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Parks Canada Beef

April 11, 2011
A photo from the days when you could skin up McGill by headlamp to descend at sunrise and make it back to town for first class. Scott D. loving the am

When I first moved to Revelstoke and started ski touring, I never really had any issues with the permit system.  Likely because my days were filled with following skin tracks to areas that I knew about from the “touring Rogers Pass” mini guide of the day.

As my skills and skiing progressed through the years, I found the permit system a bit limiting.  But there were still plenty of options for getting in to non-permit areas.  With my work schedule I found it possible to get some early days in the mountains.  Access to Bostock and Flat Creek meant you didn’t need to get a permit and could get out early.  Then things changed…


The Winter Permit system allows backcountry users to enter Winter Restricted Areas that are affected by the highway avalanche program when artillery gunfire is not anticipated. This system protects the public from danger resulting from direct artillery fire, including shrapnel that can travel up to 1000 metres and the potential for sympathetic avalanche releases.

This is the bullshit that baffles brains.  They have been closing permit areas regularly and NOT shooting.  For sure, I understand that there may be a possibility that winds and/or precip could change the situation, but the seemingly random nature of the decisions makes it very difficult to make a plan.  Parks suggests you leave a detailed itinerary with a friend, pretty hard when you don’t even find out where you’re allowed to go until 7:30am at the earliest.

A recently released publication from some of the best ski mountaineers around labels the descent off the North side of the Swiss and Rogers peaks as classics.  The current permit system makes it next to impossible to take on a adventure like this while giving yourself enough time in the day to deal with the unexpected.


Permits make bagging the North line off Rogers a race against the sun

The inclusion of the 1000 m shrapnel zone has also boggled my mind.  For instance, they created the Grizzly Shoulder permit to account for shrapnel from shooting at Hermit, Puff Daddy specifically.  But here’s the thing, if they open Grizz Shoulder, it means they KNOW they’re not shooting Puff Daddy, so open it too?  You can find multiple situations like this throughout the park.

It just leaves us with questions.  While much of the “directly-facing-the-highway” stuff stays closed through and after the cycle, after a few days of stability, it usually re-opens.  I informally asked Parks (through some random trash-talking on twitter) what the deal was with the MacDonald and Tupper permits being closed for 7 days recently.    The response was that the “natural cycle last week kept many permit areas closed for avalanche shooting. Still winter up (there).”

Looking to the Herdman and NRC

The frustrating piece was that I was aware it was winter up there, that’s why I go up there every flippin’ weekend, AND why I was surprised that they hadn’t shot at MacDonald from the 3rd till the 9th!?!?  Or, if they had shot at it, why didn’t they open it? Or if they felt they needed to shoot at something, like, say the Herdman, why would they keep Avalanche open since it’s waayyy within the 1km shrapnel radius.  A raw deal for my three friends who had planned to head up there to ski a sweet line in sweet conditions.

There’s answers.  And here’s what’s even better, people are getting paid to solve them.  So solve them.  Let’s hear what’s in the mix to fix some of these issues.  Hiding behind the “transportation corridor being the number one priority” will only come back to bite you if anyone actually takes the time to read the Parks Canada mandate.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kyle permalink
    May 4, 2011 7:50 PM

    ya i thought it was a pretty raw deal when they changed up many of the permit zones and more recently with how popular it’s been getting up there it seems to be more of a crowd control tactic than anything sometimes. But maybe it’s better than the permanent closure of anything facing the highway that existed for many years.

  2. aef permalink
    January 19, 2015 11:47 AM

    Bump this
    If you don’t like it go somewhere else. You can take your attitude into the Interior crown all you want.

    You are probably part of the recent problem (decade or two) of crowds. So perspective please.

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