Mt. Washington Essentials



Summit elevation: 5,215 feet. Vertical drop: 1,657 feet. Skiable acres: 1,000. Lifts: One high-speed quad, one fixed-grip quad, two triple chairs, one double chair, one poma, one handle-tow and one tubing lift.


Most Vancouverites who visit Vancouver Island take the BC Ferry from either Horseshoe Bay or Tsawassen. If you're flying into Vancouver, your best bet is to take a flight to Comox Airport on either Air Canada or Pacific Coastal Airlines. Free bus service from the airport to Mt. Washington is provided if you book a ski package, and there's a regularly scheduled ski bus from downtown Courtenay, Comox and Campbell River. Taxi fares are $20 (U.S., one-way) from the airport. From Vancouver 90 miles, 3 1/2 hours, including ferry: From downtown Vancouver, take Lion's Gate Bridge to West Vancouver/Taylor Way (all signs read Highway 99 North). Get on Trans-Canada Highway/Highway 99 and take Exit 1 to the BC Ferries terminal at Horseshoe Bay. Make sure you get in the Nanaimo lane. To ensure passage, plan to arrive no later than an hour before your ferry departs or pre-book your departure at The ferry ride to Nanaimo takes approximately 90 minutes. Follow the signs for Courtenay/Comox (Highway 17) and then Mt. Washington.


Within Kidz Zone, the Play Zone is a fully licensed day care that takes infants ($25 U.S.) to children 5 years of age ($23 U.S.). Reservations are mandatory on weekends. Wee Ski introduces 2- and 3-year-olds to their first turns: equipment, a 90-minute lesson and a full day of day care costs $32 (U.S.). Immunization papers are mandatory for kids staying in the day care.


Two-night/two-day lift-and-lodging packages at Deer Lodge (250-334-3700) start at $88 (U.S.) per person, quad occupancy in a two-bedroom unit. Three other agencies deal with private condo rentals: Mt. Washington Accommodations (250-370-1642), Peak Accommodations (250-897-3851) and Alpine Accommodations (250-703-9636). In Courtenay, Crown Isle Resort (888-338-8439) has off-season lift-and-lodging packages starting at $58 (U.S.) per person.


Fireweed's Restaurant in the base lodge is the only fine-dining option at the ski area, but pub grub can be had until 1 a.m. at Fat Teddy's in the same building. Ethnic restaurants abound in Courtenay. The funky Atlas Cafe (250-338-9838) will satisfy those with more adventurous vegetarian tastes. For a dining experience that's literally a world away from life on the mountain, try the Kingfisher Oceanside Resort (250-338-1323); the food is as good as the stunning views of the Strait of Georgia. The Old House (250-338-5406) offers more traditional fare, such as seafood (including oysters) that is farmed or caught locally, organic salad fixings and superb prime rib.


The usually snow-free Comox Valley boasts winter activities unheard of at most alpine resorts. Only a 30-minute drive west of Mt. Washington, visitors can sail, fish, golf or play tennis and even scuba dive-the undersea life found in the Gulf of Georgia has been featured in National Geographic. Crown Isle (888-338-8439) is the premier golf course. Kingfisher Oceanside Resort (250-338-1323) has nature tours; Wide Eyed Adventures offers sailing; Comox Valley Kayaks (250-334-2628) can get you into a sea kayak; and the Pacific Pro Dive Shop (250-338-6829) will fill up your scuba tanks.


You don't have to be a cross-country skier to enjoy the huge cinnamon buns found at the new Nordic Lodge-alpine skiers often come in asking when the next batch will be out of the oven. Forty kilometers of groomed skate and classic trails await those who want to burn off the extra calories.


Mt. Washington Alpine Resort, main number: 250-338-1386; reservations: 888-231-1499; snow report: 250-338-1515; website: