Cypress Mountain Resort has added a new pay parking system for backcountry users who park near the downhill resort  (and don’t park in Lot 3B).  I went up to check the situation out in early January on a nice sunny weekday.  A flashing billboard warns about parking fees for backcountry users and a new wooden booth or shed has appeared at the west end of Lot 3B that appears to be for a Cypress MR employee.

Lot 3B is the first large parking lot you reach after the Nordic area turnoff about 1 km east of the Cypress Creek Lodge near the Cypress MR downhill area in Cypress Provincial Park.  It is just outside of the “controlled recreation area” or CRA that Cypress MR has a park use permit to operate.  There are three other parking lots in the downhill area:  Lot 1 close to the new Cypress Creek Lodge which has had pay parking for a couple of years now.  Lot 2 is the south lot closer to the old Black Mountain Lodge.  Lot 3A is the second lot on the south side of the road as you approach the downhill area.

A sign in the booth at the northwest end of Lot 3B is shown below that explains partially the rules.  The same sign is in the Black Mountain Lodge backcountry room.

If you don’t want to pay for parking, then park in Lot 3B and get a bit more exercise – ski, snowshoe or walk 1 km to the gate.  On nice days all the other lots are usually full so you will save time by parking in Lot 3B and not searching for a spot.  If you are going through the backcountry access corridor and want to park in Lot 2 or 3A, you have to go into the Backcountry room in the Black Mountain Lodge and pay $10 in the meter.

Since I’m the director of Access and Environment for the Alpine Club Vancouver Section, a couple of our members contacted me in late December complaining that Cypress wasn’t being nice to people going through the gate beside the Cypress Creek Lodge.

Backcountry users have free access to the park area beyond the downhill area.  You just have to get a backcountry access pass or sticker that has a legal disclaimer on it.  The pass  is available in a room in the Black Mountain Lodge or from the new “shed” at the west end of Lot 3B.  Now they want you to get a stamp from a Cypress MR employee to prove that you have parked in Lot 3B.  However, it seems they don’t have an employee at the new shed very often.

The complication with pay parking is that they don’t seem to trust you if you say that you parked in Lot 3B.  I emailed Russell Chamberlain the president of Cypress MR and had a conference call with him the first week of January.  He said that they were still working on their messaging for their website and that he would make sure that the “gatekeeper” isn’t too aggressive at insisting for the stamp on the BAC pass.  I told Russell that users could get dropped off by a downhill skier/boarder, be separated from their driver and that it seemed pretty expensive to have someone sitting in Lot 3B just to mark the tags.  I suppose Cypress MR knows how many snowshoers and public users go across the backcountry access corridor.  It seems kind of greedy that they want to charge for parking but I suppose they are trying to conserve parking spots for their paying customers.

Parking at both Cypress and Seymour is complicated since they are public parks where the roads and parking lots were built and paid for by taxpayers.  Also, the government provides funding for road maintenance, snow removal and de-icing on the highways up to the controlled recreation area boundary.  However, we don’t really know if that funding is reasonable or excessive.  In the 80s when the ski areas were privatized, the parking lots were included in the controlled recreation areas which is problematic.

The government was considering using access reservations for backcountry users to control the numbers of cars that come up the mountain.  However, there is lots of room for backcountry users in the provincial parks. There is more of an issue with capacity on the lifts.  I’m sure the line-up for one chair was approximately an hour on the sunny weekday that I was there.

The real issue is the limited parking that can’t be expanded much.  On a sunny day or after a fresh snowfall all the parking lots are full by 8 or 9 am and that can cause traffic chaos.  By the way there is a new Twitter account to check for parking updates:  @Cypress_Park_PO

Back to my story…. On my trip with skis, I didn’t have any issues crossing the gate.  The gatekeeper can’t really tell the difference between skiers or boarders.  Skiers will probably only get bugged before about 8:45am when they open the gate for downhill users.  One snowshoer I didn’t ask told me that the gatekeeper bugged him for crossing the gate with no proof that he had parked in Lot 3B.  I suggest that if the gatekeeper gives you a bad time, tell him that Russell Chamberlain the president was supposed to tell the employees to not be too pushy with park users.  Maybe take a picture of the empty shed – that might convince the employee that you parked in Lot 3B.

At the Nordic area the situation hasn’t really changed.  The prime parking area for the Hikers Access Trail to Hollyburn is just outside the controlled recreation area (north of the power lines).  They have always discouraged backcountry users from using the Nordic parking lot past the turn-around.

Let us know what you think the FMCBC should do about this issue.

Written by Jay MacArthur, ACC Vancouver Section