Parts of Jasper National Park could get up to 80 centimetres of snow this weekend
Parks Canada closes Maligne Lake Road, Icefields Parkway in preparation
The Icefields Parkway is expected to get up to 80 centimetres of snow this weekend — around the same amount that brought Newfoundland to a standstill during its record-breaking blizzard in January.
"We have modelling that Parks Canada uses to make the best-informed decisions on avalanche control and safety. What it's telling us right now is the Icefields Parkway is going to get a lot of snow," said Steve Young, spokesperson for Jasper National Park.
The area between Banff and Jasper will start to get snow Friday. It should continue until Sunday morning, when Parks Canada is expecting the snow to taper off.
Parks Canada is closing down the parkway, which runs between Banff and Jasper, at noon Friday, but it is hopeful the road will be ready for drivers by Sunday evening.
"Nobody gets stuck on the highway because of the huge amounts of snow and at the same time, it makes it easier on the other end for us to get the highway back in condition, do the avalanche control and open it up to the public again," said Young.
The highway will be closed south of Athabasca Falls to Saskatchewan River Crossing, 152 kilometres south of Jasper. The Athabasca Falls viewpoint and winter hub; the Athabasca Falls Hostel; and Marmot Basin will be open to visitors.
Young advised that while visitor safety technicians will strive to get the parkway open as quickly as possible, additional avalanche control work may be necessary.
"If we get the full [80 centimetres], we might need a little more time than that because our work will require both low and high targets. We'll have to get in the helicopter to do the high targets along the parkway," explained Young.
Parks Canada also closed Maligne Lake Road to traffic just past the entrance to Maligne Canyon Thursday evening. Maligne Canyon and Maligne Outlook will still be accessible, and the rest of the road is expected to reopen on Monday or Tuesday next week.
"We've been keeping a close eye on [Maligne Lake Road] for a while this week because it hasn't had any avalanche control done on it in a few days," said Young.
"We have a lot of microclimates especially as you head down the parkway and elevation changes — what's rain in the townsite is snow on the mountains."
Environment Canada has issued highway warnings for Highway 93 North between Jasper to Saskatchewan River Crossing and Lake Louise to Saskatchewan River Crossing.
Young advised anyone visiting the park to check Alberta 511 for the latest conditions.