Friday evening. (Submitted by Marketa Kapur )

UPDATE: Stranded for days by mudslide on a B.C. mountain, visitors could be waiting days more


Hundreds of people stuck at a ski resort in the Fraser Valley are trying to make the best of it as crews scramble to repair the only access road, while more than 100 patrons paid for helicopter rides to get out.

On Friday evening, heavy rains caused a mudslide to wash out much of Hemlock Valley Road outside Agassiz, B.C., which leads to Sasquatch Mountain Resort.

"We were one of the last cars to get through the road — that's the scary part," said Marketa Kapur, who drove up on Friday night. 

"The road was like a river, it was dark and hard to see. It was a pretty scary drive up." 

Since the mudslide, there has been no vehicle access to the resort.

On Saturday, the resort partnered with a local helicopter company to fly some people off the mountain to the airport in Chilliwack at a cost of $150 each. The company is also flying in supplies.

Kapur caught one of those rides out on Sunday. 

Sasquatch Mountain Resort spokesperson Shelby Lim says guests are taking it all in stride after heavy rains destroyed the only road leading to the resort. 3:49

'Winter wonderland'

Earlier in the weekend, up to 500 people were stuck at the ski hill.

The weather also cut power to the site, but staff say the resort has generator power.

"Everyone has been calm and supportive and understanding," said Shelby Lim, director of sales, marketing and development for the resort, over the phone.

"We're in a situation beyond our control and there is no place better to be. You're up here in a winter wonderland."

Since the mudslide, there has been no vehicle access to the resort. (Submitted by Marketa Kapur)

The resort had planned to host a ski race over the weekend. Many skiers and their families were already on the mountain.

Lim said everyone there, including some staff, has accommodation.

Shane Geringer pictured at the airport in Chilliwack, after hitching a ride out by helicopter on Sunday afternoon. (Harman/CBC News)

Shane Geringer was stuck at the ski resort from Friday until Sunday afternoon, when he flew out by helicopter.

"We're happy to be out — but we had a great time," he said.

"Lots of food, the lodge was amazing and they took care of everyone on the mountain." 

Those coming off the mountain described a sense of community at the lodge, with shared food and comradery. (Submitted by Marketa Kapur)

Six more days before fix

On Saturday, the province said one kilometre of the road was washed out. Crews are removing debris.

The plan is to restore one lane and implement single-lane alternating traffic, but in a statement the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said that could take up to six days to complete.

Randy Mark, the owner of TRK Helicopters in Langley, says he was originally contacted by a parent who hoped he could fly their three children off the mountain. Later the resort contacted him about doing ongoing flights.

"Why not?" he said about the idea. "The aircraft was just sitting in Langley, seems like the right thing to be doing."

The helicopter being used can hold 12 people. A round trip takes between 35 and 40 minutes, said Marks. He said the fee passengers are paying is just to cover costs. 

Flights continued until nightfall on Sunday.  Marks said more flights may be done on Monday.

Shelby Lim speaks for the Sasquatch Mountain Resort. (CBC)

Lim says more than 100 people have left so far. Those who are willing to sit it out aren't suffering, she added.

"We have Super Bowl going on," she said Sunday afternoon.

Lim said a local state of emergency and water shut off due to a main break aren't affecting the resort, which has its own water.

As for food, Lim says the resort is stocked for days as it was expecting up to 2,000 people to be at the resort over the weekend.

"We are well supplied for the weekend and into the early week. And anything that we feel like we'll be missing or need to top up on, we have the helicopter bringing up for us," she said.