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Riverside Resort, Scandinave Spa reopen following water-main valve break

Rupture occurred on Riverside's property Saturday night, Jan. 11, halting water flow to both businesses
As of Thursday, Jan. 16, Whistler's Scandinave Spa has been closed for five full days following an unforeseen water-main break at neighboring Riverside Resort. PHOTO BY MEGAN LALONDE

Whistler's Scandinave Spa is set to reopen on Sunday, Jan. 19, following a water-main valve that ruptured on the neighbouring Riverside Resort property last Saturday, Jan. 11.

The resort, meanwhile, also confirmed its water was running again on Saturday, Jan. 18.

The spa will return to regular hours and normal operations with massages starting at 9 a.m. and baths open at 10 a.m., Michelle Leroux, who handles communications for the spa, said in an email.

However, there will be a boil water advisory in effect on the property while the spa tests its drinking water. "The guest experience will not be affected as we will provide drinking water and tea so everyone stays hydrated," she wrote.

Initially, Riverside Resort hoped the water would be flowing by end of day on Jan 16. However, Carolyn Sharples, the Camping & RV Resort's senior manager, couldn't confirm whether water would be operational within the expected timeframe. "We are working closely with the contractors on site with timelines and updates for they are busy at the repair at this time," she said earlier in the week.

As the valve rupture occurred on private property, it is the landowner's responsibility to fix the issue.

According to one long-term Riverside resident Pique spoke with, the valve rupture occurred over three metres below ground. That depth, coupled with temperatures that have continually dipped below -20 degrees C in recent days, have created challenges for repair crews.

"We understand that this water main break has resulted in significant inconvenience for our guests and longer-term residents and Riverside has made a number of arrangements to help deal with the lack of water," Sharples continued. Those arrangements have included renting portable toilets for onsite washroom facilities, providing bottled water to guests and employees, and contacting nearby Meadow Park Sports Centre to allow Riverside guests to use the Centre's showers.

While Riverside currently remains open for any guests "who are comfortable with the steps we have in place for water and washrooms," Sharples added it is not accepting any new guests up to and including Saturday, Jan. 18.

Riverside is also informing guests that have already booked space for the upcoming American holiday weekend that they can cancel or rebook in the event the resort is unable to fully restore water flow by Saturday.

"We are taking this one day at a time, erring on the side of caution, and making sure we keep lines of communication open," wrote Sharples.

"We have also been in constant communication with all affected patrons of the [Scandinave] spa ... letting them know the status of the work to fix the valve and when they can expect water to be restored ..." she added.

At the nearby Scandinave Spa, employees living in on-site staff housing had to make do with similar arrangements amidst the "water flow interruption" and resulting closure, which came during what will likely be one of the coldest weeks of the year in Whistler.

According to Milene Voroney, the Scandinave's assistant spa director, spa employees have also been provided with access to Meadow Park Sport Centre's showers while the Spa's indoor plumbing remains out of commission, and portable toilets are on site at staff housing. "We've ordered large quantities of water for them," added Voroney in a phone interview on Wednesday.

In a recent Instagram post, one employee could be seen gathering water in a bucket from a nearby creek for flushing toilets. Employees contacted by Pique on Wednesday were instructed not to speak with media by spa management.

"It has been pretty difficult. We've kind of been going on a day-by-day, case-by-case basis. With no sort of idea of when the end is coming in sight, it's definitely a challenge," said Leroux, earlier in the week.

For the time being, "I'm sure a lot of them are staying with friends and leaning on the connections they have in town so they can get a little bit of a break from not having the water," she added.

Throughout the closure, the Scandinave's reservations team has kept busy contacting spa guests individually regarding the cancellation of their appointments (the spa does not take payment ahead of time, meaning no refunds need to be issued in this scenario, Voroney explained) while social media, Tourism Whistler and local hotel concierges have been helpful in passing the message along to potential spa guests, Leroux said.

While the unforeseen closure during the height of ski season is far from an ideal scenario for the popular tourist destination, Voroney said staff morale remains high.

"Everyone is actually in a really good mood," she said. "We are doing the best that we can to cope with the situation. I mean obviously, in terms of our business, this is affecting it, but we're just being as proactive as we can to help the issue get resolved as soon as possible."

She added, "We ask everyone to check our website and our social media pages, as this is how we communicate any update."

-With files from Alyssa Noel