A convoy of vehicles leaves Hemlock Valley Road on Feb. 3, 2020, escorted by an Emil Anderson Maintenance vehicle.(Emil Anderson Maintenance/Contributed)

B.C. family recounts escape after landslide strands them on Sasquatch Mountain

Christine Nielsen, her husband and two kids drove up only a couple of hours before the road washout

Many skiers, snowboarders, and employees are home safe after being stranded on Sasquatch Mountain north of Agassiz. A landslide on Friday evening shut down Hemlock Valley Road – the only way in or out.

DriveBC said no detour was available at the time of the slide while the resort and village had the power knocked out for a large portion of the weekend.

Willoughby resident Christine Nielsen said she and her family were heading to the resort on Friday when their stay became longer – and more perilous – than first planned.

“In the grand scheme of things, we are homeowners and have a vacation property that we visit almost every weekend and holidays,” Nielsen said. “But the road going up there is very notorious and not very well maintained.”

Nielsen is fairly certain the abundant mixture of snow and rain caused the washout, but the condition of the road itself was ultimately to blame.

“It’s barely two lanes at the best of times and only half of it is paved – the rest is gravel. Logging trucks were allowed on it and there are a lot of pot holes,” she explained.

Nielsen drove up with her children, ages 11 and 13, two hours prior to the washout, with her husband in a separate vehicle not far behind.

“Hundreds of families were on that road – there was a race supposed to be happening that weekend,” she noted. “If you were caught in the middle of it, I’m not sure you would have survived.”

Once up, plans for a couple days on the slopes at Sasquatch were dampened with power outages and more than 500 other people cooped up in the resort’s lodge.

Nielsen said her family was lucky, having a back-up generator as well as books, board games, and their own privacy to keep their spirits high.

She gave a particular kudos to the “amazing” resort staff who not only made sure people had amenities, but were kept thoroughly entertained.

“Everyone came together – it was a big community. They played kids movies in the lodge and live music in the pub,” Nielsen said.

After TRK helicopters offered shuttle services to Chilliwack Airport for those stranded at the resort for $150 per person, the road was temporarily reopened through special measures by Ministry of Transportation.

Nielsen and her family were ushered through a carefully monitored drive down the mountain on Monday afternoon, in what she described as caravans of 20 vehicles each.

READ MORE: Hundreds stranded at ski hill in Fraser Valley after heavy rain, landslide

“It was really scary. We went down into the fill-in area where the water was being diverted,” Nielsen recounted.

Ultimately, her family made it down Hemlock Valley Road safely, but Nielsen feels the ordeal has put a damper on their vacation spot.

“It’s frustrating because it will just happen again. We love the mountain – it’s affordable – but, that road has always scared me,” she said.

Nielsen is calling on local MLA’s and even the province to put forth a greater commitment effort for the road to ensure the safety of those who travel to Sasquatch Mountain Resort and the surrounding area.

Additionally, she started an online petition on change.org to spark a conversation about change.

Ground evacuations are still happening as of Tuesday afternoon, with a single lane open for departing and local traffic.

The road will remain closed to public and on-essential traffic until further notice.

_________________________________

Is there more to this story?

Email: ryan.uytdewilligen@langleyadvancetimes.com

Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter

_________________________________

landslide

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: Interior Health orders closure of all fitness centres until May 30

The order is subject to revision, cancellation, or extension

Outrage over illegal dumping at Nakusp Landfill

Online photo shows garbage bags, cardboard boxes and bottles thrown around landfill container

Don’t avoid doctor’s office if you need help, say Kootenay Boundary physicians

There are alternatives to coming in physically to offices, docs say

Q&A: Interior Health CEO answers questions on COVID-19 response

Susan Brown, president and CEO of Interior Health, answers questions regarding COVID-19

Air Canada extends suspension of flights in and out of West Kootenay Regional Airport until April 30

It’s still unknown if flights will resume at Castlegar’s airport on May 1

Trudeau rejects mandatory stay-at-home order for now; COVID deaths up

The virus has now infected more than 10,000 Canadians and cost 130 their lives

B.C. health officer says homemade masks may prevent spread of COVID-19 to others

Practising physical distancing, frequent hand washing and resisting touching your face are proven methods

B.C.’s senior home staff measures show results in COVID-19 battle

Dr. Bonnie Henry’s order restricts care aides to one facility

‘A matter of human decency’: Truckers’ union calls on gas stations, rest stops to fully re-open

Teamsters Canada wants feds, provinces to put pressure on facilities to re-open for transport workers

B.C. unveils $3.5M COVID-19 emergency fund for post-secondary students

Money will help students cover living expenses, food, travel, portable computers

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

COVID-19: ‘The Ballad of Bonnie Henry’ recorded and released

LISTEN: Quick turnaround for song penned by B.C. Order of Canada musician Phil Dwyer

Most Read