Fresh snow blanketed Sunshine Village ski resort’s almost-full parking lot Friday afternoon as enthusiastic skiers and snowboarders climbed out of their cars.
“I was just saying how lucky we are we didn’t have to park on the road,” pointed out Peter Wall, who drove in to Banff from Calgary.
“Yeah…but at least there is transit,” said fellow Calgarian Brett Merril.
When the lot gets full, the resort uses the access road as overflow. It can accommodate up to 500 vehicles.
Shuttles then pick up patrons and bring them to the top.
“Do we like it? No, we’d love to have more parking,” Sunshine Village CEO David Riley said. “But until we are allowed to build it, this is how we operate.”
Last week, the resort received a letter from Parks Canada saying the resort will no longer be allowed to use the road for parking starting fall 2017.
It will come during Canada’s 150th birthday year, when Parks Canada fees are waived. In the letter, Banff Field Unit Superintendent Dave McDonough wrote:
“Parks Canada had done its best to mitigate the risks; however we are not prepared to allow the public to be subject to this continuing risk, nor accept the potential liability that accompanies it.”
Sunshine said Parks is covered in its insurance policy and is surprised by the decision.
“That’s a little hard to understand because we have a perfect safety record with our operation on the road and I don’t think they understand the procedures we use to make sure it’s safe,” Riley said.
Sunshine is working with Parks Canada, urging them to give them more time. They say other resorts offer roadside parking and feel they are being singled out.
Riley is trying to stay optimistic, but is very concerned.
“Worst-case scenario, Canadians are going to be penalized for a decision that doesn’t make sense and it could be tens of thousands that come up here in the wintertime and be turned around.”