North Shore Ski Hill Backcountry Parking

The following updates are on recent parking restrictions implemented by the commercial ski hills operating within Mount Seymour Provincial Park and Cypress Provincial Park.  Information on BC Parks’ Ski Hill Policy is also included as discussions have been ongoing with regards to maintaining public access to these parks.

August, 2015

Summer Parking at Mt. Seymour Provincial Park

For the past few summers, the very top end of the Mt. Seymour ski area parking lot (by the BC Parks kiosk) is now “gated” by concrete lock blocks.  This is  because the ski hill operator has heavy equipment intermittently using that part of the parking lot to move construction machinery around and/or stockpile materials while performing ski run or lift maintenance in preparation for the next season.

The gated section takes up about the last 70 metres (15%) of the upper parking lot and leaves more than 800 parking spots available therefore the FMCBC does not see this as an access issue. The public can also detour to the east side near the First Aid station to avoid that area completely.

Our main concern is still access for winter backcountry visitors who are still being excluded from all parking within the Commercial Recreation Area (down to the machinery shed).  This access restriction is relatively inconvenient and poses safety concerns.


July, 2015

BC Parks Draft Ski Resort Policy

We still have concerns with BC Parks Draft Ski Resort Policy and believe that further review of the following points is necessary to ensure that BC Parks responsibilities to protect the natural environments and facilitate public access for non-commercial, non-motorized recreation within Class A Parks remain the priority.  If you agree with us you can send an email directly to BC Parks through our online email form.

  1. A 60-year lease is too long for a commercial ski hill operating within a Class A Park. Such a long-term lease will make it difficult to respond to changes in recreation opportunities, capacity and visitor management and climate. National parks maximum lease length is 42 years. We feel that this should be the maximum for a provincial park.
  2. The draft policy states that changes to existing ski resort plans will be made public once the development plans are approved. We feel that the public needs to have adequate opportunities for consultation during the planning stages before development plans are approved.
  3. Roles and responsibilities for capacity and visitor management must be clearly set out and require public consultation before implementation
  4. The draft policy in its current form concentrates on commercial use and development in parks. So as not to lose sight of the original intent of parks which was for non-motorized recreation and access to wild and natural areas, we feel that maintenance of traditional and low impact recreation opportunities should be clearly addressed and protected through wording in this draft policy.
  5. The integrity of our parks and free public access to them should not be sacrificed to ski hill commercial viability. Restrictions on public use of the parks due to ski hill operations should be minimal and the need for public access should not come secondary to the operators’ need for profits.

April, 2015

BC Parks Draft Ski Resort Policy

Organizations such as BC Nature and the Friends of Cypress Provincial Park sent in letters to BC Parks expressing concern regarding the BC Parks’ Draft Ski Resort Policy which will affect ski resort operations within Mount Seymour, Cypress and Manning Provincial Parks. Today the FMCBC sent in a letter with our comments on sections of the policy which are of concern to our members as identified by our Recreation and Conservation Committee.  For more background on this draft policy, please see our comments on BC Parks Intentions Paper.

October, 2014

Cypress and Mt. Seymour Winter Update

The increase in the number of snowshoers visiting these two parks to freely access the backcountry (as opposed to using and paying for the operators’ groomed and marked snow shoe trails) has produced parking problems during “peak operating periods” of the resorts which occur about 20-30 days per season. These problems were briefly reviewed on page 10 of the last Cloudburst issue (Spring/Summer 2014) and there has several stakeholder meetings (which included the FMCBC) over the last few years.

As a result of these meetings, in August 2014 BC Parks issued a Discussion Paper entitled “Public Access and Parking Capacity_Discussion Paper”. BC Parks will be meeting with both Cypress and Mount Seymour operators over the next short while to confirm some short term measures that will be implemented this winter, as well as scoping out the actions we are considering for the medium- and long-term.  More details will be published as they come available.


July, 2014

FMCBC comments on BC Parks Ski Resort Policy Intentions Paper

Jodi Appleton

The FMCBC submitted comments to BC Parks on their Ski Resort Policy Intentions Paper.  A Ski Resort Policy is being developed by BC Parks to provide guidance for the three commercial ski resorts (Cypress Mountain, Mount Seymour and E.C. Manning) located within the provincial parks system.  This policy will provide direction for the management and administration of park use permits which authorize ski resort activities within these parks.

Members from the Southwest BC Recreation and Conservation Committee reviewed the Intentions Paper and submitted the following concerns:

The committee feels that the proposed park use permit term length of 60 years is too long and should be shortened to 30 years.

Committee members have experienced operational problems at both Cypress Mountain and Mount Seymour ski hills which have been creating safety concerns and restricting free access to the backcountry.  Members would like to see safety and maintaining free backcountry access included in the policy.

The committee has requested the opportunity to offer further input once a draft policy is developed.

The Friends of Cypress Provincial Park Society have also submitted comments on BC Park’s Intentions Paper.  You can read their concerns here.

February, 2013

Cypress and Mt. Seymour Winter parking restrictions increase

Alex Wallace (Trails Committee Co-Chair)

FMCBC has had several meetings in the last year to try and resolve the issue of parking restrictions at Mt Seymour and although these have been informative, no resolution has been reached. BC Parks is monitoring the situation and gathering data by several means on numbers of backcountry users at both Cypress and Mount Seymour parks (where the backcountry parking restrictions are now in place) and a Mount Seymour Park planning process is expected to roll out in the next few months. BC Parks has asked for feedback, and FMCBC is encouraging this – as the snow could be gone and the ski hills shut down for the season by the time the Park planning process actually gets going.

The Cypress ski operation unexpectedly started restricting Cypress Bowl snowshoer parking in January, despite earlier claims at our meeting that it had no plans to do so; and as we understand it, they do not have the legal right to separate parking into paying and non-paying. Most experienced backcountry visitors at Cypress are simply ignoring the parking signs (which direct snowshoers’ vehicles into the “Overnight Parking” area of Lot 3B), as this location is more than 700 metres from the trailheads and most days the lots are largely empty. However some people, possibly less familiar with the situation or new to the area, are using the designated “snowshoe” parking as directed by the sign. This could create a problem if they get into trouble (especially if they are unfamiliar with the terrain at Cypress) and their cars are in the overnight parking area for some time before the alarm is raised and a search is started. Another safety concern is that the designated location has no staffing which means that unlike normal ski area situations where you are directed where to line up to park and traffic is controlled, for Lot 3B vehicles are traveling at a high rate of speed into, or out of, the ski area, and visibility has often been poor this winter due to fog. (My experience was that a vehicle loomed out of the fog with no headlights on as I crossed the yellow line to get over into Lot 3B).

Mt Seymour does have the right to control parking in the CRA parking lots as they still operate under their original 1984 Park Use Permit 1505 which was issued when the Social Credit government sold off the Cypress and Seymour ski operations for $500,000 each. The Lot 5 that has been created for backcountry users at Seymour is effectively the west side of the road below the ski area, and on their busy days it also obviously is filled up on a first come basis as in most ski areas, so it is difficult to understand how it helps the ski hill- as on quiet days the lots are mostly empty and there is apparently no concern about where snowshoers might park. Lot 5 may also be restricted in future years as the ski hill intends to expand its customer base to pay for the new ski lift installed in 2012, so we are looking to the Seymour planning process to see what the long-term solution is. It would be quite expensive to build more parking lots at Mt Seymour, and this would of course be at public expense, to add to the road maintenance, paving and clearing that is also paid for by the taxpayer.

Cypress no longer has the right to restrict parking in its Park Use Permit 1506 following the 1995 Williams Planning Commission which was set up by Mike Harcourt specifically to resolve access and expansion issues such as these. The current winter parking restrictions came after Cypress stated in December that it had no proposal to put forward, and these appear to be unenforceable. Possibly the ski operation feels that it now has to fend off any ‘overflow’ of snowshoers from Mt Seymour, as this is the user group that the ski hills both feel is threatening their economic existence (blaming ‘Big Box sports stores’, suggesting that snowshoes should have a special  ‘parking  tax’, and overlooking the fact that the ski hills have themselves been vigorously marketing snowshoeing to the public for several years).

FMCBC’s observation on the ground is that snowshoeing has taken over and continues to grow as the main “self-propelled”  public recreation activity on the North Shore in winter, and this has been matched by a massive drop in backcountry skiing, (we suspect that this user group has gone in search of quieter areas) with the balance being roughly  98% snowshoeing and 2% backcountry skiing.  So it could be said that there has been a switch in users rather than backcountry users monopolizing the ski area parking lots. Granted, Cypress has put a lot of effort into bus transport, however this has to run on a schedule even on the inevitable weeks of rain, so environmentally this is a debatable solution, plus it is subsidized by the ski hill out of revenue.

The Cypress ski hill operator owns the lodge that was built prior to the 2010 Olympics, and any ski facilities, including the small ‘private’ parking lot they built adjacent to their lodge, but the land in the park is public land, and the recent repairs to the Cypress Bowl Road, including the Nordic area access where snowshoers park for access to Hollyburn, were funded by Ministry of Transportation and cost close to $250,000. Snow clearing the provincial park highway up to Cypress costs the taxpayer $400,000 annually (similar to clearing the 20km of road up to Mount Seymour), but in both cases the ski hills pay the snow clearing costs for the actual ski area parking lots in the parks. They believe that this should give them exclusive control of parking, despite the general public view that on public land it should be public parking, free, and on a first come first serve basis. One local MLA has suggested that pay parking in winter would be the solution, but it is extremely unlikely that this will be implemented, given that the ski hills compete for customers.

As noted above, any feedback or experience of these parking restrictions, which may increase in future, should be directed to BC Parks’ Senior planner Vicki Haberl or Ranger Supervisor Larry Syroishko.  All BC Government contact numbers are searchable in the handy BC Government Directory:

[Note that “Sea to Sky Parks”  given as the local contact on the Mount Seymour Park webpage is in fact the Mt Seymour Resorts Park Facility Operator (PFO) division, which maintains and operates most of the Lower Mainland provincial parks on behalf of BC Parks. So in fact it is the ski hill itself,… not BC Parks.]

December, 2012

Winter Parking restrictions Update.

Mount Seymour Resorts has again implemented an interim Winter Parking system that is intended {November to April} to give them parking spots for as many of their paying customers as possible on busy days: they refer to these Peak Days as those 18- 20 days when the ski hills (Seymour and Cypress) are at full capacity and the mountain cannot accommodate the demand, i.e. some days there isn’t enough parking. Mount Seymour has the right to set this up under their 50-year Park Use Permit # 1505 signed in 1984.

FMC has twice been in meetings this year with BC Parks and Mt Seymour to discuss this issue, and it should be noted that a full BC Parks Mt Seymour Management Plan process will start in the New Year in a similar format to the Garibaldi and Golden Ears BC Parks planning processes currently under way, so the public will get a chance to comment on the future of Mt Seymour. However the current setup is that non-paying customers are directed either to Lot 5, which is effectively the side of the road below the base area- where a ‘snow cat’ track is being maintained all the way to the BC Parks kiosk and backcountry trailhead. In this way, access is still maintained, and one way we have been asked to see this re-allocation is that it is adding at least seven minutes of travel to a day trip of several hours.

So far the ski hill has clarified their position by informing the public with clear signage and a description and map on their website, so people at least know what to expect.

The other alternative is to use Lot 1 , which is at the switchback 1km below the base area where the Old Cabin trail starts, and in good conditions this trail is a scenic hike connecting to the Perimeter Trail – which then leads to the base area. However this roughly 2Km hike can be icy, needs some navigation skills, and is not convenient for everyone, although a shuttle bus may be provided on busy days. There are also the traditional 4 overnight parking spots in the NW corner of Lot 2, and these will be maintained all winter for overnight trips.

Mt Seymour was first climbed in 1908 and the ski hill has been running since 1937, so there is a historical context. Mount Seymour Resorts also works as the Park Facility Operator in almost every Provincial Park in the Lower Mainland, (with the exception of Cypress) through its maintenance arm called “Sea to Sky Parks”. This is the outfit that people often phone with complaints, but it is not part of BC Parks, it is their maintenance contractor as BC Parks only has 2 or 3 rangers in the Lower Mainland. The Mount Seymour ski operation has noted that they would like to explore the possibility with BC Parks of more parking lots being built, however, as there isn’t any bench land that hasn’t already been built on or paved in past decades, this would be an expensive proposition with substantial amounts of fill brought in, or excavation, and paving paid for by the taxpayer in either case-  to build a new lot in the wetland area West of the existing main lot – and these parking lot spaces would, of course, be surplus to requirements except on peak days and therefore would stand Empty and unused at least 340 days of the year.

FMC will continue to work on this issue on behalf of backcountry users, as well as working on getting the hiking trails upgraded, because there clearly are numerous trail repair and maintenance issues at Mt Seymour outstanding, with the only scheduled repairs in 2013 being to the Lower Old Buck trail, which is the ‘mixed–use trail’ lower down near the golf course.

We will inform members of the BC Parks Planning process for Mt Seymour timeline as soon as we have details.

Alex Wallace, for SW Trails Committee and Rec and Con.

February, 2012

Mt. Seymour Parking Restrictions

The 2011-2012 season at Mt. Seymour has seen new parking restrictions in place which some people have felt are both unfair and potentially unsafe.  The FMCBC has been monitoring the situation and Alex Wallace (Trails Committee Co-Chair), Brian Wood (FMCBC Past President) and Scott Webster (FMCBC President) met with BC Parks and Eddie Wood who is the President and General Manager of the Mt. Seymour Resort on January 31st to try and resolve the situation.

Because the commercial ski area is operated within a park, many people believed that Mt. Seymour did not have the right to control the parking, but BC Parks has confirmed that they do have the legal right to enforce parking restrictions under their 1984 Park Use Permit (PUP 1505) which gives them exclusive control of the ski area parking lots 2, 3 and 4. Parking lot 1 (CBC Lot) is down below the ski area and outside their control, although they clear it in winter under their snow clearing contract with Ministry of Highways.

Many people also thought that the restriction was being based on backcountry park user versus paying ski hill customer, but according to Eddie Wood, the restriction is based on activity [snowshoeing] and not whether a person is paying to use the ski hill or not.

FMCBC made the point that there was a lack of communication and signage when the new parking restrictions were put in place, but signage has now improved and Mt. Seymour and BC Parks are planning to get the word out that there are new parking arrangements for snowshoers, and also that access to the backcountry trails has not been restricted. The five “Overnight” parking spots in Lot 2 ( Toboggan Lot) are to be maintained for backcountry visitors on multi-day trips in winter, as in past years – and this is one feature of the new arrangement that FMCBC is continuing to monitor closely .

Mt. Seymour has created a new parking lot (Lot 5) which is effectively just the shoulder on the west side of the road below Lot 4 (the upper lot) heading downhill.  All snowshoers are required to angle park in these spots and the resort is working on increasing the safety of these spots: in freezing conditions cars will be angle parked right on the cat track (on snow) some days and off the road completely.

Backcountry skiers can still use the ski area lots, but snowshoers (paying and non-paying) are restricted to parking in Lot 5, especially on busy days when they will be directed by resort staff to park further down the hill as far as Lot 1.  Snowshoers are then encouraged to walk up the cat track rather than the road for safety – a hike of 600 metres on snow.  BC Parks recognizes that it is an extended trip.  If parking extends to Lot 1 and the resort is running a shuttle, then all users, paying and non-paying will be allowed to use it, as Lot 1 is 1.6 km from the trailhead.

Mt. Seymour’s reasoning behind this division of activities is that snowshoers generally have less gear than skiers and can use their gear to climb the hill whereas skiers have to carry their gear. In addition, the FMCBC was told that it is also a response to the steadily growing number of snowshoers using the ski resort parking spaces over the last five years.  The resort decided that a new strategy had to be put in place at some point as each year the number of snowshoers is increasing and the alternative would be for the ski area operator to request the government, as the landowner, to construct a new parking lot of significant size.  Given the lack of bench land at Mt Seymour in the base area or nearby, this would likely be an expensive and environmentally costly project considering these new parking spaces would be empty 350 days of the year.  Mt. Seymour’s current solution to develop separated snowshoe parking is an attempt to prevent more parking lot construction and taxpayer expense.

Alex Wallace, Brian Wood and Scott Webster plan to continue the discussion and look into some other concerns with regards to parking at Mt. Seymour.  When they learn more we will report out to FMCBC members again.

If you wish to send in your comments regarding the new parking restrictions at Mt. Seymour please note that “Sea to Sky Parks” is actually the park facility branch of Mt Seymour Resorts.  Your comments may be better directed to BC Parks Directly or to the FMCBC.

New Park Master Plan: The FMCBC was told at the start of the meeting that a Park Master Planning process is to be implemented in 2012/2013 as both the existing Ski Area Master Plan and Park Master Plan for Mt Seymour are now considered too outdated to function effectively.  This was unexpected news, and Mt Seymour is apparently #3 in line for a Park Master planning process after Garibaldi (already under way) and Golden Ears.  The public process and Open Houses will be venues for park users and paying customers to express their views on all aspects of the Mount Seymour situation. It is worth noting that the new area manager for BC Parks Southwest Region is Brandin Schultz, formerly a BC Parks planner based in Smithers.