The Maligne Lake Ski Club has extended its spring ski season in light of delays to winter recreational access in Jasper National Park.
The non-profit club operates the Shangrila ski cabin in the Snowbowl area of Jasper National Park’s Maligne Range. The cabin, which was erected in 1936, has served as a base for countless ski groups exploring the generous, snow-laden slopes of the Maligne Valley ever since.
On December 22, as part of its efforts to protect critical caribou habitat in Jasper National Park, Parks Canada announced winter access closures to the Maligne Valley. The closures will be in effect until February 28.
To compensate for the winter access restrictions, Shangrila will be open two weeks longer than usual in the spring.
“The area and cabin will be available for use—travel conditions permitting—from March 2 to April 30, 2015,” MLSC executive member Sandy Cox wrote to members in an email on Christmas Eve. “The Maligne Lake Ski Club will work actively with Parks Canada to ensure the caribou restoration strategy is viable and likely to succeed.”
The closures, which also include the Whistlers’ Creek area adjacent to Marmot Basin, had been anticipated to come into effect November 28. Delays to the announcement caused a mass migration of users to the Maligne Valley as skiers sought to take advantage of excellent December snow conditions. Packed trails crisscrossed the Bald Hills area.
“You could drive a car up here right now,” ski guide Keith Liebech commented on December 21.
Meanwhile, Marmot Basin was the site of a unique encounter on December 17 when eight mountain caribou—believed to be part of the Tonquin Valley herd—were spotted on the upper part of the ski resort. The rare appearance lasted half an hour before the animals bounded over a ridge and out of sight.
On the same day, ski patrol were doing avalanche control work in Trés Hombrés, an off-piste area which has remained closed for operational logistics and Parks Canada wildlife requirements. The run is coveted by local skiers and snowboarders for its 1,000 foot fall line and steep, north-facing aspect. It drains directly into Whistlers’ Creek.
Marmot Basin has not confirmed any aspirations of opening any new terrain.
The Maligne Lake Ski Club, in the meantime, is polling its members for ideas on how to stay viable with a shortened season.