The general manager of one of Squamish's major hotels says the road to his establishment is being left on its own during extreme cold weather events.
Mark Enright of the Sandman Hotel and Suites said that during the January 2022 snow and ice storms, the road to the hotel turned into a skating rink for four days, stranding his guests and preventing his workers from arriving on the job.
He said that the conditions on Discovery Way leading to his hotel were dangerous, and the area went completely unplowed during that stretch.
He said he understood that the District has priority streets to take care of first, but for there to be no service to the hotel's street during the storm was unacceptable. This was happening despite his pleas for help to the District.
"It was about four days of literal dangerous conditions in getting through the road, getting into the hotel," said Enright. "[I was] almost constantly calling in the morning, I would call in the afternoon, I would call at night. I'd be at home and I'd call. I was constantly [calling]... I got my staff to call too, just keep complaining, just to get something done and nobody listened."
Some of his workers take the bus and are dropped off by the Walmart stop. They had to navigate several ice rinks' worth of slippery ground to make it to his establishment.
"A few of my staff … felt it was dangerous," said Enright. "Some of them didn't come to work because of that. And then I also had complaints about cars. Because there were also these big ice potholes that formed, so it was bottoming out our cars, it damaged cars; it damaged my car."
Enright said that taxis were refusing to come to the hotel, fearing it would damage their vehicles.
As a result, some guests who didn't have vehicles were stranded in the hotel, as it was too slippery to walk out.
"I had to drop them off at a bus station or somewhere where they could get access to transport," said Enright. "So we were literally left high and dry. And I don't know, what's the point of having an emergency line, if nobody responds to it?"
Enright said he spoke with the District following these challenges in January 2022. He was hopeful that things would change during the next snow event.
However, when another extreme cold weather event happened in December 2022, he was dismayed by the response.
By his account, once again, there was no snow-clearing service for the road leading up to the Sandman during this latest storm. Luckily, the rain washed away the snow this year after two days.
Still, this was a big disappointment, he said.
"I was hoping this [winter] wouldn't be as bad, and we'd get something different," said Enright. "But when they do absolutely nothing, like nothing-nothing, and nothing changes, it's just too much and I'm not going to stay quiet about it."
In response, the District issued a written statement to The Squamish Chief.
Spokesperson Rachel Boguski wrote that each snow event is different with its own set of challenges.
She said public works staff provide 24-hour snow and ice removal in accordance with the municipality's Snow and Ice Control Policy. They maintain priority routes such as hills, major roads, emergency routes, public transportation and safe routes to school. Sometimes, these routes need to be cleared several times before crews start on second and third-priority routes.
"Discovery Way was plowed a total of five times between Nov. 30 and Dec. 23, 2022, at 9 a.m., after which snow clearing crews focused on maintaining priority routes," wrote Boguski. "The onset of freezing rain that evening, which became heavy rain on the morning of Dec. 24 required all available resources to quickly switch priorities from de-icing to flood protection of properties and roadways, ensuring catch basins and drainage intakes were free and clear. Challenging conditions persisted with extreme ice on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25 followed by coastal flooding in downtown Squamish on Dec. 27."
Boguski added that responsibility for setting priorities for snow clearing sits with council and operational reviews always take place after each storm season.
"As the policy is reviewed regularly, we are always open to resident feedback that may help to inform future policy amendments," she said.
For his part, Enright said that the hotel shouldn't be placed so low on the priority list.
It hosts Squamish groups and events, including Red Cross emergency accommodations. Furthermore, during the holidays, families from out of town visiting their loved ones who live in Squamish often stay there.
It's also an economic driver and pays a 3% Municipal and Regional District Tax for every room it fills, Enright said.
"We are contributing even more than a typical business to the District, yet get less service, even for serious public safety concerns," he said.