Tag Archives: Rock Isle Lake

3 Ways Sunshine Village is Trying to Grab More Protected Parks Land

Sunshine Village is apparently not content to operate within the well-defined confines of its lease and permit agreements. The ski resort’s insatiable appetite for more and more of Banff National Park and Mt Assiniboine Provincial Park land is clearly evidenced.  Here’s 3 ways that Sunshine is taking more than it should.

3 Areas of Sunshine Village Expansion
  1.  Wawa Ridge – Wawa Ridge is well beyond the lease boundary of Sunshine Village and yet it is the location of four radio repeaters that are owned by the company.  On a regular basis Sunshine Village employees leave the ski area lease boundary and use snowmobiles and occasionally helicopters to maintain and service the radio-communications installations.  Below Wawa Ridge is Wawa Bowl and the two out-of-bounds runs known as back-door and side-door that are so well used they become packed and bumped.    As always – giving Sunshine an inch leads to trying to take a mile.  Sunshine’s recent internal planning includes expanding the lease boundary to include Wawa Ridge and Wawa Bowl and possibly placing a lift from Bourgeau parking lot to the top of Wawa Ridge.  This lift line would be in full view from Banff.  Already Sunshine Village has extended its operations beyond the lease boundary through installation of the radio-communications repeaters.  Attempts by SSV Watch so far to find reference to a public consultation process and issued permits for these installations have turned up nothing.
  2. Sunshine Meadows and Rock Isle Lake.  During the winter season of 2010/11 Sunshine Village operated commercial snow-cat tours beyond its permit boundary with BC Parks.  These tours were operated mainly for the benefit of paying guests at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge.  Hotel customers were driven by snowcat into the world-famous Sunshine Meadows and to the shores of Rock Isle Lake where a fire was lit for their private enjoyment.  Sunshine only recently concluded a renewal of its permit with BC Parks and must have been fully aware that the only activity permitted in this area was for search and rescue and late-season cross-country ski team training.  They went ahead and did it anyway and in so doing seemingly breached the BC Parks Act.  BC Parks put a stop to the activity but so far Sunshine Village has not been charged even though the activity was unlawful and an offence under the Act.  It appears the owners and executive managers responsible for this have been given a free pass to avoid prosecution.
  3. The Sunshine Access Road.  For years now Sunshine Village has regularly overflowed it’s parking capacity with the lease area boundary at the Bourgeau base area.  Sunshine’s answer to this is to just keep parking cars all the way down a public road well outside the lease boundary.  Hundreds of cars are now routinely parked under direction of Sunshine employees along 8km of narrow, winding avalanche threatened public road with insufficient regard for public safety, environmental protection, wildlife and the legal limits of the lease boundary.  Parks Canada lets it happen and apparently does not even charge Sunshine Village a fee for the land use.

Until recently one Sunshine Village senior manager has been directly responsible for all three examples of Sunshine Villages expansionist conduct.  Ken Derpak has held the position of VP Operations and General Manager for the last six years.  During his time in this position Derpak directly oversaw the operations that include the Wawa Ridge repeaters, the Rock Isle Lake snow-cat tours and the overflowing parking operations on the access road.  In a recent press release, Sunshine Village announced that Derpak has now assumed the role of Senior Vice-President Planning, Development, Government and Regulatory Affairs.  

There was a time when environmental interest groups such as the Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society (CPAWS) took a very close interest in the affairs of Sunshine Village.  Lately however Sunshine Village has been flying under the radar and pushing it’s operational and environmental impact boundary with little regulatory or public oversight.  That needs to change.  Sunshine Village operates in Banff National Park and Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park which are both part of a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.  We really need to start taking that fact seriously when it comes to commercial activity within the parks.  A good way to start is by holding Sunshine Village accountable to the provisions of its lease and permits and by demanding that Parks Canada and BC Parks do their job to regulate the company’s operations properly.

Do your part to protect our national and provincial parks – please share this information with everyone you know across Canada and internationally including environmental movements, politicians and media.  And let’s all keep a close eye on Ken Derpak in his new role with Sunshine Village.

Breach of BC Parks Act ?

It appears that Sunshine Village may have substantively breached the BC Parks Act.  If so, should there be a legal consequence?

In follow-up to the operation of commercial snow-cat tours beyond the Sunshine Village ski area boundary this past season, Sunshine Village Watch has obtained a copy of the BC Park Use Permit for Sunshine Village.  A review of the Permit for Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park indicates no apparent authorization for commercial snow-cat tours in the Park which is also part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

According to the permit, Sunshine Village winter operations are permitted in accordance with the following permit provision:

Winter Season Permit Area
Those portions of Sunshine Village Ski Area falling within the boundaries of Mount
Assiniboine Park, including the right of way containing the Continental Divide quad
chairlift and portions of the Boundary Bowl, the Green Run, South Divide and Lower
Divide ski runs. It includes 10 kilometres of undefined cross-country trail east of Rock
Lake and north of Larix Lake and a groomed track circumnavigating the slopes of
Standish Hump. The permit area includes approximately 40 hectares. It also includes a
20 meter wide water line right of way departing north from Rock Isle Lake following the
west side of the Rock Isle Lake trail to the Park Boundary.

The permit is very specific about limited activities beyond the ski area boundaries in the area where the snow-cat tours occurred.  The “cross-country” area may only be used on a non-commercial basis for team training.  The groomed track circumnavigating Standish is for search and rescue only.

Cross-Country Trails and SAR Trail
a) The Permittee may track set up to 10 kilometers of cross-country ski trails in the
meadows east of Rock Isle Lake and north of Larix Lake, for the exclusive
training use of cross-country teams. Park Use Permit fees charged for the use of
these trails are reduced as they are supplied as a non-profit service. The trails
may not be used commercially by the Permittee;
The Permittee may set a track around the perimeter of Standish Hump for the
purpose of Search and Rescue Operations.

The permit was only recently renewed for a period of 30 years and is dated December 2010, therefore it is reasonable to assume that the provisions of the permit must have been well known to Sunshine Village when the snow cat tours were being operated only a few months later.  Regardless, a brief review of the permit would have been prudent and would have also confirmed that nothing in the permit authorized such an activity by Sunshine Village.

There appears to be nothing in the permit that could be reasonably interpreted to allow commercial snow-cat operations and bonfires on the shores of Rock Isle Lake.  During the Easter 2011 holiday period, Sunshine Village conducted snow-cat tours to Rock Isle Lake. Rock Isle Lake is well beyond the Sunshine Village boundary and well outside the designated commercial operations area.  It is adjacent to the world-renown pristine Sunshine Meadows in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park.  It is also questionable that these tours occurred with adequate emergency planning and response capability for personal injury or environmental issues such as a fluid spill.

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain UNESCO World Heritage Site.   To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of “outstanding universal value” and meet at least one out of the ten selection criteria.  The UNESCO World Heritage Convention details the purpose for designating such sites and areas and the duty to protect and conserve them.

The BC Parks Act states as follows:

Occupancy and use of land restricted

16  Except as may be authorized by a valid and subsisting park use permit or resource use permit, a person must not do any of the following:

(a) use or occupy land in a park, conservancy or recreation area for a log storage area, mill site, road, right of way, disposal area for tailings or waste or any other industrial purpose;….

(e) establish or carry on any work or improvement or any commercial or industrial activity or enterprise in a park, conservancy or recreation area.

Where such activities occur without authorization or permit, the Act contains provision for legal sanctions as follows:

Offences and penalties

28  (1) A person who contravenes any provision of this Act commits an offence and is liable to a fine of up to $1 000 000 or a term of imprisonment of not more than one year or both.

….

(3) When a contravention of the Act or regulations continues for more than one day, the person is guilty of a separate offence for each day on which the contravention continues.

….

(5) The time limit for laying an information for an offence under this Act is

(a) 3 years after the date that the facts on which the information is based arose, or

(b) if the minister issues a certificate described in subsection (6), 18 months after the date that the facts on which the information is based first came to the knowledge of the minister.

(6) A certificate purporting to have been issued by the minister, certifying the date that the facts on which the information is based first came to the knowledge of the minister,

(a) is admissible without proof of the signature or official character of the person appearing to have signed the certificate, and

(b) is proof of the certified matters.

BC Parks is administered by the BC Ministry of the Environment.  The Minister responsible for BC Parks is the Honourable Terry Lake.

The Ministry of Environment’s contact information is:

PO BOX 9339 STN PROV GOVT
VICTORIA BC V8W 9M1
Telephone: 250 387-1161
Fax: 250 387-5669
E-mail: www.envmail@gov.bc.ca

Minister’s Office

Honourable Terry Lake
PO BOX 9047 STN PROV GOVT
VICTORIA BC V8W 9E2
Telephone: 250 387-1187
Fax: 250 387-1356
E-mail: env.minister@gov.bc.ca

A copy of the full BC Park Use Permit for Sunshine Village is available here

Snow-Cat Tours to Rock Isle Lake

Update: April 27, 2011 – BC Parks states that a permit has not been issued for this type of activity.

Sunshine Village is again operating snow-cat tours to Rock Isle Lake in Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park, British Columbia.  A large tracked snowcat with passenger box is being used to transport Sunshine Village guests from the Village area out beyond the Sunshine Village lease and across the park boundary to the shores of the pristine alpine lake adjacent to the world-famous Sunshine Meadows.  On arrival at Rock Isle Lake the Sunshine staff are reportedly lighting a fire in a burn pan for the guests.  These commercial tours were operated as recently as Easter weekend 2011

Rock Isle Lake Either Sunshine Village is conducting this commercial venture without a proper permit, or BC Parks has allowed a new permit in contravention of the 2006 Draft Management Plan and the stated submissions of major environmental groups.  Either way Sunshine Village Watch wants to find out why these commercial snowcat tours are being allowed into one of Canada’s premier provincial parks.  We also want to know what contingency plans for fuel spills are in place (it’s not uncommon for snowcats to break hydraulic hoses or leak fluids)  and if an environmental impact assessment and public consulatation process has been properly carried out.

Rock Isle Lake The draft 2006 BC Parks Management Plan for Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park states as follows:

The management vision for the future of Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park is to see that it continues to stand as an international symbol of the pristine scenic grandeur of the British Columbia wilderness and the heritage of recreational enjoyment it offers.

The draft management plan identifies the Sunshine Meadows as among the largest alpine meadows in the Canadian Rockies and their feature significance is enhanced by the presence of several adjacent water features including Rock Isle Lake.

Key elements of the draft management plan includes prohibiting all forms of motorized access into the park except for management purposes and as provided for in the management plan .  This exception includes helicopter access and Sunshine Village access to water supply and downhill ski facilities as currently approved.  The downhill ski facility referred to is the Continental Divide Chairlift.  The water access is to maintain a pump facility and buried pipeline from Rock Isle Lake to Sunshine Village.

Notably there is no mention of allowing commercial snowcat tours to Rock Isle Lake or of lighting fires at that location.

The Sunshine Village Resort adjacent to the north park boundary holds a water license on Rock Isle Lake and has downhill ski facilities (a lift and runs) and a water supply system, all of which predate park designation in 1973.

As part of the draft plan development the Federation of BC Naturalists submitted that there “should be no exception for Sunshine Village permit areas regarding motorized access” and that BC Parks should “keep ATVs, ORVs, motorcycles and snowmobiles OUT”.

The BC Wildlife Federation indicated support for the draft management plan, especially in regard to keeping Sunshine Village operations under existing permit only with “no increase and review of permits”. The BC Wildlife Federation bills itself as BC’s original, largest and oldest conservation organization with 38,000 current members.

BC Parks has responded to these subnissons that the use of mechanized access by Sunshine Village to service its water supply facilities and downhill ski area is a legitimate exception as both tenures pre-existed the park’s establishment in 1973.

So the questions here are:

  • Why are these snowcat tours happening?
  • Is BC Parks aware of them?
  • Is a permit in place for commercial snowcat tours?
  • Has an Environmental Assesment been done?
  • Have the public been consulted?
  • Why are the wishes of major environmental groups being ignored, either by Sunshine Village or BC Parks or both?
  • If this commercial operation is permitted, what will happen next?  Will we be looking at snow-cat skiing on Quartz Ridge in the future?

The current Park Management Plan has been in effect since 1989.  The draft process has been in place since 2006.  Clearly it’s time this process was concluded and tightened up.

Sunshine Village Watch is making inquiries with BC Parks, the BC Wildlife Federation, the BC Federation of Naturalists and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).  We intend to obtain copies of the actual permits currently issued to Sunshine Village and post them on this site.  Please subscribe to this blog to be informed of future updates on this issue.

In the meantime interested persons can obtain more information or make their views known by contacting the BC Environment regional office as follows:

Environmental Stewardship Division (ESD)/ Parks and Protected Area Division (PPAD)
205 Industrial Rd. G
Cranbrook,B.C. V1C 7G5
Phone: (250) 489-8540

or by contacting the BC Ministry of Environment

Enquiries regarding Sunshine’s position may be submitted to:
Ken Derpak
VP, Operations & General Manager
Sunshine Village Corporation
P.O. Box 1510
Banff, AB
T1L 1J5
Ph: (403) 762-6500
Email: kderpak@skibanff.com