LAKE LOUISE – The first part of major changes at Lake Louise Ski Resort is on schedule for the upcoming winter season, which includes improved safety measures for advanced skiers riding backcountry slopes.
Construction is ongoing at the Banff National Park ski resort to replace the aging Summit Platter lift, thought to be at least 40 years old, in favour of a four-seat lift as part of the approved long-range plan.
“I know there was a lot of people who really liked it and a lot of people who really didn’t like it,” said Dan Markham, the ski hill's communications director. “From our perspective, it was well past its expiration point and it was certainly an opportunity to put in something that really enhanced the skier and snowboarder experience.
“Whether you're skiing the front side or skiing the backside, your ability to get to the summit of the mountain will be a lot quicker.”
The new lift, which will have 72 chairs, is about a 490-metre incline and a 150 m vertical rise. It will be quicker and go up further on Whitehorn Mountain than the old Summit Platter.
The new lift will provide riders easier access to the ski area including to the West Bowl, which will now have avalanche control programs and ski teams patrolling the untouched mountainside.
Once the new lift is operating, the dismantling of the Summit Platter will begin. Markham, however, is unsure what will happen to the parts of the ski relic.
With the approval of the long-range plan last year by Parks Canada, the ski resort was given a licence of occupation for winter to access the 480-acre West Bowl, located outside the leasehold boundaries. Lake Louise Ski Resort exchanged about 1,000 acres of its land to get the deal done for the backcountry ski area.
“That will all be part of our working terrain in the wintertime,” Markham said. “I think [West Bowl] will be for people who are used to skiing in terrain that’s a little more natural, so there’s a lot of tree skiing and a lot of chute skiing in there. In the past, it’s always been for people who are more advanced skiers and it will continue to be because we won’t be doing any run development in there at all.”
Markham added the only construction near West Bowl is of an egress route to make it easier for skiers to find their way back to lift systems and the resort.
Lake Louise Ski Resort’s long-range plan is expected to take 10-15 years to complete and will feature upgraded lift systems, lodge development and enhancement, and parking lot development.
Current work in progress that isn’t part of the long-range plan includes the expansion of Sunset Terrace and Home Run.