When visiting Waterton Lakes National Park during winter, be prepared for winter’s special hazards: cold temperatures, storms, challenging travel conditions, uncertain ice conditions and short days.

Be sure to check and prepare for the weather before you depart, file a trip plan and bring the right gear and clothing.

Backcountry travel always comes with inherent risks, and areas affected by the Kenow Wildfire may have increased hazards. Backcountry travellers are responsible for their own decisions and safety.

In winter, visitors should consider the Akamina and Red Rock Parkways as backcountry terrain.

Parks Canada issues Avalanche Bulletins for Waterton Lakes National Park twice a week throughout the winter. Almost any moderately steep slope, under the right conditions, may avalanche. Even small avalanches can be deadly.

Visitors travelling in avalanche terrain need essential training and equipment - such as a transceiver, probe, and shovel - and know how to use it. They also need the skills to recognize avalanche terrain and unstable conditions, and to conduct companion rescue.

Plan your trip

Before heading into the backcountry, research your trip to be sure you have the skills and experience it will demand of you.

What to bring

Here is list of items that you should consider bringing on any winter outing in Waterton Lakes National Park:

  • Extra clothes, including extra hat and gloves. (Use the layering system. Peel off or add layers as needed to stay dry and warm.)
  • Water bottle or thermos.
  • High-energy food, carry extra.
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses.
  • First-aid kit.
  • General repair kit for skis, snowshoes or crampons; pocket knife.
  • Lightweight emergency blanket, candle, and lighter or waterproof matches.
  • Head lamp or flashlight with good batteries.
  • Navigation tools/route information (map, compass, GPS, guidebook).
  • Means of calling for help (cell phone, personal locator device, VHF radio or satellite phone. Note: cell phones do not work in many backcountry areas of the park).

Winter weather

Waterton has highly variable mountain weather and it can change quickly. Winters are mild and snowy, with frequent warm spells caused by chinook winds. Winter storms can create high snow volumes, drifting snow, poor visibility and icy roads.

Emergency contact

In case of emergency: Dial 911

  • State that you are calling from Waterton Lakes National Park.
  • Remember, cell phones are not always reliable in the backcountry

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