West Kelowna News
Big White Ski Resort is extending skiing and snowboarding privileges to all Crystal Mountain, West Kelowna BC, seasons pass holders by offering a complimentary lift ticket Saturday, March 8 and or Sunday, March 9.
“We reached out to Mike Morin, General Manager of Crystal Mountain and offered resort skiing privileges to his pass holders for the weekend,” commented Michael J Ballingall, Senior Vice President of Big White Ski Resort.
Here is the tweet from Crystal Mountain:
"We have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is we will not be opening this weekend. The good news is that our friends at Big White Ski Resort and Apex Mountain Resort, have invited all Crystal Mountain Resort seasons pass-holders to ski and board this weekend ONLY for FREE!! Many thanks to #BigWhiteSkiResort and #ApexMountainResort!"
“We just think it’s the neighbourly thing to do knowing how busy Mike and his team are; we thought we’d make sure his pass holders are looked after for the weekend. The one thing we all know is skiers and snowboarders never want to miss a day of Okanagan Champagne Powder.”
Crystal Mountain seasons pass holders just have to present their valid season pass to the main ticket office in the Village Centre Mall located at the top on the gondola at Big White Ski Resort to receive a complimentary day lift ticket.
Any questions regarding the above should be directed to the main ticket office, Big White Ski Resort 250-491-6121 or ticket office manager, Manon Maley at [email protected]
Customers are encouraged to park in the Happy Valley parking lot.
The BC Safety Authority released their preliminary findings into the incident which caused three chairs to strike the ground at Crystal Mountain Saturday morning, injuring four people.
Jason Gill, Provincial Safety Manager of Passenger Ropeways and Amusement Devices with the safety authority, has been on site since Saturday along with two BCSA safety officers.
"Preliminary findings indicate that a swinging chair struck a tower causing a full deropement," says Gill.
"A non-functioning tensioning system was also discovered and is being considered as a possible contributing factor to the incident. We have now been able to get the chairlift to an operational state and the next phase of the investigation will require dynamic tests in order to perform further analysis of the installation."
Gill says the chairlift, which first went into operation in 1967, was last inspected by the BCSA on Dec. 11 of last year.
"While older chairlifts are generally safe when maintained properly, we are also looking at what conditions may have changed since our last assessment," says Gill.
"An incident of this nature is extremely uncommon and mechanical or structural failures resulting in injuries to passengers are rare. Chairlifts in BC are very safe and most incidents involve rider error, usually during loading or unloading from the lift."
Gill says the number of reported injuries from passenger ropeways has steadily declined every year since 2009.
According to officials with Crystal Mountain, three of the four people injured have been released from Kelowna General Hospital.
Crystal Mountain's operating licence has been suspended pending the results of the investigation.
Mountain operators hope to be able to re-open next Thursday.
Crystal Mountain Resort will remain closed for at least the next two days, but management continues to hold out hope they will be able to open Saturday.
The latest update from dHz Media, the communications company representing the mountain, says all four passengers injured when a double chairlift collapsed last weekend are recovering.
Three of the people injured worked at the mountain, including two members of the ski patrol and one ski instructor. The fourth person injured was a 45-year-old taking lessons.
Only one of the ski patrol members remains in hospital, having suffered some broken ribs, a broken clavicle and damage to the vertebrae in her back. She has recently been taken out of intensive care.
Her husband, the other ski patrol member, sustained bruising on his lower limb but no broken bones.
The 16-year-old ski instructor broke his arm in the fall, and his student sustained broken ribs.
The BC Safety Authority is still trying to get the chairlift working, in order to complete their investigation. More information will be released once that is concluded.
“Until I know our lifts are 100 per cent safe, we will remain closed,” says Mike Morin, general manager of Crystal Mountain Resort.
“We are doing everything in our power to assist the investigation so we can get the resort back up and running as soon as possible.”
They will not make a decision on refunds of discounts for season pass holders until the investigation has been completed. The mountain says its tentative closing date for the season will be March 23.
Monday's snow storm and icy road conditions sent a local waste systems truck down a steep hill off Westside Road.
Truck company, O.K. Environmental Waste Systems, president Lance Shaw says it was just bad weather and bad luck that sent his driver down the bank.
“The driver started climbing back out of the easement road and got half way up the hill and then couldn't get all the way up and the truck starting sliding backwards and sideways and he couldn't stop it and he just slid backwards over the embankment,” said Shaw.
Both the driver and the truck got away relatively unscathed with approximately $2,000 of minor damage to the truck.
The company then had to work with a tow company to get the large vehicle back up onto the road, which was quite the task. Shaw says the company took precautions to ensure there was no environmental damage.
“We pulled out the hydraulic fluid and diesel fuel out of the truck before the wreckers came to pull it out just in case there was some damage when it came out of the ditch,” said Shaw.
O.K. Environmental Waste Systems says it was a very minor incident and the truck will be up and running again soon. Shaw says no fluids of any kind leaked out of the truck.
A father and son are sharing their harrowing story of survival after the collapse of a chairlift at Crystal Mountain on Saturday.
Paul Gervais, felt compelled to come forward to Castanet after social media was flooded with those supporting the mountain and downplaying the incident as minor. He says, for his son and him, it was terrifying.
“It was all nice and peaceful you know, some really nice father son time, I just looked over at Kota and I said, ‘Love you buddy’ and he said love you too dad,” shared Gervais.
“Then without warning, no speeding up or slowing down, no noise, no vibration or anything just like getting struck by lightning, the chair shot straight up into the air and Dakota shot straight out of it.”
According to the pair the chair then came crashing down and dad was able to quickly grab his son and hold on before the chair went up and crashed down again.
“I was hanging on to him and we were both sort of hanging there and we starting sinking and I realized we didn’t have a seat anymore,” says Gervais. “I looked down below and realized that all the pieces of our seat were on the snow below us.”
Gervais then used all his strength to hold himself up with one arm and hold his son with the other. He screamed for help and urged them to not restart the lift.
“Koda was yelling ‘Dad, I'm going to fall I'm going to fall!’ and I yelled back ‘there is no way I'm going to let you fall, I'm not going to let you fall!’”
He told Castanet he knew nothing would cause him to let go of his son, but he was scared the whole chair itself would come loose causing them both to hurtle to the ground.
“I just remember looking up at the cable and wondering how a chair lift is built and why the one behind us is on the ground and if ours was going to fall and in my head I'm wondering ‘is this how I am going to die? In a chairlift?,’” shuddered Gervais.
Dakota Gervais, who's eight, showed real bravery through the whole incident, never crying once and remaining calm.
“I was just mostly freaked out that my dad’s hand was going to slip out and I was going to fall to the ground, but luckily his hand didn’t slip and I didn’t fall,” explained the youngster.
“You know parents come up with surprising strength and will, and when it is our kids, we do whatever we can to keep them safe,” added Paul Gervais.
Shortly after Castanet broke the story many wrote on our site, and in social media that the event was being sensationalized, but to this father and son there was nothing small about it.
“I saw this guy on the news, and read others on Castanet last night saying 'oh you know, it was really fun getting down, it was no big deal', well it wasn’t like that for me,” says a frustrated Gervais.
“We are beat up right now and if I would have lost grip of my son and been stranded in mid air looking down at him in the snow, I can’t even think about it,” adds Gervais shaking his head.
“I had one arm keeping me up and the other hanging on to my son and then they send the t-bar up and say ok just get that between his legs and wrap the rope around him like it is easy and I'm thinking, 'how the hell I am supposed to do that?'.”
Dad explains that his incredibly brave son managed to wiggle between his legs and then the 8-year-old basically stood up on skis onto the wet t-bar frame and dad managed to slip the rope around him and lowered him to the ground.
“There was no safety rope and if there was even one little slip he would have fallen right to the ground,” said a shaken Gervais. “Even a strong grown man is not going to be able to catch an 8-year-old in skis falling 25-feet.”
The two got away with bruising and dad has a wrenched neck, but both are grateful to be alive.
“It’s a parent's worse fear, anything ever happening to their kids, you’re there and you are just skiing and having fun and I would never have been able to get over that, obviously, nobody could,” said Gervais at the thought of his son falling.
Gervais told Castanet he felt the mountain was not prepared.
“You know the guy below us is yelling on his radio, ‘I only have Level 1 First Aid, I only have Level 1’ and although they had quick response and did the evacuation and everyone was trying to help, you could tell it was overwhelming, a lot of people were hurt and scrambling.”
The mountain stands behind their response, their actions and their maintenance claiming they are just as shocked as everyone else.
“That lift has been in operation since 1967 and I have been here for 20-years and we have never had anything even come close to that on this lift so I honestly don’t know what went wrong,” said Crystal Mountain general manager Mike Morin.
Morin says the mountain follows all the rules and does all required maintenance and inspection.
The general manager did not mention an $8000 fine the mountain received last year because of a safety violation on a chairlift.
“We are followed by the safety authority, they are very rigorous at making sure the lifts are safe, they come up once or twice a year to make sure that everything is right,” said Morin.
Castanet has confirmed the mountain's lifts were inspected in Dec. 2013.
“We do maintenance on the lift for a good four months a year, so basically for every day we are open there is a day of maintenance done on the lift. So, the lifts are very well maintained, we have very stringent codes that we have to follow so I am anxious as everybody else to find out what the root cause was,” added Morin.
He says his staff, volunteers and management team are just like everyone else and desperate for answers.
“I honestly don’t know what happened and the lift inspector is talking to all witnesses to try to get more facts and I hope that their detective's know-how will find a root cause. I really want to know. I don’t want anyone getting hurt on the lift,” said a remorseful Morin.
Morin also had a different take on the rescue of those who were still stuck on the lift. He didn't even mention the ordeal the Gervaises went through.
"There was roughly a dozen chairs that had people on them anywhere from one and two customers on it. And it took us about an hour to get them off. Nobody that got evacuated off the lift had any concerns. Their was one person who was afraid to get off the chair, but that is typical. You're slipping off of a chair and you're relying on people down there, that they are not going to drop you. That was not an issue for anyone hurting themselves that way."
As for the Gervais family, they are doing well, but want to ensure the chairlift is fixed entirely and that no one else has to fear a day on the hill.
“You know, I don’t want to be all beat up. You go there for a fun family day, you pay your couple hundred bucks for lessons and you go out and Kota had just got a new helmet and he’s getting jacked about skiing and then you know some -year-old chairlift lets you down.
You know I am thinking as a dad, I am the one that said let’s go skiing, and I am the one that said two weeks ago, don’t worry son these things never fall, and it is going to haunt me forever.”
And to those who spoke on the event, but weren’t hanging for life from a chair that had disintegrated the senior Gervais says,“You know, it was a big deal. I thought I was going to lose my life that day, or my son's or both, so I just don’t want this brushed off.”
Send photos and video to [email protected]
The BC Safety Authority (BCSA) is still at Crystal Mountain today, trying to determine what caused four people to receive various injuries after a chairlift crashed to the ground on Saturday.
The mountain’s operating licence has already been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation, and Castanet has learned the ski hill was fined last year after a similar investigation.
“We issued a compliance order in early 2013 under the category of failure to address a safety hazard,” says Quinn Newcomb, a spokesperson with BC Safety Authority.
“And then we also issued them a monetary penalty of $8,000 for failure to comply with a safety order.”
He was unable to get into specifics, but did say that issue also had to do with a chairlift, but the reason for that safety order is not related to this latest incident.
Newcomb goes on to say the BC Safety Authority conducts inspections on a regular basis and does so before granting operating permits. In addition, they perform periodic inspections and were last at Crystal Mountain in 2013.
These inspections are based on a resource assessment program that determines which chairlifts should be high priority for inspections. And of course they do inspections following any incidents before bringing any system back into operation.
It is not known how long the investigation will take, but a public report will then be authored on their findings.
Three of the four people injured over the weekend worked for the mountain.
The double chairlift, where the incident took place, has been in operation since 1967.
At 7:30 p.m. Sunday a collision involving two vehicles near Highway 97 closed Horizon Road for debris clean-up and emergency vehicle access.
Highway traffic not affected.
An eyewitness reports that there appears to be no injuries.
More details to come.
6: 45 a.m. Sunday Mar. 2 update:
Crystal Mountain general manager Mike Morin says those injured on the hill in Saturdays accident are recovering in hospital.
"It was three of our staff, family members, who got injured and a guest. They are all in the hospital now, no life threatening injuries. They are all going to be OK."
Witnesses report the unoccupied chair, that hit the lift post causing the chain reaction cable fall, was swinging violently before the incident. According to the weather report there was no wind at the time of the accident. Morin says he'd also like to know why it was swinging.
"Exactly, that's what we want answers on. I honestly don't know. The lift inspector is talking to all witnesses right now to try and get the facts and they've been around lift incidents for many years and I'm hoping that their detective know-how finds a root cause. Because I don't want anyone getting hurt on the lift. We are followed by the safety authority, they are very rigorous to make sure the lifts are safe. They come up once or twice a year to make sure everything is right. For everyday that we are open there is a day of maintenance on the lifts," says the mountain's GM.
Morin hopes the mountain will open next weekend, but it depends on the safety inspectors.
"The lift inspectors are here right now assessing the damage and assessing what happened exactly, because that lift has been in operation since 1967 and I've been here for 20 years and we never have had anything close to this on that lift. So I honestly don't know (when we will be open)."
The hill is a big employer. Until it is up and running again 60 people are out of work.
Send photos and video to [email protected]
Update 1 p.m.:
Four people have been taken to hospital after an accident involving a chair lift at Crystal Mountain in West Kelowna.
A cable from the chairlift reportedly came loose from the lift, sending one chair into a tower and crashing to the ground.
The chair was apparently 25 feet in the air when it fell.
Four people were injured in the incident, two critically.
An ambulance attendant tells Castanet one victim had to be airlifted from the scene, while three others were transported by ground to Kelowna General Hospital.
"We do know that we had four patients – two were critical, two not so critical," says Joe Puskaric, District Duty Supervisor with BC Ambulance.
"Two were transported by basic life support crew to the hospital and one was transported by helicopter and the fourth was transported by our advanced life support crew to Kelowna General Hospital."
Three members of the ski patrol and one guest were injured. They range in age from 18-35.
Genders and ages are not being released.
Crystal Mountain general manager Mike Morin says an additional 15 people were rescued from the lift, and there were no reports of any injuries among these people.
The mountain is closed pending an investigation by the BC Safety Authority.
Were you on the chairlift? If you were, send us your story. If you have video and photos send them to [email protected]
Update 12:30 p.m.
Witness reports to Castanet indicate a cable on one of the chairlifts fell from the lift and at least one chair fell to the ground.
Update: Four people are confirmed injured after an incident on a chairlift at Crystal Mountain.
Three ambulances are on scene.
The two chairlifts on the mountain are shut down, although it has not been confirmed if a chair actually fell from one of the lifts.
However witnesses at the scene have reported to Castanet that they saw four people fall from the lift.
Castanet has a reporter on scene and will have more information as it becomes available.
By Jo Slade
Reports of a crashed chairlift at Crystal Mountain - no further details at this time, more to come.
Castanet reporter Ragnar Haagen is on his way to the scene.
----- With files from Ragnar Haagen and CBC News.
We've updated this story with comments from Crystal Mountain's General Manager at the bottom of the article.
Lee Kiester had just skied down from the three man chairlift on Crystal Mountain on Saturday, when he saw a chair plummet to the ground.
Kiester tells Castanet he heard a humming mechanical noise as he waited for his son on top of a small hill.
"I turned to see where it was and caught an occupied chair plunging down to the ground. The rollers on chair two spun around from the loss of the cable, it was perplexing."
He quickly skied over to the fallen chair, where he discovered two people -- a man and a woman -- who were wearing ski patrol vests and they were trapped.
"There was already someone from staff there lifting the chair off the occupants legs," he says.
"The man was in a lot of pain and flopped himself forward and just laid there. He said his right leg was in a lot of pain. The woman was able to swing her legs forward and we set down the chair. She slid down to a more prone position and said her left side, ribs, were hurting and her left arm."
Kiester claims both the man and the woman could move their fingers and toes, and did not appear to have any spinal injuries.
However, Kiester says another occupied chair further up the lift was also on the ground, and it too had several people around it.
"The response time from (the staff at) Crystal mountain was amazingly fast, professional and apparently well trained."
Another Castanet reader, Andrew Leckie, who calls himself an avid snowboarder, says he spent many years at Crystal Mountain, but will never go back.
“I went there every year for a very long time and this would happen every time you were on that mountain. Whether it was the old chair breaking down or the new one, and they were forcing it to keep going and never upgraded," he says.
He recounts one such incident on the Scenic Ridge chairlift (not the one that broke), when winds whipped him parallel to the ground.
“It stalled right away, like halfway up (the mountain). It was during a huge windstorm too," says Leckie.
"The chairs were literally swinging so far side-to-side that it was like we were banking on a rollercoaster – completely sideways. We were looking at the cable."
“I just felt it was completely irresponsible of them at the time. I never went back there again. My dad sent me the (Castanet) link today and it could have happened at any time."
Crystal Mountain general manager Mike Morin says the chairlift that came apart Saturday has been in operation since the 1960s. According to Morin the lift only had to be evacuated one other time, when the power failed, and everybody was able to get down without incident. He says they have strict safety measures they follow and that the lifts are always in top mechanical shape.
There is no evidence at this time that high winds contributed to the accident. The mountain has since been closed, pending an investigation by the BC Safety Authority.
Morin says they will know later in the week if the mountain will be open next weekend, after safety inspectors finish their investigation.
Send videos and photos of the incident to [email protected]
West Kelowna Council has given first and second reading to a Zoning Amendment Bylaw that would allow commercial medical marijuana production in the District’s Light Industrial Zone, with minimum siting distances from P zones and zones that permit residential dwellings as principle use.
The Bylaw indicates that medical marijuana production would not be allowed within multi-tenanted buildings.
However, two site specific text amendments were added to permit its production in two multi-tenanted buildings in West Kelowna’s industrial zone as both properties are in stream applications with Health Canada. Council directed that the draft bylaw be taken to public hearing on Tuesday, March 11, at 1:30 p.m.
Commercial medical marijuana production must be licensed by Health Canada under the Federal Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations.
Council further directed that staff write a letter to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development and BC Assessment to object to the farm classification of commercial medical marihuana operations.
In other council news:
Council approved three resolutions to be forwarded for consideration at the Southern Interior Local Government Association’s 2014 convention April 29 to May 2 in Penticton. The resolutions to be forwarded are:
- “Provincial-Local Government Communication” which requests that the Provincial Government review its communication policy and procedures with a view to fostering a timelier and more cooperative partnership with local governments.
- “Expanded Public Notification Opportunities” which requests that the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development amend the Community Charter to expand the methods in which a local government can provide public notification to meet legislative requirements.
- “Medical Marijuana Production on ALR Land” which requests that the Union of BC Municipalities lobby the provincial government to amend the Agricultural Land Commission Act definition of "farm use" to exclude medical marijuana production as a farm use.
These resolutions will be submitted for consideration by SILGA’s membership. If approved, the resolutions will be taken to the UBCM convention, September 22 to 26 for member consideration.
Tallus Ridge Development
Council gave second readings to amendment bylaws to the Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw for the majority of the remaining lands in the Tallus Ridge neighbourhood to a mix of park and open space, compact housing, single family residential, low density multiple family and medium density multiple family. Council directed that the bylaws be scheduled for public hearing pending receipt of an updated servicing report.
Glenrosa Road Development
Council gave third reading to an Official Community Plan amendment and an amendment to the District’s former Zoning Bylaw 0154 (the District’s new Zoning Bylaw comes into effect on March 13, 2014) for a development fronting Glenrosa Road to the East, Yorkton Road, Morningside Drive and Astoria Drive to the North. The development includes single family, compact housing, low density multiple housing as well as neighbourhood commercial and park and open space. The bylaws went to public hearing December 10, 2013. Council further agreed that the owner of the property provide excess services in the form of off-site water service upgrades at the time of subdivision. Staff will schedule the amendments for adoption pending dedication of park areas and registration of restrictive covenants which restrict future development pending certain items including:
- Construction of intersection improvements for Glenrosa Road and Webber Road
- Completion of water service upgrades
- Protection of hillside areas
Council also accepted a proposal that the applicant provide neighbourhood park improvements at the time of future development.
Rose Valley Development
Council adopted Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw amendments for Phase 11 of the Rose Valley neighbourhood involving a nine hectare property located along the western boundary of the Rose Valley neighbourhood. The amendment changes the land use designation from Single Family Residential to Low Density Multiple Family and the subject area is rezoned from Rural 2 (RU2) to Low Density Multiple Family (R3A). This allows the construction of a 69-unit multiple family residential development which will incorporate a range of structures from duplexes to five-plexes. It is anticipated that 18 buildings will be constructed.
Boucherie Road Winery
Council authorized the issuance of a Development Variance Permit (DVP) to allow an increase to the maximum height of the principle building and retaining wall associated with a proposed winery on property at the Intersection of Hudson and Boucherie Roads. Council did not approve the requested variance to increase the height of an accessory building on the site. The 4.78 hectare property is zoned A1 and is in the Agricultural Land Reserve. The proposed development will include a winery building, food and beverage lounge and an accessory building. Council further directed that the DVP be issued upon the submission of a professional landscape plan and an associated security to ensure the installation of landscaping screening at the base of the proposed retaining wall.
Wildhorse Park Conceptual Plan
Council was provided information on potentially fast-tracking the development of Wildhorse Park in the Smith Creek neighbourhood. The development of the park is currently recognized in the Parks and Recreation Master Plan as a medium to long term priority (10 to 20 years). The development of a Wildhorse Park Conceptual Plan is estimated to cost approximately $20,000 to complete and is not included in the 2014 Capital Budget. Council directed staff to continue public consultation with the Smith Creek neighbourhood to determine the neighbourhood park development needs and the level of support and bring back to Council the options for funding this consultation and park development.
Council adopted the District of West Kelowna’s first Community Heritage Register and two statements of significance have been prepared for the inclusion in the registry – the CNR Wharf site and the Gellatly Landing Park location in respect of the importance of transportation on Okanagan Lake.
Westbank Cemetery Services
Council adopted the Westbank Cemetery Bylaw, part of its Westbank Cemetery Strategy. The Bylaw now allows the sale of newly-installed columbarium niches and mausoleum crypts. A landscaping plan is also part of the strategy to improve the cemetery to a park-like setting.
Transportation Master Plan
Council adopted the District’s first Transportation Master Plan which builds upon the goals and objectives of the District's Official Community Plan to support the social and economic health of the District. The Plan uses current and future travel patterns and public expectations to determine incremental system improvements, and integrates these with existing infrastructure maintenance and renewal needs, to present a practical and affordable long term transportation strategy.
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