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Lake Louise Ski Resort, the largest resort in the Canadian Rockies, is working to expand its skiable terrain and potentially allow room for nearly twice as many visitors.
But contrary to recent news reports, the resort doesn’t have the green light to start digging and building. Here’s the gist:
Lake Louise has about 2,190 hectares (5,411 acres) of land, all of which it leases from Banff National Park. The hope is to expand skiable terrain on the upper mountain by 466 hectares (1,151 acres). But, in exchange, Lake Louise would return 1,025 hectares (2,532 acres) of undeveloped land from its lower area back to the park.
Many media sources have been quick to report Lake Louise has the full-on go ahead for their proposal and construction can begin immediately. But Dan Markham, Lake Louise’s brand and communications director, says that’s far from true, and the mountain still has a long way to go. As of now, Parks Canada has only approved Lake Louise’s site guidelines.
“The approved Site Guidelines provide the Lake Louise Ski Area with a blueprint for long-term growth, and connecting visitors to the unique heritage and sense of place in Banff National Park,” according to a Parks Canada press release.
But that’s all as of now.
“Every single project still has to go through a full environmental assessment, build a long-range plan on how it’s going to be developed, and, of course, provide a financial evaluation,” Markham says. “We can’t put a shovel in the ground or anything. It’s just an approval in terms of moving forward.”
In addition to the proposed land exchange, Lake Louise has a couple of other ideas in store: The first is to build a reservoir, so the mountain can use less water from rivers and streams to make snow. The second is to move summer operations away from the Whitehorn Lodge (located on the lower mountain), and build a new summer lodge at the top of the gondola to protect the lower mountain’s wildlife. The Whitehorn Lodge, though, would still be functional during the winter. Summer operations would simply move up the mountain to a new lodge.
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The main opposition seems to revolve around environmental concerns. Eleven former Parks Canada managers and several conservation groups have spoken up against the potential project. Furthermore, 1300 public comments were submitted over the course of three weeks. Markham says Parks Canada read through every comment and listened to all complaints, but nothing struck a chord.
“They were looking for anything that was valid or scientific and nothing was found,” he says. “There are certain groups that would rather have no one in the parks except for maybe themselves.”
If this proposed project goes through, Markham says it may take 25 years. He hopes the new reservoir and lodge will be approved in the next five years since they take environmental priority, but, with all the red tape, no one truly knows what the future holds for Lake Louise.