There is a little slice of heaven on the North Island and it stands 1,819 metres above sea level.
Mount Cain, located 10 kilometers outside of Woss and another 11 kilometers up a logging road, is not your average ski resort.
It’s only open three days a week, is run mostly by volunteers, has a peak elevation second only to Whistler, and is far off the beaten path.
This creates the perfect recipe for deep powder, no lineups, and a community atmosphere you won’t find at any other ski resort.
“It’s a little light cloud in the sky where you can have fun all day,” said Neil Borecky, Mount Cain’s Vice President and Director of Fun, which incidentally, is a title Borecky made up for himself.
His title actually perfectly reflects the laid-back attitude on the mountain. “You know, it’s pretty informal but it kind of sums the whole thing up,” laughed Borecky, adding “have fun or else!”
Borecky has been skiing Mount Cain’s 21 runs for over 20 years. He has been serving on the board of directors for the last seven.
He still has a clear memory of the first time he set foot on the mountain. “I remember saying out loud I am going to ski here for the rest of my life, that was my first impression – I never wanted to leave this place,” said Borecky, stating he even moved to the northern part of the island for the exclusive purpose of being able to ski Mount Cain.
Before that, he would drive six hours each way just to enjoy skiing for a few hours.
But it’s not only the breathtaking mountain views or the deep powder that accumulates all week before the mountain opens for its three-day run that make it so unique – it’s the community that makes the Mount Cain experience so special.
“Everyone sort of knows each other,” said Borecky. “It’s a small place, it’s got really decent skiing and great terrain, and it’s the kind of spot that you roll up on a Friday night and all of your friends are there.”
Mount Cain is the kind of place where you’ll find people playing acoustic music and enjoying their time together, even when they aren’t hitting the slopes.
“We often get Daisy with a giant standup bass, or we will have Bob, Wendy, and Ally who come out and bring their acoustic guitar and mandolin,” said Borecky, noting anyone can join in and “you never know who is going to be around.”
Borecky said he’s never been bored once during his twenty years of coming to the mountain. “You are never not going to have a good time and you are never going to be lonely,” he said.
This atmosphere is in part because Mount Cain is run by the non-profit Mount Cain Alpine Park Society, which makes the resort Vancouver Island’s only community owned and operated ski hill.
“Where other small community ski hills have fallen by the wayside we have managed to keep going,” said Borecky, adding “it’s a sheer community effort and the volunteer hours are what really make the place unique – if we had to pay for the hours that they put in up here, we wouldn’t survive.”
Although Borecky is in charge of marketing the resort, he said he tries to do as bad of a job as possible so they can keep more fresh snow to themselves.
“Mount Cain sucks, tell your friends,” laughed Borecky, who then explained “there is a sweet spot for traffic up here and we are right in it now – too few people and we can’t run the place, too many people and it would take away from the special community feel to it.”
Borecky said that in all seriousness, the mountain opens in the second week of December and offers a variety of rental accommodations, lessons, dining, and a full-service ski and board shop.
“We do get people from all over the world who find themselves up here even though it’s at the end of the road.”