The Icefields Parkway (or the Promenade des Glaciers en français) is also known as Highway 93, and covers 230 km linking Lake Louise and the town of Jasper to the north. The spectacular route runs parallel to the Continental, or “Great”, Divide, and crosses both Banff and Jasper National Parks. Be aware that in winter, chains or all-season radials are required by law and that, depending on snowfall and avalanche control work, some sections of the parkway may be closed for as long as three days.
The Parkway crosses two passes: Sunwapta Pass at 2035 metres and Bow Summit at 2069 metres. The parkway falls within the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks world heritage site which was recognized by UNESCO in 1984 for its mind-blowing natural beauty and geological value. The parkways offers up some great “highway lines” that you can scope out while driving by. Best time to ski the couloirs is April through June.
We want to hear about your adventures in the Rockies so don’t forget to post a trip report in the backcountryskiingcanada.com forums. If you have a new route in the area you want to share, mouse-on over here. N-Joy.
All routes listed here provided by Mark Klassen of Corax Alpine Guides. If we have missed anything please let us know?
For a full listing of backcountry huts, cabins and lodges check out the Rocky Mountain cabins/huts/lodges page over here.
A long and demanding climb up one of the high peaks of the Rockies. A combination of low avalanche hazard and good ski quality can be difficult to find on this peak, but when you hit it right it is one of the classic ski descents of Canada. This tour is best done later in the season (late March or April) when melt-freeze crusts facilitate travel on the lower section. Good powder can be found on the north-facing glacier even late in the season. Good visibility is also essential for a good run down as there are many crevasses that need to be avoided on the descent.
From the road ascend through the forest on the right bank of the creek. Soon an open bowl is reached, climb up this until you come to the rock band above. Find your way through this, taking your skis off and walking up snow-covered ledges starting to the left of the waterfalls before crossing over to the right side partway up. Start early so you pass through this section before it gets warm and loose snow avalanches or rockfall start coming off the large cliffs above.
Once past the cliffband make your way through the moraines, trending up the basin on the right. Once on the glacier the fewest crevasses are found on the higher ground to the right of the major depression in the middle of the glacier. Use a rope, there are many crevasses here and the wind can create a shallow snowpack and weak bridges over the slots!
Travel towards the west ridge of Hector on the moderately angled glacier. Once near the ridge the glacier steepens in a series of rolls. If avalanche conditions are uncertain or time is running short a good run down can be had from this point. Otherwise, continue up the glacier carefully navigating around the steepest sections. Luckily there are fewer crevasses here but you still need to be on the lookout for them. The steepest slope is found just before a col at 3325 m. Crampons and an ice axe are sometimes required here if the wind has scoured the snow off the ice. From the col, scramble up the rocks on the right to gain the summit. There are a couple of short, steep steps with exposure – 4th class.
Descend the way you came. Be very careful of crevasses on the ski down. In the lower cliffs try to move fast if warm temperatures are still a concern.
ROUTE: Mt. Hector
ACCESS: From Lake Louise drive 2.5 km west on Highway 1 and turn right onto Highway 93 North (the Icefields Parkway). An additional 20.5 km will bring you to a small pullout on the left (west) side of the road, just after you have crossed a small stream (Hector Creek).
MAP: 82 N/9
TIME: 8 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 1534m/5032’
ATES RATING: Complex (3)