Transportation options for Canmore’s future became a bit more interesting with the proposal of a gondola at Silvertip, with the possibility of reaching the downtown core of the community and maybe even the Nordic Centre.
Developer Guy Turcotte, president of Stonecreek Properties, presented his most up to date proposal for a gondola to reach the top of Lady Macdonald from Silvertip.
The proposal includes locating a possible terminal adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway in conjunction with intercept parking and an employee housing development along Palliser Trail.
“We have spoken to the province about having a gondola to the old abandoned teahouse that was started up there in the late ’80s and never finished,” Turcotte said at a recent luncheon held by the Bow Valley Builders and Developers Association (BOWDA). “But there was never really an approval process and the province didn’t know how or if it should go to the next step.
“We have, I am going to say, developed a process with the province and we are going through a voluntary environmental impact assessment for our project, which was not mandatory.
“We didn’t need to do an environmental impact assessment, but we have volunteered to do that on our own.”
A draft terms of reference for the EIA has been developed and Turcotte said it should be out for public input soon. It is a similar process to one the Town of Canmore is undertaking to develop a debris retention structure in Cougar Creek, he added.
“We believe this will bring in a high number of visitors,” he said regarding the proposal.
The gondola is currently being proposed with a terminal at the base of the resort development near the Trans-Canada Highway and employee housing lands Silvertip owns and plans to develop on Palliser Trail.
Turcotte said the gondola at that location would be able to attract visitors to the resort, and employees, without adding congestion or vehicular traffic on the steep access road to the subdivision.
“That should alleviate any traffic uses we see at places like the Banff Sulphur Mountain gondola,” Turcotte said.
The other aspect of the gondola would take people from the Silvertip golf course clubhouse in the centre of the resort to the top of Lady Macdonald. Turcotte said by building a gondola, it will allow more people who are not able to hike up the mountain the ability to get to the top anyway.
“We will provide an opportunity for them to do that; but the number one thing we are going to protect and ensure is that locals will continue to hike up the mountain and safely,” he said.
But the gondola idea could also be expanded towards the town centre and even up to the Nordic Centre, hinted Turcotte during a question and answer period.
He said it would be possible for the gondola to extend into the downtown core from a terminal adjacent to the highway, providing a possible solution to the issue of pedestrians crossing the four-lane divided transportation route on foot.
Recently, numerous concerns over illegal foot and bike traffic has prompted council to discuss the issue and the possibility of a pedestrian overpass, although the budget for such infrastructure could be $6 million to $10 million.
“We have spoken to the Town of Canmore about potentially having a gondola to connect downtown,” Turcotte said.
Michael Fark, general manager of municipal infrastructure for the municipality, indicated a gondola is a possibility and may be worth investigating.
Fark said over the past several years while discussing the idea of a gondola with the proponent, the idea has come up, but it is not something the municipality is proactively engaging with the developer in at this time.
“This would come out of the area structure plan,” Fark said. “The Town is not currently exploring any aspect of the gondola concept, that is the responsibility of Mr. Turcotte.”
Turcotte said the same consultant that worked on the Sea to Sky gondola developed in Squamish, B.C. is also working on his feasibility study.
By bringing a new experience to Canmore, he said, local hotels could also see a boost in occupancy similar to what happened in Squamish after that gondola opened in 2014.
“That is what we see happening here,” he said. “But it is not in our area structure plan, and that is why we are bringing it to the community; to be wide open and get public input.”
Canmore resident Cyd Fraser asked the developer to also keep the Nordic Centre in mind when it comes to possibilities for the gondola. An experienced event organizer, Fraser said one of the biggest challenges is getting people from downtown to the Nordic Centre for special events and races.
“We have struggled so long with how to connect so many community events that happen at the Nordic Centre with downtown,” she said. “Can you give some thought and conversation around that?”
Turcotte noted that if there is a 2026 bid to host the winter Olympics in Calgary and events in Canmore, there may be even further incentive and opportunity to develop a gondola as a form of public transit beyond what is currently being proposed.
“That is a timely question,” he said.