Transportation and Parking Strategy

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The Resort sits about 20 minutes outside the community of Banff and is accessed by bus or private vehicle via an 8km long access road running between the Trans-Canada Highway and the Resort base area.

It is a very popular resort, and, as such, plays a significant role in mountain national park visitation and visitor experience, providing winter and summer recreational opportunities that attract visitors from Canada and around the globe. From the Resort’s main parking area and base, skiers and visitors take a gondola to the Resort’s lifts and main village.

Parking has been a challenge for the Resort on holidays and weekends since the late 1970’s. Historically, parking demands over and above what is provided for in the main lot have been offset by skiers riding transit busses and parking outside the Ski Area lease along the Sunshine Access Road and/or two small Parks Canada parking lots at the bottom of the Sunshine Access Road.

Sunshine Village owns and operates a transit fleet and bus maintenance shop in the Banff industrial compound and subcontracts with other transit service providers. The overall transit operation moves a substantial number of visitors and employees (both winter and summer) by bus from Banff, Canmore, and Calgary.

Regulatory and Planning Context:

The 2018 Site Guidelines serves as a road map to guide the ski area in planning a future that will protect and improve the natural environment while providing exceptional experiences to ski resort guests. With respect to parking, the 2018 Site Guidelines provide the following guidelines:

In advance of a Long-Range Plan:

• Skier -pedestrian shuttle systems or people movers within the existing base area / parking lot footprint;

• Proposals to improve parking efficiency or capacity within the existing base area through relocating or reconfiguring existing facilities or parking space; and

• Proposals for a multi-level parking structure(s) within the existing base area parking lot footprint, which reflect design and engineering that:

o Meets all applicable building and safety codes and performance standards as legally required and/or otherwise determined by Parks Canada;

o Considers the landscape, visitor use patterns, and architecture of the overall base area;

o Ensures run-off from the structure is managed in a way that prevents deleterious substances from entering Healy Creek; and

o Is sensitive to typical routes used by wildlife in accessing the Upper Healy wildlife corridor.

Through a Long-Range Plan:

• Measures to address sufficient parking demand for the existing design capacity of 6,500 SAOT (if not advanced through one of the measures above that may be implemented prior to Long-Range Plan approval),

• Transportation and parking proposals consistent with a maximum capacity of up to 8,500 SAOT;

• Other strategies for effective and efficient use of existing space.

(Note: operational changes (e.g., carpooling incentives, etc.) to better manage parking supply that do not involve use of land, do not require Parks Canada approval).

The 2018 Site Guidelines are further supported by the 2018 Strategic Environmental Assessment[1].

After the issuance of the 2018 Site Guidelines, a new lease between Parks Canada and Sunshine Village Corporation was issued (2019) and requires Sunshine Village Corporation to prepare and submit to the Parks Canada superintendent a Transportation and Parking Strategy. This strategy can be submitted within a Long-Range Plan or stand alone. This Transportation and Parking Strategy is being submitted within Sunshine Village’s first Long-Range Plan and is written within the context of full build-out under the 2018 Site Guidelines. The reason the context is based on full build out is to demonstrate that the Resort’s parking and transportation system and strategy is not designed to exceed the growth limits (8,500 skiers at one time) as specified in the 2018 Site Guidelines.

Strategy Objective:

The 2018 Site Guidelines allow for a design capacity of 8,500 SAOT (skiers at one time). By using a successful combination people-moving tactics, the Resort provides sufficient access to meet this future design capacity (visitors and employees) while providing an exceptional visitor and employee experience.

Detailed Objective:

Build-out demand of 8,500 SAOT is successfully met by implementing a variety of tactics. This includes a successful mix and combination of increasing transit supply and demand, increasing average occupancy per car, and increasing supply of parking stalls at the base of the Resort. Sunshine Village also works to incentivize visitors to come at off-peak times such as mid-week and afternoons.

Objectives for Resort Balance:

Resort balance is best described as harmonizing the design capacities of parking, transit, commercial space, lifts, and trails. When one component is high or low, it puts pressure on the other components. The Long-Range Plan is designed to achieve resort balance.

Scope and Context:

Currently, Sunshine Village’s peak day is approximately 6,500 SAOT. The combination of parking at the base area, parking on the access road, carpooling, and mass transit successfully meets this level of demand, including the demand for employees at the Resort.

In the summer of 2021, Sunshine Village completed a Stormwater Management, Buffer Enhancement, and Parking Reconfiguration project. This project was designed to meet the directives of the 2018 Site Guidelines for the protection of Healy Creek and balance visitor access capacity to 6,500 SAOT. The project also adds 250 parking stalls within the base area. In 2021, Sunshine Village also submitted a Development Permit Application for a phased parkade. The parkade will provide an additional 450 parking stalls.

As of 2021, Sunshine Village owns and operates a transit department, with a bus maintenance facility in the Banff industrial compound. The resort also charters busses from third parties during peak periods. The number of people arriving by bus has grown dramatically over the past several years.

Visitors also park vehicles on the lower access road and / or two small Parks Canada parking lots at the bottom of the access road on peak days. Sunshine Village hired a professional transportation planning firm to design a safety and operating plan for parking vehicles on the access road. This plan was provided to Parks Canada for review and approval. All recommended operational changes suggested by the consultant have been implemented, as required by Parks Canada in their approval.

Sunshine Village has developed this Transportation and Parking Strategy which supplies the necessary access to the resort for the approved maximum 8,500 SAOT, plus employees. This is achieved with a combination of surface parking stalls, continued access road parking, parkade parking stalls, and mass transit.

Current Situation:

Visitors are made up of long-haul destination, regional, and local markets. Destination visitors either rent a car or use transit from hotels in Banff. Regional visitors arrive as destination visitors (rental car or transit) but usually stay fewer days. Local visitors mostl drive vehicles to access the Resort. Employees mainly use transit to ski on their days off and access the Resort on work days.

Average occupancy per car is approximately 2.5 people although data indicates occupancy per car increases during peak holiday and weekends when families ski together.

Visitor volume is busiest on Christmas week, Family Day week, and Spring Break week. Saturdays in late December through Easter weekend are also considered peak days. Most people arrive between 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., although a smaller number of people arrive for afternoon half-day skiing.

The Sunshine Village transit system, which is made up of its own fleet of busses and additional chartered busses, picks up frequently (during busy times, every 30 minutes) in Banff at numerous locations, including most large hotels.

When visitors park on the access road, Sunshine Village operates transit busses to pick up and drop off at designed bus stops where cars are not permitted to park.

Parking capacity for the 2021/2022 winter season includes 1,940 stalls at the base area and the access road provides 475 stalls. This is a total of 2,415 stalls. On a peak day, approximately 1,100 people arrive by bus (visitors plus employees). That combination of transit and parking currently balances to 6,500 SAOT, plus employees.

Future Conditions:

When complete, the proposed parkade will provide an additional 450 stalls for a total of 2,390 at the base area.

The access road will continue to provide and additional 475 stalls, and mass transit will make up the final balance to meet the allowable maximum of 8,500 SAOT, plus employees. It is assumed that Sunshine Village will continue to park up to 475 cars on the access road. That parking is necessary for all elements to work together (surface parking, parkade, access road parking, and transit) in order for the Transportation and Parking Strategy to be successful in the long and balance to the other facilities at the Resort.

Implementation Plan and Schedule:

During the summer of 2021, Sunshine Village completed the Stormwater Management, Buffer Enhancement and Parking reconfiguration project which added 250 stalls.

The parkade first phase construction is being planned for the summer/fall of 2022, likely with relocation of utilities and preliminary site work. The parkade will be constructed in several phases to match the construction costs with the demand for additional stalls while not exceeding the maximum 8500 SAOT per the 2018 Site Guidelines. Sunshine Village expects that estimated future demand / growth to occur over time (potentially several years).

Sunshine Village is in control of the transit operation as most of the busses are owned by the Company. Each year for the past several years, Sunshine Village has increased the size of its fleet to fulfill the public demand for transit and will continue to do as circumstances warrant.


[1] Parks Canada. Strategic Environmental Assessment for the Site Guidelines for Development and Use, Sunshine Village Ski Resort. 2018.

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