Tag Archives: Al Matheson

2011 Summer Garbage Clean-Up Cutbacks

A full winter of ski area operations requires a full summer of garbage pick-up

“start looking at the litter in healy creek at the base parking lot.  ssv does little about it year after year.  it’s hung up in the bushes, washed downstream, accumulating under gravel, etc.” – from “Caveman” (email to SVW – May 06, 2011)

“Caveman” hits on a vital issue at Sunshine Village in his email – that is the summer garbage clean-up.  As the snow melts away in the summer a huge amount of garbage becomes visible all over the Sunshine Village leasehold.  This clean-up is a major job for summer staff and it’s not easy to get it all done in the short summer season.  Each year literally hundreds of bags of garbage are collected by Sunshine Village trail crews over the course of the summer.  Much of this garbage is generated by the operations of Sunshine’s food and beverage partner, Aramark Canada.

Unfortunately the usual clean-up may be about to end this summer.  John Scurfield (SSV part-owner and VP of Marketing) has issued an internal email dated April 05, 2011 telling managers there will be a major cutback in summer staffing levels to save the company money.  Scurfield attributes the company’s need for cutbacks to a flyer distributed in local communities in early April.  The flyer was allegedly critical of Sunshine Village.  Scurfield’s email encourages cut-back affected staff to express their “gratitude” to whoever distributed the flyer.  One of the hardest hit departments is expected to be the Mountain Operations department headed up by the recently hired new Mountain Manager, Al Matheson. The summer trail crews normally work for Mountain Operations.

The real impact of thousands of skiers and snowboarders becomes apparent each year when the snow melts.  If the garbage is not picked up it will only accumulate until it is.  If there are insufficient summer crews out doing this vital job, the entire area will look like a garbage dump.  The question is – with only a cost-saving skeleton summer staff on the mountain, who will clean up the huge amount of garbage, not just around Healy Creek at Bourgeau and up at the Village but everywhere else including the farthest reaches of the ski area where people like to hang out and leave a mess on sunny ski days?  This includes portions of Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park as well as the Banff National Park leasehold.  Prevailing winds can carry loose garbage into the neighbouring pristine and ecologically sensitive Sunshine Meadows and Rock Isle Lake.  Garbage can also be an attractant and hazard for wildlife, especially bears – which can then present a public safety hazard for summer visitors.

These parks are the crown jewels of the Canadian Rockies visited by millions of Canadians and international toursists each year.  What will these protected areas look like after this summer and even more so – what will they look like next summer after two winters of garbage accumulation?  Should Parks Canada and BC Parks permit Sunshine Village to cut costs at the expense of the environment and wildlife?

The Sunshine Village “Environmental Mission Statement” makes the following bold claim:

“At Sunshine Village Ski Resort, we bring spectacular alpine sport experiences together with the awesome beauty of nature to create a unique relationship between our resort and the natural environment.”

That’s a nice sounding statement but empty words don’t pick up empty beer cans and neither do absent summer work crews.   Environmental integrity in Banff National Park should not play a secondary role to Sunshine Village’s cost-saving measures and profit margin. Parks before profit!

As the snow starts to melt, Sunshine Village Watch encourages spring riders and summer visitors to photograph and document garbage anywhere around the  Sunshine Village lease and adjacent areas of Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park.  Send the photographs and your opinions to SVW , Banff National Park  and to BC Parks

Exodus of Experienced Employees From Sunshine Village

The Facts
On December 29, 2010 Sunshine Village fired the Mountain Manager, Avalanche Forecaster, Lift Operations Supervisor and a senior ski patroller.

In the 4 months since that date, Sunshine Village has seen an unprecedented mid-season loss (through more firings or staff quitting) of many long-term senior operations and maintenance staff with direct safety-related responsibilities and duties. This list does not imply any individual motives for departure. It simply records the total attrition, regardless of reason or motive.

The total loss since December 29, 2010 to date includes the following:

  • Mountain Manager
  • Avalanche Forecaster & Snow Safety Supervisor
  • Lift Operations Supervisor
  • Senior Ski Patroller
  • Dispatch Supervisor
  • Dispatch Supervisor (replacement)
  • Snowmaking Supervisor
  • Terrain Park Supervisor
  • Snow Safety (avalanche control) specialist (1)
  • Snow Safety (avalanche control) specialist (2)
  • Snow Safety (avalanche control) specialist (3)
  • Full-time Ski Patroller
  • Part-time Ski Patroller / Paramedic
  • Security and Risk Management Supervisor (notice given for May 4th, 2011)
  • Assistant Lift Maintenance Supervisor

Sunshine Village Corporation Public Relations Position

In the midst of this on-going exodus of experience, an unamed Sunshine Village spokesperson stated on the Sunshine Village Blog that “Sunshine Village is operating in a fully safe manner, and is closely supervised by appropriate authorities. Contrary to what you may have read, we have safety staff on duty with decades of experience.” (11 February, 2011)

On the same blog Sunshine Village VP Operations and GM, Ken Derpak stated that “Today, we have a more cohesive, cooperative and customer-focused resort as a result of the difficult decisions we made in December”   (March 03, 2011)

“This is all about running a safe, efficient and effective ski resort.” said Al Matheson, the new Mountain Operations Manager (March 03, 2011).

We would like to believe Mr. Derpak and Mr. Matheson but it’s a difficult safety management strategy to understand, as it seems to involve a rapid and considerable loss of long-term experienced key-players and leaders for whatever reason.

Public and workplace safety are key considerations of public concern for any company operating within Banff National Park. Sunshine Village is no exception to that concern.  Sunshine Village Watch extends an open invitation to any representative of Sunshine Village to provide an explanation of the safety strategy at Sunshine Village and how the loss of so many senior staff impacts that strategy. Comments may be made directly to this post or use the contact form and we will post the comments here.