A section of Marmot Basin previously closed to the public has opened up for the first time in 56 years.
The new area of the ski resort in Jasper, Alta. features jaw-dropping slopes and striking views of the Rocky Mountains. It took years of planning and work to ensure its safety but finally opened to the public on March 9.
Brian Rode, vice president of Marmot Basin, told CBC's Edmonton AM he is excited to offer skiers and snowboarders a new experience.
"When you're in the high alpine and in these big bowls and above the tree line, it's quite a different experience. You really feel like you're in the guts of the mountain," he said.
"You feel like the mountains are really wrapping around you. And at the same time, you have these huge wide open spaces and just incredible views looking down the valley.
"It's really quite, breathtaking."
The section exists above the treeline over the Knob Chair, the highest chairlift at Marmot Basin. It wraps around three prominent peaks, which were always part of the ski resort's leasehold and so did not require special permission from Parks Canada to use.
"So what we've done now is just [been] able to move our rope fences, if you will, and push into that terrain to allow people to have higher access," Rode said.
The area is accessible by hiking the up trail. Rode said five different gates allow access to that side of the mountain but cautioned intermediate skiers to take the lower gates.
"If you're a strong intermediate, you'll find some good terrain up there for you but, generally speaking, it is for advanced, expert skiers," he said.
Enough time to plan
Rode said Marmot Basin first turned its attention to that part of the slope in 2003 and then again in 2006 but weren't successful in putting together a plan that staff felt would be safe for public use.
"And this year, the plan was just modified enough — we had enough time to work on it. It became a priority and lo and behold, we got the terrain open," he said.
Rode said the ski patrol along with the operations team put together an operational plan solid enough to mitigate risks and make it safe for use.
Although the snow may have melted in the cities, Rode said there is still skiing left in the mountains as snow conditions remain viable until the end of April.
This new section will remain open for skiers and snowboarders until May 2.