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Jasper National Park of Canada

Marmot Basin Ski Area Site Guidelines for Development and Use

Table of Contents

Marmot Basin Statement of Concurrence
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Current Situation
Chapter 3: Goals and Priorities
Chapter 4: Exceptions to Ski Area Management Guidelines – Substantial Environmental Gain
Chapter 5: Site Guidelines
Chapter 6: Monitoring
Chapter 7: Lease
Chapter 8: Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)


Appendix 1: Ski Area Management Guidelines - December 2006
Appendix 2: Ski Area Planning Process
Appendix 3: Strategic Environmental Assessment Summary
Appendix 4: Glossary


Working Towards Land Use Certainty

Downhill skiing has a long history in Canada's mountains national parks. In the 1940's ski areas had rustic and basic facilities reflective of the emerging tourism industry of the parks at that time. Over the years, the ski areas have grown and updated their facilities, become internationally recognized and now attract over a million skiers. Winter visitors come to the mountain national parks each year to pursue the rewards of skiing with their families and friends within the backdrop of unparalleled mountain scenery, diverse ski terrain, reliable snow conditions and protected wilderness settings.

The Marmot Basin Ski Area is located in Jasper National Park and was established in the late 1960's. The ski area has played an increasingly important role in tourism in the park over the last 40 years and now directly supports the economic well being of the community in winter. The park is an important international symbol of Canada and the national park system. It is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site. Jasper, like all national parks, is dedicated to protecting and presenting a special part of Canada's natural and cultural heritage for the benefit, education and enjoyment of present and future generations. One of the biggest questions for national parks is how to clearly state and implement the direction national parks are taking in managing development, growth and use.

At Marmot Basin, growth has been carefully controlled to ensure ecological integrity. However because of the evolving nature of the skiing industry and the close ties of the ski area to the well being of the tourism industry, there are demands for expanded services and facilities at the ski area to assist the ski area in remaining competitive. The role of these site guidelines is to guide change and ensure that Parks Canada's mandate is achieved for years to come.

On December 8, 2006, the Minister of Environment announced refinements to Ski Area Management Guidelines to guide the ski area planning process for the mountain national park ski areas. The primary goal of the Guidelines is to provide land use certainty for the ski areas, the Canadian public and Parks Canada. The Ski Area Management Guidelines are based on a number of principles to guide the preparation of ski area Long-Range Plans. These Site Guidelines outline how this direction is to be achieved at Marmot Basin. The Marmot Basin Site Guidelines for Development and Use apply the principles as follows:

1. The approach taken to manage growth and the preparation of site guidelines and long-range plans at ski areas will be similar to that taken for communities and outlying commercial accommodation.

The Marmot Basin Site Guidelines apply this principle by establishing permanent growth limits and ensuring that potential growth does not compromise the ecological health of the park. Ecological parameters have been established to ensure ecosystem functioning is maintained. Long-Range Plans, that are required to advance development, will need to demonstrate that the parameters will be achieved. The growth limits that have been negotiated with Marmot Basin include: the Developed Area (437 ha); the amount of ski terrain (275 ha); and the amount of commercial space (6,270 m2). Ski area development will be based on a design capacity of 6,500 skiers per day and balancing ski area resort components such as lifts, ski terrain, day lodges, parking and other services within terrain limitations to support a quality skiing experience while addressing ecological challenges.

Growth will take place over time and issues surrounding infrastructure and staff housing will be addressed before related expansion takes place.

In tandem with the growth limits established for communities and outlying commercial accommodation, the growth limits for Marmot Basin represent a significant long-term measure to ensure that the ecological integrity of the park is maintained.

The potential development contemplated in these site guidelines will be advanced through the preparation of one or more Long-Range Plans and application of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) and will need to be consistent with the Ski Area Management Guidelines and the Marmot Basin Site Guidelines for Development and Use.

2. Inside the Developed Area, new development can be considered where potential ecological impacts can be mitigated.

The existing developed area represents the area that has been previously modified for skiing purposes. This includes ski runs, gladed areas, buildings, parking areas and other physical works. Within the existing developed area, the initiatives that Marmot may wish to pursue that can be considered if advanced as part of a formal Long-Range Plan proposal include: new lifts, lift upgrades and replacements; new runs and new gladed areas; run widening, terrain park development, expansion of snowmaking, expansion of parking within disturbed areas, mass transit, expansion of mid mountain and base area day lodges; terrain modification to address safety and environmental issues; and the consolidation and relocation of the maintenance buildings.

A broad range of mitigation measures have been identified to ensure no significant impact to wildlife, vegetation and aquatic environments. Key ecological management parameters include: criteria for ski terrain design and vegetation management that reflect naturally occurring conditions; protection of sensitive and rare vegetation; protection of unique terrain features; preventing displacement of sensitive wildlife from important regional habitat; ensuring minimum flow requirements are maintained to support aquatic habitat; and maintaining water quality.

3. Outside the exiting Developed Area, new development can be considered if there is a Substantial Environmental Gain within or adjacent to the leasehold.

Marmot Basin has proposed a substantial leasehold reconfiguration that would result in the removal of the Whistlers Creek bed area and surrounding up-slopes, to the extent shown on Map 1, from the ski area leasehold in exchange for consideration of potential initiatives that would be exceptions to the Ski Area Management Guidelines. The proposed lease reduction (approximately 18% overall) will provide greater certainty that Whistlers Creek bed and surrounding up-slopes will remain undeveloped. As such, it will provide greater long-term protection of ecological integrity in that portion of Whistlers Creek than would be the case if the area remained in the lease, including enhanced protection of valuable caribou habitat and enhanced protection of an important goat mineral lick. This improved level of long-term certainty and protection is considered a substantial environmental gain that will contribute meaningfully to Parks Canada's objective of maintaining or improving ecological integrity in Jasper National Park.

In exchange for this voluntary lease reduction, Parks Canada is prepared to consider the following potential future initiatives as exceptions to the Ski Area Management Guidelines: expansion of the Developed Area; extension of the Knob Chairlift outside of the existing Developed Area; significant terrain modification for a realigned Knob Chairlift if alternatives prove impractical; development of a new beginner ski area and Nordic ski trails outside of the existing lease boundary; terrain modification to support the development of a terrain park and mid mountain reservoir; the development of a skier egress from the Tres Hombres off-piste area; and the development of a new ticket and group sales building in one of the parking lots.

The ski area also wishes to pursue the development of ski lifts in the Tres Hombres and Outer Limits areas. Because the potential impact of development in these areas is not well understood, a decision on whether to potentially consider lifts in these areas will only be made upon completion of a caribou risk assessment. At a minimum, off-piste skiing can continue.

4. Ski areas will contribute to a unique, memorable national park experience and promote public appreciation and understanding of the heritage values of the park and world heritage site and local conservation initiatives.

Improvements to lifts, day lodges, parking and additional ski terrain, if advanced as proposals, would all contribute to enhancing the skiing experience. To complement these efforts and reinforce the location of the ski area in a national park, Marmot Basin will carefully apply Best Management Practices for viewscapes, noise and external lighting and implement an architectural theme for building developments, renovations and expansions.

A heritage tourism strategy will be developed that includes approaches for winter education. Visitor and Marmot Basin staff education programs will be put in place to help reduce potential impacts on sensitive species.

5. Ski areas will be leaders in the application of environmental management, stewardship and best practices.

Marmot Basin will develop and implement an environmental management and monitoring system geared to improving environmental performance. They will also apply Mountain Park Ski Area Best Management Practices that outline environmental protection measures for routine projects and activities.

The removal of the Whistlers Creek bed area, and surrounding up-slopes, to the extent shown on Map 1, in tandem with the establishment of permanent, negotiated limits to growth, the enhancement of environmental stewardship programs and new education programs for skiers and Marmot Basin staff on environmental issues collectively represent a major conservation effort that will contribute to the protection of ecological integrity over the long term. At the same time, improvements to ski terrain, lifts, facilities, services and public education opportunities will enhance the unique experience of skiing in a national park and World Heritage Site.

The Marmot Basin Site Guidelines for Development and Use is a tool that will help Parks Canada and Marmot Basin make decisions that are consistent with Parks Canada's mandate and the vision for Jasper National Park while supporting the needs of the ski area. The direction outlined in these site guidelines provide the basis for Marmot Basin to prepare one or more future Long-Range Plans with the duration of each depending upon Marmot's unique planning requirements over time. Parks Canada supports carefully managed, limited growth that will help Marmot Basin be healthy - environmentally and economically. By applying the ski area management principles and the provisions of these Site Guidelines, Marmot Basin will continue to play an important role in the future of Jasper National park.

Marmot Basin Site Guidelines for Development and Use

Approved by:
Alan Latourelle
Chief Executive Officer
Parks Canada Agency

Recommended by:
Greg Fenton
Jasper National Park of Canada
Ron Hallman
Executive Director
Mountain Parks

Marmot Basin Statement of Concurrence

Marmot Basin supports the content and intent of these Site Guidelines.

Marmot Basin understands that future development proposals that are clearly consistent with these Site Guidelines and are advanced through a Long-Range Plan and associated application of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, will be supported by Parks Canada.

Marmot Basin requests that a new 42-year lease be negotiated as part of the long-range planning process. We understand that Parks Canada will grant a new, negotiated 42-year lease upon ministerial approval of Marmot Basin's first Long-Range Plan and that projects approved in the Long-Range Plan that do not require legislative undertakings may proceed to the permitting stage at that time.

Marmot Basin agrees that the new, negotiated 42-year lease will reflect the voluntary leasehold reduction and will confirm mutual intentions, subject always to appropriate legislative amendments, regarding any new license(s) of occupation provided for in an approved Long-Range Plan. It is understood that projects related to any new license(s) of occupation provided for in a Long-Range Plan may only proceed to the permitting stage following the completion of relevant legislative amendments.

Marmot Basin agrees to the Site Guidelines on our expectation that the projects described herein are attainable, subject to the terms outlined in the approved Site Guidelines document and relevant legislation. It is understood that the Marmot Board retains the right to internally approve its Long-Range Plan submissions and the new, negotiated 42-year lease prior to the completion of those documents, in accordance with its own approval processes.

Marmot Basin would like to thank Parks Canada for the collaborative approach in preparing these Site Guidelines and their intent to support the initiatives contained herein, which from a policy perspective Parks Canada has determined to be acceptable.

John Day
Rocky Mountain Skiing Inc