Alpine Ski Touring
Skill Development and Safety
Alpine ski touring is a fun, exciting and physically challenging way to explore the back-country of the Jasper National Park. Famous for the incredible vistas, rugged peaks, wild glaciers and fluffy champagne powder, the Canadian Rocky Mountains offer a wide range of easy short day trips to long multi-day glacial traverses. Venturing further into the backcountry requires a greater degree of ability, knowledge and self-reliance. The weather can change rapidly in the mountains and temperatures may drop to as low as -40 degrees Celsius, even in March. Avalanches are a common occurrence. Considerable skill and knowledge is required to navigate through avalanche terrain. Avalanche educational courses are offered through the Canadian Avalanche Association or through a certified mountain guide.
No avalanche control takes place in the backcountry other than for the purposes of highway corridor avalanche control. Understanding avalanche phenomena will help you make more informed decisions. Daily backcountry Avalanche Bulletins
are prepared by professional avalanche forecasters in the Visitor Safety program between December and April. The Jasper avalanche forecast covers the area from the Maligne Valley south to Saskatchewan River crossing in Banff National Park. These forecasts can be viewed online and are posted at the Jasper Information Centre.
The avalanche danger can change rapidly with changing weather. Be observant of changing conditions and early warning signs during your ski trip. Be willing to turn around if conditions are not safe. Before heading out be sure to check the local weather forecast at 780-852-3185 or check on-line with Environment Canada
The Icefields Parkway and the road to Maligne Lake travel through many avalanche paths, which are posted with signs marking their start and end points. Do not stop or park between these signs as you are at danger from avalanches here.
Avalanche control activities take place along these sectiof higns ohway and the road may be closed during these times for several days at a time. Un-detonated explosives may be encountered in these areas. Do not move or touch any objects that you suspect are explosives and report them immediately to Jasper Dispatch by calling 780-852-6155.
Dial 911 to report an emergency. Cell phone coverage is limited within the park with some coverage existing close to the Jasper or Lake Louise town sites. Few pay phones are located along the Icefields Parkway. The best forms of emergency contact from the Jasper back-country are satellite phones or carry a Personal Locator Beacon, SPOT or InReach device.
If you are calling for assistance using a satellite phone the number to call to reach the Jasper emergency dispatch will be 877-852-3100.
The following are some considerations that will help you prepare for an enjoyable ski tour:
- Pick an objective that is within your ability and have an alternate plan in case conditions changes, for popular trips check the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale.
- Research the trail or trip and find out what condition it is in. contacting Jasper Dispatch 780-852-6155 or the Parks Information Office at 780-852-6176. If you would like to speak with an avalanche forecaster this can be done through Jasper Dispatch. Guidebooks can be purchased at local retail stores in the area.
- Check the backcountry Avalanche Bulletin on line.
- Check the weather forecast on line or on the phone 780-852-3185.
- Let someone at home know your plans for the day and when you are expected back.
- Go with a friend.
- Take your avalanche safety gear and know how to use it if you are venturing into avalanche terrain.
- Be prepared to be self-sufficient if you encounter bad weather or have an accident by packing the right clothing and emergency equipment.
- As you drive to the trailhead observe the landscape and what the weather is doing. Ask yourself is the avalanche danger changing. Look for signs of recent avalanche activity and be prepared to change your objectives for the day.
- Check the information boards at the trailheads.
- Set a turn around time and stick to it.
Snow cover varies greatly with elevation. On the ice caps in the park skiing is possible year round. At lower elevations in the valley bottoms skiing is best between early December and late March. During the early part of the winter Parker Ridge is closed until there is 50cm of snow cover. This is to protect the fragile soil and vegetation from damage by skiers and boarders.
For Current Conditions and Avalanche Bulletins
Follow the link to Jasper National Park
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Follow the link to http://www.parksmountainsafety.ca/