If you plan to tour in Rogers Pass in Glacier National Park this winter, you need to be aware that many areas of the park have restricted and prohibited access in winter — which are defined and managed within the Winter Permit System (see the map below). If you are already familiar with the system, it is important for you to become familiar with the extensive changes to the Winter Permit System—including changes to Winter Restricted and Prohibited Area boundaries, parking, and permit registration. The 2009/10 Winter Permit System will take effect in Glacier National Park in the coming weeks.
What is the Winter Permit System?
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.
The avalanche control work is conducted to keep the transportation corridor open, and does not render slopes safe for winter recreationists. Anyone travelling into the backcountry in winter should have proper training to assess avalanche terrain and conditions, as well as the appropriate equipment and skills for self-rescue.
Why are there changes to the Winter Permit System?
Changes to the Winter Permit System are based on concern for public safety—due to expanding terrain use by backcountry recreationists and the operational need to separate recreation activities from avalanche control actions. Boundaries to Winter Restricted and Prohibited areas have been adjusted in order to firmly apply accepted standards of 1000 metre standoff from artillery targets. The changes have also incorporated safe public parking areas during closures of the Trans-Canada Highway for avalanche control. Some changes have increased terrain accessible to skiers, while still preserving snow study areas for the avalanche control program.
What has changed with the Winter Permit System?
Changes include a decrease in the size of four Winter Prohibited Areas (Abbott, Fidelity, Macdonald West Shoulder and Cougar), and the addition of the Heather Hill Winter Prohibited Area. A Winter Prohibited Area is an area to which access for winter recreationists is prohibited. Most Winter Restricted Area boundaries have been expanded, and three new areas have been created: McGill, Cheops North, and Grizzly Shoulder Restricted Areas. Access to the Tupper Restricted Area and the Ross Peak Restricted Area has been re-established via routes that avoid crossing CP property – a solution found after working with interested backcountry users last spring. A valid Winter Permit is required to enter a Winter Restricted Area. Trailhead parking that requires a Winter Parking Permit now includes Bostock, Hermit, Rockgarden, Loop Creek, NRC Gully, and Stone Arch.
NEW – Annual Winter Permits
It is now possible to obtain an Annual Winter Permit to enter into Winter Restricted Areas. This will be possible by attending a Winter Permit Orientation Session, agreeing to a Waiver of Liability and Indemnity Agreement and accepting specific terms and conditions.
Annual Winter Permit Orientation Sessions will be held:
- November 25th in Golden at the Lutheran Church at 7pm
- November 26th, December 1st & 15th in Revelstoke at the United Church at 7pm
- Additional sessions will be held throughout the winter! Stay tuned for more details
Daily Winter Permits
Daily Winter Permits will still be issued in Rogers Pass. New this year, every individual will have to obtain their own Daily Winter Permit, as permits will no longer be issued solely to group leaders.
Permit Validity and Violation Consequences
Winter Permits are valid from the daily time of issue to midnight of the same day and are valid only for those Winter Restricted Areas which have been posted as open for entry and travel on that day. Overnight use or camping is not permitted in any Winter Restricted Area. Any person requesting a Winter Permit will first be required to agree to a Waiver of Liability and Indemnity Agreement.
Individuals entering a Winter Prohibited Area or a Winter Restricted Area that is closed to entry, or not complying with permit conditions or parking restrictions, may be prosecuted, resulting in a maximum fine of $2000 and/or permit cancellation. Vehicles parked illegally may be towed at the owner’s expense.
Parks Canada’s primary concern is for public safety. Winter Permits will not be issued to Winter Restricted Areas where access depends on trespass of Canadian Pacific (CP) property. Access to the Tupper Restricted Area and the Ross Peak Restricted Area has been re-established via routes that avoid crossing CP property. Parks Canada and CP are integrating suggestions from public consultation and investigating solutions for access to the remaining three Winter Restricted Areas that cross CP property: Fortitude (Flat Creek), Smart and Shaughnessy. CP Police patrol these sites and may tow and impound vehicles illegally parked on CP property.
The Trans-Canada Highway itself is not part of the Restricted or Prohibited Areas, but highway plowing and avalanche control activities place restrictions in some areas. This includes no stopping inside signed avalanche areas along the highway, and the requirement to obtain Winter Parking Permits for parking at designated parking areas. Visitors are asked to obey all signs along the highway.
For more information on the Winter Permit System and Orientation Sessions, please call 250-837-7500, or visit www.parkscanada.gc.ca/glacier. The most current conditions and daily avalanche bulletins are also available on Glacier National Park’s website link above. Please note that the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre is closed for renovations until further notice.
Alice Weber is an information officer with Parks Canada