Action Alert: Development at National Park Ski Areas

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society - Calgary/Banff Chapter

Please forward this note to anyone who may be interested.

It is time once again to remind our federal decision-makers that the importance of Canada's national parks lies in the glories of nature, and not in commercial outlets and parking lots. Sunshine Ski Area in Banff has started a postcard campaign calling for loosening of the development restrictions under which it and all national park ski areas operate. Its goal is to enlarge its parking lot, and in doing so to carve yet further into the natural habitat of Banff National Park. It may also be trying to set a precedent for all sorts of new commercial development on the ski area leases and perhaps elsewhere in the parks. In the past Canadian have said loud and clear that they do not want their national parks abused in this way, and that message has been reflected in federal policy. Now we have to make sure that policy holds firm.

If you believe as I do that land in our national parks are more valuable to Canada in their natural state than under the gravel of a parking lot, please take few minutes to ask Ottawa to continue to stand up to the pressures of commercial expansion. We cannot say often or clearly enough that nature must come first in national parks management.

Please write or e-mail the federal Minister of Environment and other federal decision-makers. Tell them that the limits to commercial growth in our national park must be upheld and even strengthened. Let them know that you will strongly oppose any move to buckle under to pressure from ski arera owners or others who would exploit our national park. Given the state of our national politics it is also very important that you send a copy of your letter to the opposition environment critics.

Hon. Stephane Dion
Minister of Environment
House of Commons
Ottawa Ontario K1A 0A6
Fax: (613) 996-6562
E-mail: [email protected]

Bob Mills
Conservative Environment Critic
Fax: (613) 995-6831
E-mail: [email protected]

Nathan Cullen
NDP Environment Critic
Fax: (613) 993-9007
E-mail: [email protected]

E-mail if it is convenient, but remember that a hard-copy letter will probably receive more attention. Remember too that postage is free on correspondence to elected members of parliament. The most important thing is that you let your views be known. Remember to that your local MP will be looking for your vote again soon, so make sure he or she knows where you stand.

For more information on this topic please see May article below, which was originally written for Green Notes, the newsletter of the Calgary/Banff Chapter of CPAWS.

Thank you for coming to the aid of our national parks.


Dave Poulton, Executive Director
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society - Calgary/Banff Chapter
Suite 1120, 1202 Centre Street S.E.
Calgary Alberta T2G 5A5
Direct Ph: (403) 232-6601 Office Phone: (403) 232-6686
Fax: (403) 232-6988
E-mail: [email protected]

Please visit our webpage:

"Limits to Growth" in Banff

Dave Poulton

"By following the direction outlined in this plan during the next decade, the park will become a place where:


  • there are limits to growth in the Town of Banff, the Hamlet of Lake Louise, overnight accommodation, ski areas, as well as limits on day use for some areas;"

Banff National Park Management Plan

I - Community Plans Complete - Town's Commercial Growth Capped

Last year, just under the wire before the federal election, an item quitetly passed through the House of Commons and Senate and into law: the national park community plans were accepted as part of the Canada National Parks Act.

These plans, years in the making, sometimes with much controversy and conflict, laid out the permanent boundaries of Banff, Jasper, Waterton, Lake Louise, and other park communities. They also set maximum limits on the amount of commercial space each community could have.

The community plans were a response to the growing concern of many, including CPAWS, that our national parks were increasingly coming under pressure from the incremental growth of commercial facilities, that a cap had to be imposed.

That cap was reach in Banff last fall - all 350,000 square feet of allowed commercial is now allotted. Though some, including some on the new town council, have advocated that the cap be lifted, others see it as a boon to the community, protecting existing operators from new competition and protecting the natural values of the national park.

CPAWS congratulates Parks Canada on the completion of the community plans and their passage into law. It is a considerable accomplishment.

II - Ski Areas:Will They Finally Face Limits?

National Park communities have commercial caps. Accommodations outside those communities have had strict limits put on their expansion ambitions. The only significant commercial operations in the national parks who do not currently face a strict legal condition on their growth is the ski areas. Has their time come too?

In 2000 then federal Heritage Minister Sheila Copps announced that the 5 ski areas (Mount Norquay, Sunshine and Lake Louise in Banff; Marmot Basin in Jasper and tiny Moutn Agassiz in Manitoba's Riding Mountain) would be required to prepare new long-range plans (LRP's). In doing so they would be subject to strict policy guidelines which would prohibit major new developments. Once complete the LRP's would be subject to environmental assessment, and would then become legally binding. No development outside those prescribed by the new LRP would be allowed.

Unfortunately, that process has barely gotten off the ground. Instead the ski areas have engaged in litigation and a very public campaign in support of their continued growth. They have claimed that their poor commercial prospects keep them from being able to prepare plans. They have spoken enviously of the restriction-free environment of their competitors in Whistler and Vail, disregarding the fact that those areas are not in national parks or world heritage sites.

This spring, however, it appears that we may finally see at least some of the ski areas get on with the process of developing their LRP's. What form they will take, and how much new development the ski area will try to advance, remain to be seen.

CPAWS will definitely be closely involved in the situation for this is an issue in which we have been keenly interested for years. We have made clear on many occasions that we are not seeking to shut the ski areas down. We do expect them to accept that their prospects for future growth will be seriously limited, and that they should operate with an environmental ethic in keeping with their magnificent locations.

What You Can Do

There is still pressure to avoid or remove the limits to growth in our national parks so as to allow more commercial facilities. It is important that Canadians who believe that parks are about something other than commerce let policy-makers know how important commercial caps - on communities, on accommodation, on ski areas - are to the future of our parks.

"How can a Minister stand-up against the pressures of commercial interests who want to use the parks for forestry, mining, for every kind of honky-tonk device known to man, unless the people who love these parks are prepared to band together and support the Minister by getting the facts out across the county?"

Alvin Hamilton, Min. for National Parks, 1960

(This plea led to the creation of the National and Provincial parks Association of Canada, later to be renamed the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.)