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

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.

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Email: ryan.uytdewilligen@langleyadvancetimes.com

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