Lake Louise Ski Resort expansion approved
Parks Canada's decision not sitting well with conservationists, former park managers
The Lake Louise Ski Resort's controversial expansion plans have received the green light from Parks Canada.
The federal government has approved new site guidelines that allow for more development and more skiers.
"I think it's a really big win for everybody," said Lake Louise Ski Resort spokesperson Dan Markham.
"There's a reduction of almost 669 hectares of land from our current lease. So, we'll be potentially expanding some of our operations going on at the resort, but within a much smaller footprint than what we have now," he said.
'It was rushed through'
However, Parks Canada's decision is not sitting well with conservationists.
"Essentially, it's a doubling of the Lake Louise Ski hill. It's a doubling of the on-hill capacity. There are additional lodges, additional lifts...parking lots. It's a massive redevelopment of a skill hill inside a world heritage site," said Stephen Woodley, a former chief scientist with Parks Canada.
The new site guidelines could see the ski hill's current capacity double from 6,000 to 11,500 visitors a day in a park declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.
"We simply don't know what the impact of this will be. It was rushed through. The public consultation was not taken seriously and we don't have anywhere near the amount of information to make that decision, even if it wasn't a world heritage site," Woodley said.
Woodley was one of 11 former Parks Canada managers who signed a letter, sent to federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, expressing concerns over the expansion of the resort.
"It's not good for the area and if we want to protect this area into the future we need to put conservation first and this decision has not done this," said Anne-Marie Syslak, a spokeswoman with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
Moving out of grizzly habitat
Markham argues the development plans would ultimately benefit the environment.
"In enhancing some of the current skiing conditions and locations that we have right now, making them safer, all in exchange for some large areas that will go back to the park to be protected — I'm not really sure why those groups wouldn't want those given back to the park," Markham said.
He also says the ski resort plans to move its summer operations out of Whitehorn Lodge, which is in grizzly bear habitat.
"I think it's important to keep in mind though that these are big, long-term projects subject to environmental assessments, and long-range planning, and costing out, and those kind of things. So, it's probably going to be a few years before you start to see any of that develop," Markham said.
Parks Canada declined comment.