Lake Louise Ski Area Long-Range Plan

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Consultation has concluded

The Lake Louise Ski Area is developing a Long-Range Plan to guide environmental, guest experience and educational initiatives.

Our current plan, nearly four decades old, dates back to 1981. It is time to take another look, revise and update. The new plan focuses on enhancing terrain, facilities and services for all visitors, during all seasons, and will lead to a better visitor experience. It will allow us to continue to protect local sensitive areas and species, while advancing environmental awareness and conservation goals for future generations. Everyone will be able to discover and connect with our unique natural and cultural

The Lake Louise Ski Area is developing a Long-Range Plan to guide environmental, guest experience and educational initiatives.

Our current plan, nearly four decades old, dates back to 1981. It is time to take another look, revise and update. The new plan focuses on enhancing terrain, facilities and services for all visitors, during all seasons, and will lead to a better visitor experience. It will allow us to continue to protect local sensitive areas and species, while advancing environmental awareness and conservation goals for future generations. Everyone will be able to discover and connect with our unique natural and cultural heritage in more memorable and authentic ways.

Lake Louise has been welcoming visitors since the late 1800s. The first ski lodge was built in 1930 and lift access began in 1952. Today, the Lake Louise Ski Area is internationally-renowned for alpine enjoyment, appreciation and education. From recreational enthusiasts, to young, grass roots and international athletes, to people looking to experience breathtaking vistas and nature at its finest, we welcome guests from across Canada and around the world to enjoy the area while respecting local values, the environment and wildlife. Visitors to Banff National Park are important to the provincial and federal economies, while protection of and awareness about precious natural and cultural heritage remains at the fore.

The new Long-Range Plan will direct all new projects during the next 10 to 15 years within the context of all future development at the ski area, as outlined in Parks Canada’s 2015 Lake Louise Ski Area Site Guidelines. It gives a forever blueprint to determine how we can improve upon aspects of the current operations from a visitor experience and environmental perspective, responsibly.

Focus of the Long-Range Plan

In our unique setting in Banff National Park, we are committed to being a world-leading environmental steward and centre for natural and cultural appreciation. That’s why, even with more than 97 percent of Banff National Park already protected from any future development, our plans include a significant leasehold reduction, a suite of other environmental gains and expanding our interpretive programming.

While we do want to upgrade our terrain and infrastructure within a smaller foot print so that people can enjoy our alpine environment meaningfully, any changes will make sure we protect the area’s unique wildlife, wilderness, heritage and Banff National Park Values.

At the direction of Parks Canada, we are putting forward this Long-Range Plan, which must meet with the detailed parameters in the 2015 Lake Louise Ski Area Site Area Guidelines and accompanying Strategic Environmental Assessment. Those documents were drafted by Parks Canada and signed by the CEO of Parks Canada in August 2015.

What’s in our proposal?

From significant environmental gains, to new chairlifts and upgrades to existing chairlifts, to new day lodges and better parking capacity and traffic flow management, our proposed Long-Range Plan is about enhancing our ability to welcome people while protecting our unique culture, wilderness and heritage resources. To do that, we can’t just start making new ski runs and building new facilities without holistic thought. For example, by changing the way we use the land for snow sports, we can develop new terrain in one area and return other parts of the ski area back to wilderness designation.

Our current lease is 2,190 hectares. We are proposing a reduced lease area of 1,162 hectares, plus winter-only Licences of Occupation for West Bowl and Hidden Bowl (374 hectares, combined), as well as operational Licences of Occupation for an additional 130.62 hectares for operational activities such as avalanche control and utilities. The end result would be a reduction of our leasehold by almost half and a 30 per cent reduction of total land available for limited snow sports. Approximately 1,000 hectares of our current lease, or about the size of 800 Canadian football fields of land, will be protected from future development.

Find our more and let us know what you think

Have a look at the topics below to find out more. Detailed information about our proposed plan for information about environmental gains, proposed new chairlifts, ski terrain and lodges, water, wildlife, slope and vegetation management, safety improvements and improved traffic management and parking, along with other important considerations, are available in our full Long-Range Plan and the accompanying Detailed Impact Analysis (DIA), completed by Golder and Associates. Supplemental plans and strategies are all available in our Document Library.

Thank you for your comments – here’s what’s happening next

Thank you for connecting with us to learn more about our proposed Long-Range Plan for the Lake Louise Ski Area.

Whether you took part in one of our open houses (held in April in Lake Louise, Banff and Calgary) or visited this website to discover the details about our proposed plan, we appreciate your willingness to take the time to review our proposals and to offer your comments on a wide range of topics. We have enjoyed hearing the many stories you’ve shared about winter and summer experiences at the resort and your thoughts about the future of the Lake Louise Ski Area.

The proposed Long-Range Plan (LRP) is focused on enhancing terrain, facilities and services for all visitors, during all seasons, and will lead to a better visitor experience. The plan will guide our future activities over the next 10 to 15 years. It will allow us to continue to protect local sensitive areas and species, while advancing environmental awareness and conservation goals for future generations.

Our public comment period closed on June 15, 2019. The feedback we’ve received will assist in our review of the LRP and in Golder's review of the Detailed Impact Analysis. Final versions of those documents will be posted on this website when that process is complete.

We are providing all comments, questions and concerns that we’ve received through this site and our in-person engagement activities, in full, to Parks Canada for consideration in its decision-making process. We will also be producing an engagement summary report, which will be provided to Parks Canada and will be available on this site soon.

Consultation has concluded
  • Ski Area Boundary Changes: Lease Reduction and Licences of Occupation

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    Visitors have been welcomed in the Lake Louise area since the late 1800s, with skiing shaping Lake Louise and Canadian culture since the 1920s. The first commercial ski lodge in Canada – Skoki Lodge, some 11 kilometres into the backcountry – was established in 1931. In 1938, Temple Lodge was constructed for ski mountaineers at the base of Lipalian Mountain. By the winter of 1952, a rope tow lift was installed on the slope above, called ‘prunepickers,’ which a Poma lift replaced two seasons later. By 1957, there was a gondola on Whitehorn Mountain to take guests to the peak from the front valley. During the next decade, lifts and skier amenities were added to both areas, with each side still operating independently, until the two amalgamated in 1971.

    Today, the Lake Louise Ski Area is a natural playground, showcasing unparalleled scenery and terrain in all four seasons, and featuring activities inspired by and complementing the National Park setting. Our Long-Range Plan is focused on enhancing our capacity to welcome National Park visitors while minimizing our impact on the environment. To do that, we propose a plan that significantly reduces our footprint. The leasehold will be reduced by 50 per cent, while the addition of two winter-only Licenses of Occupation will reduce ski terrain by 30 per cent.

    The proposed boundary changes involve removing an ecologically significant portion of our lease hold to benefit wildlife and wildlife connectivity. These lands along the eastern side would be returned to Parks Canada’s control as designated wilderness lands under the Canada National Parks Act. This area is approximately equal to the size of the town of Banff. In exchange, the LLSA will be granted winter use of Hidden Bowl (179.6 hectares) and West Bowl (194.5 hectares) through seasonal Licenses of Occupation. Although no development is planned for West Bowl, it is currently skied. It would be added as a License of Occupation for avalanche control purposes and to ensure safer egress. Hidden Bowl projects are not being advanced as part of this Long-Range Plan.

    The end result is that we will make better use of a smaller footprint for operational activities that will allow us to realize modest, balanced growth in visitation over the next 10 to 15 years in exchange for significant environmental gains.

    A map of the proposed Lake Louise Ski Area Lease and License of Occupation Changes can be downloaded here.

  • Overview of Ecological Protection and Environmental Assessment Process

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    The proposed Long-Range Plan for the Lake Louise Ski Area will direct our development and environmental protection and education strategies for the next 10 to 15 years. The ski area would be smaller in size, with a reduced leasehold and permanent limits to growth established. Plans follow the 2015 Lake Louise Ski Area Site Guidelines for Development and Use. Developed by Parks Canada, these guidelines describe the nature and scope of projects allowed for consideration, and set strict environmental protection parameters. These are comprehensively outlined in the accompanying Strategic Environmental Assessment. Any activities we undertake – from new chairlifts and lodges to parking lot improvements – must be done in accordance with these two documents and in ways that protect valued ecological resources and minimize environmental impacts.

    As a key part of the Long-Range Plan, Golder and Associates prepared a Detailed Impact Analysis (DIA). A Detailed Impact Analysis is the most comprehensive level of impact assessment in the Parks Canada framework. This extensive document evaluates valued components and the impact of each of our proposed projects and environmental management strategies on cultural and natural resources and visitor experience. The scope and topics to be covered by the DIA were set out by Parks Canada in a Terms of Reference that was issued on August 1, 2018 following public consultation. As we finalize the Long-Range Plan and seek approval from Parks Canada, the DIA is an important tool to inform Parks Canada’s decision-making and to keep environmental protection at the forefront of any ski area changes.

    We are committed to being responsible environmental stewards and a world-leading centre for natural and cultural education and interpretation. That’s why documents such as Parks Canada’s Site Guidelines, the Strategic Environmental Assessment and the DIA are important to our planning – they give us clear direction in terms of allowable future commercial development and visitor opportunities.

    The Lake Louise Ski Area Site Area Guidelines contain four key proposals that can be considered substantial environmental gains. These are listed below and more information about each topic can be found on this website.

    • Removal of Purple and Wolverine Bowl lands from the ski area lease. These lands have long been identified by Parks Canada as important wildlife habitat.
    • Removal of land associated with the Whitehorn Wildlife Corridor from the ski area. The addition of these lands to the protected area of the park will improve wildlife movement through these areas.
    • Relocation of summer use to improve grizzly bear habitat. Moving summer season sightseeing and hiking to the upper ridge of Mount Whitehorn will relocate visitors and operational use away from mid-mountain summer grizzly bear habitat.
    • Significant reduction of water withdrawal during low flows from the Pipestone River and Corral Creek. High-volume water withdrawal from the Pipestone River in the fall for snowmaking during low flow will be reduced with the introduction of reservoirs to be filled during high flow. These measures will protect listed Species at Risk (species of concern), including Westslope Cutthroat Trout and Bull Trout.

    Following the conclusion of our engagement program, we will submit our final Long-Range Plan and Detailed Impact Analysis to Parks Canada for approval in spring 2019.

  • Ski Terrain Improvements

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    The Lake Louise Ski Area is blessed with varied and challenging terrain and dramatic views of Victoria Glacier and Lake Louise and iconic, 360-degree vistas of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The area is internationally-recognized and often rated as one of the top ski areas in the world. As a result, the ski area contributes significantly to the economy of the communities of Banff and of Lake Louise, as well as to the whole southern Alberta region. To respond to the evolving nature of the winter snow sports industry, and to continue to meet the expectations of local and international guests, we are looking to the future by renewing our services and facilities.

    With new chairlifts and upgrades to existing chairlifts, we’ll be able to provide a high-quality ski and park area experience to accommodate approximately 9,000 skiers and riders and 1,000 non-skiers a day.

    A comprehensive map of our existing and proposed facilities can be downloaded here.

    Specific projects would create additional skiable terrain within a smaller overall footprint.

    Proposed New Lifts:

    • Juniper Beginner Lift
    • Upper Juniper
    • Beginner Lift
    • Meadowlark
    • Eagle Replacement
    • Summit Chair
    • Prunepicker
    • Richardson’s Ridge

    Proposed projects to improve the on-mountain experience include:

    • Improved ski trail connections for beginner and intermediate skiers between chairlifts and runs
    • Other ski terrain safety improvements and egress trails
    • Glading in several ski pods
    • New runs on Richardson’s Ridge
    • New Juniper Adult Learning Area
    • Sunny Side Learning Area and Tubing Park improvements
    • Two new runs to parallel the existing Meadowlark ski run
    • New runs associated with Prunepickers Lift

    New chairlifts and terrain will allow us to offer much-needed beginner and lower intermediate ski runs and a range of opportunities for young people and families, as well as new areas for expert skiing. We will also better meet the needs of FIS World Cup competitions, amateur and grass roots events and training. In addition, we will be able to reduce points of congestion on the mountain and upgrade mountain operations for enhanced safety.

  • Facility Upgrades

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    From new, dedicated Interpretive space, to expanding our ski lodges and the day care facility used by the community of Lake Louise, our Long-Range Plan includes widespread improvements to enhance the experience for guests and provide sufficient indoor space in line with industry standards.

    Guest experience, education and safety improvements include:

    • New mountain-top day lodge and Interpretive Centre at Eagle Ridge
    • New day lodge next to the original Whiskey Jack Lodge and new ski patrol facilities
    • New building for children (daycare) and guest and educational services in the Base Area
    • Expansion of Temple Lodge and construction of Temple Operations Building
    • New Top of the World Warming Hut

    A comprehensive map of our existing and proposed facilities can be downloaded here.

    The proposed new mountain-top Eagle Ridge Day Lodge, with a dedicated Interpretive Centre, would serve winter visitors and offer summer programs. These programs for visitors and ski area staff will help increase the awareness and understanding of the natural and heritage features and values of Banff National Park.

    By relocating the summer visitor program from Whitehorn Day Lodge to this new facility at Eagle Ridge, this is an environmental gain by reducing impacts of summer program activities on wildlife in the mid-mountain area, considered preferred habitat. Also, the new lodge will provide us with much-needed space to reduce over-crowding issues during the winter and deliver winter interpretation.

    We will design new buildings and signage with appropriate materials and design standards that fit into the wilderness landscape as per the detailed Long-Range Plan.

  • Whiskey Jack Base Area

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    Our Long-Range Plan proposes adding commercial space across the Lake Louise Ski Area and expanding the Whiskey Jack Base Area. Our intent is to achieve balance between on-mountain attractions and base area facilities by improving existing services for our guests and expanding, where necessary, to meet their expectations – all within the growth limits set in the Lake Louise Ski Area Site Guidelines (2015).

    Our proposed expansion of the Whiskey Jack Base Area includes:

    • Upgrades to the existing Whiskey Jack Lodge by adding a third floor and a minor expansion to the second floor kitchen.
    • Building a new day lodge next to the original Whiskey Jack Lodge. The proposed new lodge would house a variety of guest and skier services planned over three floors.
    • Washroom, desk and outdoor seating improvements to the Bear’s Den.
    • A new Edu-Lodge to be integrated with the proposed re-development of the Sunny Side Learning Area. This new building will include classroom and meeting spaces equipped with modern technology for play, learning and education.
    • Expanding Temple Lodge and developing a Temple Operations Building to accommodate more skiers and to service the proposed new lift and ski terrain on Richardson’s Ridge and the Temple Lodge base area.
    • Expanding the day care facility.
    • Introducing a heli-pad for emergency use.
    • Walkways to improve safety for pedestrians in the parking lot area.
    • More seating for food and beverage and picnic areas (indoor and outdoor).

    Our goal for these proposed projects is to improve the visitor experience, safety and accessibility. New and renovated buildings and facilities will adhere to the design guidelines drafted for the LRP and signage with natural elements that fit in with the wilderness landscape.

    Click the links to download a map and concept layout showing the proposed changes.

  • Heritage Interpretation and Education

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    The Lake Louise Ski Area has a unique setting in Banff National Park and we want to make sure our visitors have every opportunity to explore and understand the area’s natural, historic and cultural wonders.

    The Ski Area Management Guidelines (2006) encourage the development of winter educational opportunities that complement Canadian National Park and World Heritage Site values. The Lake Louise Ski Area Site Guidelines for Development and Use (2015) direct us to engage about nature and culture, year-round, more meaningfully.

    This aligns well with our vision. In addition to being a world-class, national park ski area, we aim to be a global model for multi-season sustainable tourism, environmental and heritage interpretation and education. We are committed to preserving and celebrating Canada’s natural and cultural heritage, to inspire, educate, and cultivate conservation champions in this and future generations, to engaging responsible partners in stewardship and to initiatives in support of Truth and Reconciliation.

    Emphasis will be given to:

    · Enhancing winter-season Interpretation Exhibits and Programs;

    · Improving the summer experience by establishing enhanced exhibits at the arrival area, and by relocating the summer program to the proposed new Eagle Ridge Day Lodge and Interpretation Centre; and

    · Introducing a new Interpretive and sightseeing trail network along Eagle Ridge.

    The Long-Range Plan incorporates a Heritage Tourism, Interpretation and Education Strategy that will be reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis, and as required to support Canada’s broader goals for public education and awareness.

    We know people want to learn more about the area’s history, landscape, wildlife and culture, including Indigenous history and culture. We provide some of that opportunity with our summer interpretation programs which are currently based out of the Whitehorn Lodge at mid-mountain, but these will be enhanced with more interpretive space. The mid-mountain area is important habitat in the summer months for grizzly bears and other wildlife species. So, by developing a new mountain-top day lodge at Eagle Ridge and moving our summer interpretation programs to the new lodge, we can help reduce human activity in high-quality wildlife habitat. We would return the Whitehorn Lodge to winter-season use only.

    Developing the new Day Lodge on Eagle Ridge also helps improve the experience for our summer visitors by providing them with a true mountain-top experience with more interpretive exhibits and panoramic ridge-top trails. This new day lodge, blending into the ridgeline to reduce potential visual impacts, would give visitors a 360-degree view of the Rocky Mountains. This new lodge will provide a dedicated facility for summer season interpretation programs, so we can continue to enhance our role in educating visitors about the area’s nature and conservation values. Currently, the Interpretive Programs are not accessible to all, and solving accessibility levels for mobility-impaired guests is another associated benefit.

    The new Lodge will be the start and end point for a series of self-guided interpretative hiking trails and snowshoe tours on the upper mountain above treeline. These closed-loop trails will create a network of hiking opportunities with interpretive and interactive signs and viewing platforms and would be made up of various lengths and difficulties. We’re proposing three loops – ranging from 500 metres to 1,300 metres – to provide a variety of convenient hiking opportunities.

    A map of the proposed trails is available to download here.

  • Wildlife Protection

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    Our proposed Long-Range Plan will protect and enhance wildlife habitat, movement pathways and monitoring. Significantly recognized, are species assigned special protection status, whether by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, by the Species at Risk Act, or by Parks Canada.

    Wildlife will benefit from the reduced lease area footprint and the return of high-value wildlife habitat to protected wilderness designation, as well as from winter and summer use considerations. For example, by developing the proposed new mountain-top lodge and moving summer activity away from Whitehorn Lodge and mid-mountain, this will significantly protect important, high-quality habitat for grizzly bears and other wildlife.

    Other improvements on the mountain, at the base area, and for the Whitehorn Wildlife Corridor, relate to such aspects as ski run and hiking trail design, noise and lighting considerations, the elimination of parking on Whitehorn Road and a wildlife underpass.

    On an ongoing basis, wildlife will be accorded for via best practices for responsible wildlife management and by specific tactics in the Environmental Management Strategy. The proposed Long-Range Plan also attaches The Lake Louise Ski Area Wildlife Protection and Management Strategy. These will be ‘living documents’ that support a consistent, ‘big picture,’ long-term approach to wildlife management.

    Our goal with these wildlife management initiatives is to demonstrate leadership in environmental management, stewardship, monitoring and best practices.
  • Vegetation and Ski Run Management

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    The Lake Louise Ski Area has a unique mix of rare trees and plants and our Vegetation and Ski Run Management Strategy is designed to help us maintain, protect and enhance that diversity.

    From creating new and maintaining existing ski runs to building proposed new facilities, our Long-Range Plan ensures protecting the ski area’s natural landscape is paramount.

    Measures and strategies in our Plan include:

    • Protecting, restoring and monitoring Whitebark Pine
    • Minimizing vegetation and terrain disturbance where possible
    • Encouraging natural vegetation recovery
    • Restricting summer activities such as hiking to designated trails
    • Using native vegetation zones or restricted access to protect sensitive areas
    • Improving ski run vegetation management to reduce the amount of snowmaking required to provide safe and comfortable skiing
    • Managing ski run development to control erosion
    • Maintaining native vegetation by preventing the spread of invasive species in the ski area
    • Using measures such as forest thinning and glading to restore forest stand structure to a more natural state
    • Using measures to reduce the overall risk of wildfires

    Our monitoring system evaluates all activities to make sure we continue to do the right things to protect trees, plants and wildlife habitat and respect the natural environment and valued ecosystem.

  • Environmental Management System and Strategies

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    The Lake Louise Ski Area has series of interconnected strategies focused on managing and protecting the ecological integrity of the ski area in Banff National Park. Our Environmental Management System (EMS) includes multiple programs designed to ensure environmental goals are achieved and are continually improved as part of our business and operational plans.

    From operating lodges and chairlifts to snowmaking systems, trails and parking spaces, every part of our day-to-day activities and the proposed projects in Long-Range Plan is designed to reduce the environmental impacts of our operations.

    Key planning strategies include:

    • Water Management and Aquatic Resources Protection and Management Strategy
    • Wildlife Protection and Management Strategy
    • Vegetation and Ski Run Management Strategy
    • Regional Transportation Strategy
    • Infrastructure Plans
    • Ski Race and Special Events Best Management Practices
    • Outdoor Lighting and Noise Best Management Practices
    • Architectural Design Guidelines
    • Heritage Tourism, Interpretation, and Education Strategy

    Our dedicated on-hill environmental coordinator evaluates and continuously updates risk-based evaluations of all environmental aspects associated with our operations, contractors and service providers working for the ski area.

    We have Environmental Management Plans with tasks, responsibilities, timelines and resources to reach objectives for:

    • Water use and surface water
    • Wastewater
    • Waste
    • Energy conservation
    • Fuel, oil and chemicals
    • Wildlife and wildlife habitat
    • Vegetation

    The EMS develops and issues annual objectives to address the significant environmental aspects for our operation and sets environmental performance goals and targets. These objectives also identify any areas requiring improvements in performance. We achieve implementation through the environmental management plans that identify the tasks, responsibilities, timelines and resources for reaching our objectives. We also review and evaluate these environmental management plans each year and modify them as needed.

    Our EMS is built on a framework by the International Standards’ Organization which has established standardized environmental performance measures that can be applied by any engaged business. At Parks Canada’s direction, our EMS reflects procedures established by the US-based National Ski Areas Association for its ‘Sustainable Slopes and the Environmental Charter.’

    All of the supplemental plans and strategies for our proposed Long-Range Plan are available in our Document Library.

  • Water Management and Snowmaking

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    Our water management strategy in the Long-Range Plan will make sure the water supply remains reliable and sustainable and incorporates solid environmental gains. Protecting aquatic resources and species is key, particularly Westslope Cutthroat Trout, per the Species at Risk Act, and Bull Trout, per the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

    The strategy is closely linked to a Snowmaking Infrastructure Plan. Snowmaking is critical for skier safety and enjoyment, and protection of soils and surface vegetation. The water withdrawal system for snowmaking also supplies the drinking water for the ski area and water to fight building and forest fires

    Two proposed water reservoirs, and the addition of the “4-2 Well Site” groundwater wells in the Hamlet of Lake Louise as an alternate water supply, will help achieve environmental gains. The reservoirs would be filled during periods with highest run-off to ensure fish habitat remains optimal, benefitting Corral Creek and the Pipestone River. We are also putting forward additional, much-needed projects to improve firefighting capabilities. Upgrades to the snowmaking system with newer and more efficient equipment will allow us to cover terrain faster and more efficiently, using less water and power. Other potential projects relate to riparian habitat restoration, sediment and erosion control projects and culvert upgrades to improve fish habitat conditions within the ski area.

    A map of our existing and proposed snowmaking areas is available to download here.