As an experienced backcountry skier, you know there’s a lot of prep involved before the skins go on. But did you know: if you’re heading to Rogers Pass in Glacier National Park, British Columbia, there’s one more step you won’t find anywhere else?
THE BIG PICTURE
Rogers Pass is perched on a high point of the continent. The steep slopes frame a narrow valley that brings both the Trans-Canada Highway and CP rail line over the Columbia Mountains. In the 40-km stretch of highway that runs through the park, there are 134 avalanche paths that can affect the road. It is also known for world-class powder for experienced backcountry skiers and snowboarders.
Since 1961, Parks Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces, under Operation PALACI, have partnered to run the world’s largest mobile artillery avalanche control program in Glacier National Park. In order to protect the national transportation corridor, the highway will be closed and live explosives used to trigger avalanches, reducing the risk of larger natural avalanches. Until 1995, due to avalanche control, all slopes adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway in Rogers Pass were closed to backcountry access all winter.
THE WINTER PERMIT SYSTEM
The Winter Permit System, which is unique to Rogers Pass, was designed to allow access to some of this terrain, called Winter Restricted Areas when avalanche control is not
Winter Restricted areas in Rogers Pass open or close daily depending on planned avalanche control. The system is to keep backcountry skiers away from explosive avalanche control, it does NOT render slopes safe for recreation. Winter backcountry users must comply with the Winter Permit System in order to maintain access to these areas and enjoy this world-renowned ski touring destination.
As of the 2019-20 ski season, winter permits are available free of charge.
WHERE TO START
Get on the right track for your winter permit by visiting pc.gc.ca/skirogerspass. Then stop in at the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre, where you can pick up your national park pass and your winter permit (you must have both a winter permit and a national park pass to access backcountry routes in Winter Restricted Areas).
Learning the Winter Permit System involves some time investment – don’t wait until the last minute to familiarize yourself with it.
YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY
The backcountry in Glacier National Park is not for beginners. You must have the skills, knowledge and equipment to travel in complex avalanche terrain and to conduct self-rescue.
Parks Canada would like to thank the ski touring community for their ongoing ambassadorship of the Winter Permit System at Rogers Pass.
Wishing everyone a safe and adventure-filled ski season!