Jasper National Park of Canada

Marmot Basin Ski Area Site Guidelines for Development and Use

5.5 Ski Lifts

Ski Area Management Guidelines

"Within the Developed Area the following can be considered: lift replacement, upgrade, realignment and new lifts".

Page 4, Ski Area Management Guidelines , Minister of Environment, December 7, 2006

Objectives

  • Provide access/service for new terrain.
  • Improve skier safety and circulation.
  • Modernize facilities.
  • Ensure lifts are balanced with other ski area components.
  • Ensure lift alignments are consistent with the run improvement/vegetation management strategy and support objectives related to ecosystem functioning and protecting sensitive species.
  • Utilize lifts that have harmonic protection and are energy efficient.

Existing Situation

  • 9 lifts in total including T-bars and a detachable quad. Current out-of-base capacity is 5,182 skiers per hour. The total rated uphill capacity for all lifts combined is 11,530 passengers per hour. Map # 4 indicates the existing lift network within the existing Developed Area.
  • Most of the lifts need replacing to address technology/maintenance issues and skier expectations for quicker ascents and shorter line-ups.
  • Present location and types of lifts do not facilitate efficient skier circulation and access to ski pods.
  • Marmot Basin feels additional open bowl and expert terrain is desirable to attract the growing contingent of advanced and expert skiers, which has proven effective in expanding market draw of ski resorts in western Canada.
  • While off-piste skiing is currently allowed in the Tres Hombres area, it does not take place for reasons of safety. Off-piste skiing in the Outer Limits area is currently allowed and does occur when snow conditions permit. Off-piste terrain offers a backcountry type experience where more advanced skiers seek out powder or soft-packed snow. It is terrain that is accessible from lifts, but not directly serviced by them. It offers a more natural experience, with limited services.
  • The 1981 Long-Range Plan for Marmot Basin identified that development to the top Marmot Peak and in the Whistlers Valley slopes would be excluded, due to concerns at the time associated with viewscapes, goats, caribou and potential for slope slumping. Today, the Ski Area Management Guidelines provide clearer policy direction on the management of ski areas, including the possibility to consider exceptions if there is potential for substantial environmental gains in more sensitive areas of the leasehold. Within this context, these Site Guidelines, which represent a site-specific application of the ministerial policy direction, outline what kind of development can be considered and under what conditions. Ecological management parameters and research requirements have been identified that provide focused areas of concern to better guide long-range planning and decision-making. With careful planning and mitigation there is the potential to address the key issues originally identified in 1981. As such, and on a policy basis, potential development activity on or near Marmot Peak can be considered. In terms of potential lift development in Outer Limits and Tres Hombres, further information is needed in order to make an objective, scientific decision as to whether potential future development in these areas should be considered.

Site Guidelines

5.5.1 Within the adjusted Developed Area, new lifts and the replacement, upgrade, realignment of existing lifts will be considered in balance with other ski area components including ski terrain, commercial buildings, out-of-base lift capacity, total lift capacity and parking. Map # 5 outlines the potential lift initiatives (and general locations) that Marmot Basin may wish to pursue within the adjusted Developed Area and that can be considered. The replacement or realignment of existing lifts can be considered following approval of these Site Guidelines, in accordance with the Ski Area Management Guidelines , and do not need to be advanced through a Long-Range Plan.

5.5.2 Consider, on an exception to policy basis as described in Section 4.0, the following initiatives:

  • 5.5.2.1 An extension of the Knob Chairlift to the summit area can be considered subject to the completion of a Long-Range Plan and the application of CEAA. Issues related to terminal location, potential requirements for significant terrain modification, skier safety, controlling skier access over the backside, impacts on caribou, wolverine and goats, viewscapes, specific alignment and lift technology are to be fully addressed in the Long-Range Plan. Clear alternatives for location of the upper terminal, its design and the nature of the lift will be fully explored to address potential impacts to goats, viewscapes and terrain modification issues and other key issues that may be identified.

    To assist in preparing specific proposals, Marmot Basin will investigate important goat habitat features, activity and movement adjacent to the leasehold (see SEA). Marmot will need to demonstrate that the sustainability of the regional goat population will not be compromised and that impacts of additional human use on caribou habitat or its utilization can be appropriately mitigated.

    Marmot staff and skier/boarder education will play an important role to prevent off-lease skiing in this area. Goat management protocols will be developed as part of the Long-Range Plan in order to minimize the disturbance to goat habitat and movement on and adjacent to the leasehold. A Licence of Occupation can be considered should it be necessary to locate the upper terminal outside of the existing lease in order to minimize terrain modification. A Licence of Occupation will be subject to appropriate legislative approvals.

  • 5.5.2.2 In the long term, Marmot has expressed the desire to provide lift access to the Outer Limits and Tres Hombres areas. However, at this time, Parks Canada is unable to objectively determine, in scientific terms, whether or not potential future development in these areas should be considered because the potential impact of lift development on caribou in these areas is not well understood. In addition, because woodland caribou are listed as 'threatened' by the Species Act Risk Act , a national strategy for the management of caribou is currently being developed. Based on this strategy, local action plans will be developed where necessary. It is therefore inappropriate to determine how potential changes to Outer Limits and Tres Hombres should be managed in advance of this direction. For these reasons, a multi year, independently led caribou risk assessment will be undertaken.

    Marmot Basin will join Parks Canada in completing, within three years of its initiation, a mutually agreed on risk assessment 5 . It will examine the impact on caribou of potential development in the Whistlers Creek area and the effectiveness of potential mitigations to manage human use in this area. Upon the completion of the risk assessment a final decision regarding the potential consideration of lift access in the Outer Limits and Tres Hombres areas will be made. If adverse impacts cannot be effectively mitigated, no lift access will be considered and the current situation will continue. If the decision is favourable, Marmot Basin will be in a position to put forward proposals for consideration as part of a Long-Range Plan and associated application of CEAA.

    The risk assessment will be led by an objective third party and agreed upon by Parks Canada and Marmot Basin. In the event that an agreement cannot be reached, then the process will be determined in accordance with the Alberta Arbitration Act. Terms of reference for the caribou risk assessment will: reflect the intent of the Species at Risk Act , these Site Guidelines and the associated Strategic Environmental Assessment; and identify mitigations to ensure that current off-piste skiing, managed in accordance with Section 5.5.2.3, below, contributes to achieving the ecological parameters.

  • 5.5.2.3 At a minimum, the Tres Hombres and Outer Limits area can be continue to be managed for off-piste skiing. The areas will not be included in the adjusted Developed Area but will remain in the leasehold as part of the overall suite of exceptions. Off-piste skiing will operate under the following general guidelines:
    • Avalanche control, a few signs (i.e. run names) to address safety issues;
    • Ski patrolled;
    • Only open when there is sufficient snow to cover hazards;
    • Involves some degree of walking/hiking to enter or egress;
    • No major tree removal or glading (except for safety purposes);
    • Can be supported by some ski traverse tracks back to the base area to prevent skiers from getting lost or to keep them out of sensitive areas;
    • Can have temporary fencing (that does not impede wildlife movement) to keep skiers out of dangerous or sensitive areas;
    • No terrain modification;
    • No grooming 6 , no snowmaking; and
    • No ski lifts or facility development.
  • 5.5.2.4 Continued off-piste skiing in Tres Hombres and Outer Limits will be designated as a restricted zone and managed under specific conditions. Education programs for Marmot staff and skiers/boarders of the importance of the area to caribou and what they can do to help protect caribou habitat will be a key component of the off-piste skiing experience.

5 The caribou risk assessment, to be effective, will need to address visitor activity in the broader Whistlers Creek valley as a whole and not just activities on the ski area leasehold. On the leasehold, the primary area of focus is identified as the "study area" on maps in these Site Guidelines.
6 A limited amount of grooming currently takes place in the upper portion of Outer Limits to reduce the potential for wind erosion of the snowpack. This is desirable to protect visitors and protect vegetation and as such can continue subject to application of Best Management Practices for grooming.

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