What are some benefits relating to the proposed, upgraded Summit experience?

The Summit Platter dates back to 1977. It is still a favourite for some of our most loyal guests. The terrain appeals to all who love a high-alpine, adrenaline-inducing, natural experience. A great deal of thought has gone into, and will continue to go into, the Summit experience so it can remain unspoiled and enjoyable — just better.

Upgraded Lift:

Anticipating the current Summit Platter’s end of life, a replacement and realignment is proposed. The new lift is not suggested as a means to accommodate a lot of new skiers. Summit will still be a low-density experience. The uphill capacity would be carefully executed to ensure the downhill capacity remains balanced — not much different than now.

The current situation is that on some days, the lift doesn’t run at capacity and on many days, there are larger line-ups — out of place at the Lake Louise Ski Area. An uncrowded, National Park experience is one we are keen to preserve and improve upon.

Challenges to address include the age of the lift, guest comfort on the ascent and a difficult to maintain track. Many tell us it is too hard to balance on a 40-year old platter and navigate a sometimes icy and uneven track to reach the peak. We hear this from snowboarders and youth/smaller users, especially. This presents situations where people could fall on the way up, especially on Headwall. Safety considerations are a key driver of the proposed replacement of Summit Platter with a chairlift.

Given the above, and with current and future advances in lift technologies, replacing the platter with another platter is impractical.

The proposed new alignment would mean a shorter ride up than the current lift, and in an area that is not subject to considerations to do with wind/wind closures.

Better Ski Experience:

To ensure a safe and low-density ski experience remains, we would carefully choose the type of lift at the project level. On an ongoing basis, we would use signage and staff at the bottom to ensure that only guests with appropriate abilities for the terrain served are the ones riding the lift. At the top, signage would highlight Skyline, an existing blue run, and as the easiest way down.

The new lift would also serve much more terrain than it does now. No new development is proposed for West Bowl (no new lifts or snowmaking, and no grooming). However, the new ski terrain, along with associated minor glading and safety improvements, would create a fantastic experience. The frontside of Summit without the platter in the way, as it is now, would be another new and excellent experience. There would be more than enough new terrain to accommodate any increased ridership.

For experts who enjoy summit laps, the way back up would be quicker and easier. The new proposed top terminal would mean users would not have to hike to access Boomerang and associated runs. After riding back up Paradise chairlift, it would be faster to the top on the new lift. Frontside laps would be just as efficient.

Meanwhile, those slightly less advanced are predicted to take the long way down, and then proceed back up the new Juniper Lift and/or Top of the World to get back to the new Summit Lift. This would be a new and exceptional experience as well.

Improved Viewscapes and Aesthetics:

Importantly, the proposed new lift alignment would substantially benefit the National Park aesthetic. Maintaining pristine and natural viewscapes is a goal of the Lake Louise Ski Area Site Guidelines, reaffirmed in the Terms of Reference for the Direct Impact Assessment, and important to our vision and the Banff National Park ‘sense-of-place,’ which is wild and pristine.

Why are you proposing a Long-Range Plan for the Lake Louise Ski Area?

The Lake Louise Ski Area is developing a Long-Range Plan to guide guest experience, interpretive and educational initiatives and environmental protection over the next 10 to 15 years and beyond. 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, for 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 ongoing generations. Everyone will be able to discover and connect with our unique natural and cultural heritage in more memorable and authentic ways.

What is in the Long-Range Plan?

From 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 capacity to welcome people to the area while protecting its unique culture, wilderness and heritage resources. 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. The end result would be a nearly 50 per cent reduction of the ski area’s leasehold with a 30 per cent reduction of land available for snow sports on the mountains--an improved guest experience within a smaller footprint. 

What are the environmental gains associated with the Long-Range Plan?

The Lake Louise Ski Area Site Guidelines contain four key proposals that can be considered substantial environmental gains.

  • Removal of Purple and Wolverine Bowl lands from the ski area lease. These lands have long been identified by Parks Canada and through environmental analysis 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.

What are the goals of the Long-Range Plan?

The primary goals of the Long-Range Plan are:

  • Enhancing the ski area’s capacity to welcome national park visitors in both winter and summer
  • Protecting the area’s unique natural and cultural wonders, wilderness and heritage for all time
  • Educating visitors on the area’s unique natural and cultural wonders through a world-class national mountain park experience
  • Ensuring visitor safety
  • Improving accessibility

What are the proposed projects?

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. 

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 Prunepicker
Proposed facilities 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

What is your parking and transportation plan?

Our Long-Range Plan includes proposed improvements to transportation and parking to help reduce congestion, enhance safety and provide visitors with the best mountain experience.

In our Long-Range Plan, we have found ways to increase the total parking capacity from 1,951 cars and 12 buses to 3,256 cars and 50 buses.  These changes will help us accommodate more guests, manage traffic tie-ups and improve safety for people and wildlife.

How will you protect wildlife?

Our proposed projects 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. 

Who makes the decision about the Long-Range Plan?

Our proposed Long-Range Plan must meet the detailed environmental protection and management strategies in Parks Canada’s 2015 Lake Louise Ski Area Site Area Guidelines and accompanying Strategic Environmental Assessment.

Parks Canada will review the Long-Range Plan and the Detailed Impact Assessment and make a recommendation to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister Responsible for Parks Canada, who will make the final decision. 

What does Comfortable Carrying Capacity mean?

The 2015 Lake Louise Ski Area Site Guidelines direct LLSA to ensure a balance of ski area components in order to minimize congestion and crowding and maximize memorable visitor experience and connection. This is done by applying limits to growth called ‘comfortable carrying capacity’ (CCC).

The CCC is a measure of the optimum number of skiers who can utilize the on-mountain offerings  at one time while being guaranteed a pleasant outdoor recreational experience and without impacting the quality of the physical or sociological environment. It is a dynamic number that considers the use of the mountain throughout the day, based on the mix of available terrain (e.g. beginner, intermediate, advanced) and expectations of corresponding skier types. The concept of CCC works to achieve a sense of balanced use of the land without overwhelming the site’s physical limitations (i.e. the environment and supporting infrastructure), while at the same time integrating and fulfilling user expectations of the ski area experience. 

It is important to note that as the ski industry has responded to a changing winter sports recreation marketplace, ski areas have evolved from single season facilities to all-season destinations. However, summer activities, though rapidly growing in popularity and importance, are still secondary to winter in terms of guest numbers. As such, the capacity needed for winter operations will still be greater than projected increases in summer visitation and thus does not influence the CCC.

CCC in a Banff National Park ski area context uses best practice in sustainable recreation management. Based on a scientific formula, it suggests the number of visitors an attraction can comfortably accommodate at one time so that everything is in balance – ecosystems, and things like lift capacity, ski terrain, lodge space, parking, power, water, etc. 

What does this Long-Range Plan provide for?

The goals are enjoyable, uncrowded experiences and facilities and exceptional services in keeping with broader destination management plans, along with environmental integrity.

The projects we are bringing forward under this Long Range Plan would accommodate a comfortable carrying capacity of 9000 skiers a day, plus 1000 non skiers.

Our plans put forward a low comfortable carrying capacity to fulfill our overall vision of a ski experience in a national park. The experience here will be uncrowded. Vast and pristine backdrops, wide-open natural spaces, and the appreciation of and immersion into nature and wilderness are central.

Our plans will help us accommodate visitors comfortably and safely throughout the ski area at peak times with more varied ski terrain options for beginner and lower intermediate skiers. Ski patrol and traffic flow issues will be improved along with food and beverage services. An enhanced daycare and year-round interpretive space and programming are other key outcomes.

The ski industry standard is 1 to 1.5 square metres of interior space per person, depending on local conditions. For an area like Lake Louise, without ski-in ski-out accommodation, a higher ratio of 1.5 square meters was determined in the Lake Louise Ski Area Site Guidelines to make sure there’s adequate storage space, change rooms, restrooms and food and beverage services.

What are the considerations for sensitive and at risk species?

More than 25 detailed studies have been completed by the ski area to support the preparation of this first Long-Range Plan and the companion Detailed Impact Analysis. Major studies have focused on wildlife, water use and aquatic resources, and vegetation management to ensure that ecological integrity can be assured as the ski area implements the Long-Range Plan. 

On an ongoing basis, overseeing everything we do is our Environmental Department and their Environmental Management Strategy. Additionally, we are always subject to regulatory and management considerations as per guidance outlined by National Park Management Plans and the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and by other such environmental legislation as applicable. Guiding everything we do are the Canada National Parks Act and the Species at Risk Act, and associated Regulations. 

All of our proposed projects must fully integrate with the Canada Species at Risk Act (SARA).  Our proposed Long-Range Plan developments and operations will follow criteria established under SARA to make sure our activities do not threaten at-risk wildlife, fish and ecosystems within the ski area. All national park ski area plans, developments, and operations are subject to SARA prohibitions and species at risk considerations.

Our Long-Range Plan and accompanying Detailed Impact Analysis integrate all regional SARA recovery action plans and their goals as well as the approved multi-species action plans that Parks Canada has issued for the Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks Field Unit. 

What happens to the feedback I provide through this website?

All comments and questions that we receive through this site will be provided directly to Parks Canada for consideration in its decision-making process.

Following this period of public engagement, Lake Louise Ski Area will also be preparing a "What We Heard" report, which will be submitted to Parks Canada along with our proposed LRP.

If you would prefer to provide feedback directly to Parks Canada, you may send comments to pc.lakelouise-opinion.pc@canada.ca

I have specific input to provide regarding the proposed LRP. Where should I do this?

This site is managed by Lake Louise Ski Area and is being used to collect general feedback and to answer questions about the proposed LRP. If you would like to provide us with more detailed feedback on the LRP, you can reach us at lrp@skilouise.com and at 1-833-478-8419.

If you would prefer, you can also provide your feedback directly to Parks Canada at pc.lakelouise-opinion.pc@canada.ca