Limits to Growth and Resort Balancing

CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

Permanent growth limits established in the 2018 Site Guidelines can be found below:Permanent Growth Limits in the 2018 Site Guidelines

Lift Capacity:

The current operating lift system consists of a two-stage gondola, nine chairlifts, and two magic carpets. Brent Harley & Associates (BHA), a professional mountain planning consultant, concludes that the Comfortable Carrying Capacity (CCC) of the lifts is 8,077 after the addition of Goat’s Eye II lift (see below table "Sunshine Village Lift and Trail Comfortable Carrying Capacity, including Goat's Eye ll"). Sunshine Village lift and trail comfortable carrying capacity, including Goat's Eye IISunshine Village Lift and Trail Comfortable Carrying Capacity, including Goat's Eye II

Ski Trails:

The existing alpine ski trail system consists of 137 named trails, several above treeline bowls, and forested areas between the developed ski runs. These areas encompass approximately 431 ha of skiable terrain within the Leasehold area. The ski trail system currently has a carrying capacity of 7,949 skiers per day, not including Delirium Dive or the Wild West which are large areas outside of the lease boundary operating as ski terrain under Parks Canada Licence of Occupation.

Sunshine Village has a good balance and variety of beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert terrain. However, on poor weather days, visitors are pushed down the mountain, out of the high alpine environment to the lower elevation forested ski slopes and glades where the terrain becomes more limited in those conditions. Goat’s Eye II and the proposed glading will help address this issue, as the top terminal is at treeline and the terrain it serves is protected from adverse wind and weather. This will help balance the available terrain in a variety of weather conditions.

With respect to trail balance, it is acceptable (and desirable) from an industry standard point-of-view to have a reasonable excess of trail capacity as it creates a less crowded and higher-quality ski experience. This is often the case at world-class destination resorts. Conversely, urban resorts often have very high skier density on the runs with substantial crowding. When ski terrain capacity is substantially below the uphill lift capacity at a given resort, excessive density per hectare and skier crowding can occur. Fortunately, this is not the case at Sunshine Village Ski Area at the 6,500 SAOT (skiers at one time) existing condition or at build-out of 8,500 SAOT under the 2018 Site Guidelines limits to growth.

Commercial Floor Area:

The 2018 Site Guidelines provide for a commercial limit of 12,742 square meters at build out, including an additional 3,650 square meters of space. The 3,650 square meters of new space was determined in the 2018 Site Guidelines as the maximum amount of new space allowed at build-out and is intended to balance to 8,500 SAOT. This Long-Range Plan proposes to add 2,939 square meters of commercial space.

An accounting of additional commercial space follows:

Square meters of new space allowed

3,650 m2

Less: Wolverine Day Lodge -1,858 m2

Less: Reclassification of COVID-19 Facilities


Balance for future LRP

711 m2

Industry standard averages are 1.1 to 1.5 square meters per skier of commercial space. This Long-Range Plan is designed to assure that Sunshine Village is capable of hosting 8,500 SAOT with transit increases and parking capacity expansion (see section 4.2.4 of the LRP) on a peak day.

An accounting of commercial space required in the Long-Range Plan:

Current SAOT


Future SAOT


Increase in SAOT


1.1 square meters per additional skier x 2,000

2,200 m2

1.5 square meters per additional skier x 2,000

3,000 m2

This Long-Range Plan provides additional commercial space of

2,939 m2


Sunshine Village visitors and employees arrive by personal vehicle, transit busses and charter busses. Sunshine Village experiences an average of 2.5 people per vehicle. Sometimes this is as low as 1.9 and other times it is as high as 2.8. For the purposes of this analysis, using an average of 2.5 is reasonable.

Projected number of skiers arriving by car under this LRP:

Surface parking stalls at base area (November 2021)


Access road parking stalls


Proposed parkade stalls (located one elevation above the existing parking footprint)


Total parking stalls


Less: Employee cars


Total Guest Cars


At build out, the difference between skiers arriving by personal vehicle (6,913) and the skier growth limit in the 2018 Site Guidelines (8,500 SAOT) will be transported by bus. This level results in a transit ratio of approximately 18% for skiers, plus employees. This would require approximately 1,600 skiers to be moved by transit bus. Currently over 1,100 skiers arrive by transit. The Resort estimates that 1,600 will be achievable in the future.

The Resort recently purchased a maintenance facility in the Banff industrial compound to house its transit operations. Sizable investment in this facility and a fleet of transit busses has occurred over the last five years. Currently, the Resort now owns and operates 10 of its own transit busses. Additional busses are hired on a daily basis to accommodate demand on peak days. Over the five-year period prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, ridership grew from approximately 80,000 to 154,000 per season (including employees). As a percentage of total skier visits, this performance exceeds industry standards. The pandemic drastically cut transit ridership down to only 50,000 over the 20/21 ski season. For the past several years, the Resort has offered the transit service free of charge to increase ridership, promotes it through its social media channels, website, and through 3rd parties such as local hotels, SKIBIG3, and Banff Lake Louise Tourism. The resort also has a partnership with Sunshine Coach which provides reservation-based transit from Calgary on all weekends and holidays. The Resort estimates that transit ridership will return to pre-pandemic levels and continue to grow in the future.

The above calculations are based on assumptions such as transit ridership demand and the average number of people per car. While 2.5 people per car has been a long-term average, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a significant decrease in riders per car. In the long run, if 2.5 people per car and/or the transit ridership predicted demand turns out to be unrealistic, the size of the parkade(s) may have to be increased in order to achieve balance at 8,500 SAOT. Since balance is an overall theme in the 2018 Site Guidelines, parkade development is allowed to be proposed outside of a Long-Range Plan, as long as it is located within the base area parking lot footprint and meets ecological integrity goals.

The Resort will continue to engage with Parks Canada and ROAM to pursue additional partnerships to improve connectivity and transit ridership to the ski area.

Parking on the access road is permitted on the lower section, below the avalanche zone. The Resort retained a professional consultant to develop an Operating Plan for parking on the road which outlines best safety practices. The operating plan has been approved by Parks Canada. Access road parking is subject to a Parks Canada permit which is reviewed every five years. Parking up to approximately 475 vehicles on the access road is presumed to continue under the Long-Range Plan. Continued access road parking is a critical component in achieving balance with the other facilities at the Resort at 8,500 SAOT.


Due to the nature of topography, other operational and land use requirements, no resort attains perfect balance among all components. The goal is that the primary components are reasonably sized to work well together, harmoniously. The Resort’s Long-Range Plan does reasonably balance as illustrated in the below table "Component Balance under this Long-Range Plan". This reflects the 2018 Site Guidelines, which was authored to address previous significant imbalances and assure reasonable balance through phasing and at build-out of the Resort.

Component Balance under this Long-Range PlanComponent Balance under this Long-Range Plan

Please note that all comments posted below are public. If you would like to provide comments directly to Sunshine Village and Parks Canada, please email

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