I am writing in regard to the mention of the proposed Railway Lands area redevelopment plan in the Dec. 14, 2023, and Jan. 17, 2024, editions of the Outlook.
Firstly, I believe the Dec. 14 editorial and cartoon suggest Parks Canada has turned down multiple proposals regarding a gondola between the train station and the base of Norquay. They have turned down one proposal, and have also confirmed another proposal can be submitted.
In the Jan. 17 edition, I believe the Outlook incorrectly states: an aerial gondola to Mount Norquay is not compatible with either the Parks Management Plan or ski area guidelines. Parks Canada’s Mt. Norquay Site Guidelines 2011 specify 33 times that Norquay should seek to reduce the impact on wildlife from vehicles travelling on the Norquay Access Road, with a gondola mentioned as a potential solution 9 times.
It specifically states, “Consider the potential of authorizing a tramway/gondola from Town of Banff to the ski area. Parks Canada will work with Norquay and the Town of Banff to outline the approach for assessing the feasibility of such a lift, process, and responsibilities. It is anticipated that Norquay will need to take the lead on the initiative.”
In 2015, Parks Canada provided Norquay with a terms of reference for a potential gondola to Norquay. In May 2018, Norquay made its first unsuccessful proposal to Parks Canada. However, in 2020 Parks provided feedback on why they did not approve the earlier proposal and confirmed in writing to the Town of Banff in 2022, that Norquay is able to make a second proposal for a Norquay base gondola.
In February 2023, Parks Canada provided feedback to the Town of Banff on the Railway Lands ARP indicating the inclusion of passenger rail services and an aerial transit terminus could imply approval from the Minister of Environment and Climate Change of a train from Banff to Calgary and a gondola from the town to Norquay. The ARP was revised to make it clear that rail services and a gondola terminus are aspirational and support projects that would require separate approvals.
Parks Canada’s What We Heard Report on their Expert Panel on Moving People Sustainably in the Banff Bow Valley provides perspective: “All over the world new examples of aerial transit exist and solve important transportation problems. They should not be overlooked as effective ways to reduce traffic.”
General Manager of Mt. Norquay Ski Resort
Editor’s note: Two Parks Canada superintendents and an acting superintendent for Banff National Park have publicly stated a gondola doesn’t meet the federal legislative requirements and will not happen under existing legislation. Several documents from Parks Canada’s CEO Ron Hallman to multiple federal ministers who oversee Canada’s national parks have also stated a gondola doesn’t meet federal legislation. The 2022 Banff National Park management plan purposely omits a gondola due to it not meeting legislative requirements, according to the Banff superintendent. A 2018 feasibility study for a gondola was rejected by Parks Canada in 2020 since it didn’t meet federal legislation.