AMPPE launches Icefields Parkway Study


The Association of Mountain Parks Protection & Enjoyment (AMPPE) has launched a comprehensive study to develop an approach and strategy for improving visitor safety and user experience along the Icefields Parkway. 

The Icefields Parkway, considered one of the world’s most scenic drives, connects Lake Louise to Jasper and attracts millions of visitors annually. However, beyond its stunning vistas lies a rich history and ongoing challenges related to maintenance and closures.  The road traverses a dynamic and often harsh environment with heavy snowfall, avalanches, and rockslides posing significant threats. These natural events can cause road closures, delays, and hazardous driving conditions, necessitating constant vigilance and rapid response from maintenance crews.


The concept of a scenic highway through the Rockies gained momentum in the 1930s, driven by the desire to boost tourism and create jobs during the Great Depression. Construction of the Icefields Parkway began in 1931, and it was officially completed in 1940.

Although the Parkway was initially built to improve access for tourists and recreationalists in Canada’s National Parks, today, the road is also an essential piece of the much-lauded scenic route to Alaska. It is also growing in importance as a connector between Calgary, Jasper, and northern Alberta. Communities connected by the Parkway, including Jasper, Hinton, Grand Prairie, and Grande Cache, have come to rely on the road for tourism, and local people and recreationalists rely on the road for essential travel and recreational access. 

Road maintenance, cellular coverage, reputation

Travellers and locals agree that road safety should remain a top priority and that winter closures are sometimes necessary, particularly in high-risk avalanche zones.

Over the years, however, AMPPE members have relayed concerns over the length and frequencies of road closures, how closures are communicated, visitor safety, and potential reputational damage caused by the closures and safety messaging.

These concerns have been accompanied by various potential solutions, from where snowplows are stored to potential administrative changes that could improve efficiencies.

In 2009, with the help of a group of local stakeholders, Parks Canada created the Icefield Parkway Strategic Concept to envision a desired future for the Parkway and to provide recommendations and the accompanying actions to improve the visitor experience along the route. (The Strategic Concept was Annex 5 in the 2010 Banff Park Management Plan).

Several of the recommendations in the Strategic Concept were implemented after the plan was tabled and accepted in the Canadian parliament. But much has changed in the 15 years since the Strategic Concept was developed (including the hot debate over the proposed, funded, then scrapped cycling path idea that could have greatly reduced the number of cars using the road), and both Parkway users and Parks Canada seem to agree there is still room for improvement.

The Study

Recognizing the need for concrete data to formulate recommendations for improvement, and the importance of articulating and communicating these needs in an effective manner, AMPPE has engaged Toop Consulting Ltd. to assist them in preparing the Icefields Parkway Strategy. This initiative has two phases. The focus of the first phase is on articulating the needs of the AMPPE members and their challenges and identifying the current gaps, so that this information could be effectively communicated and presented to AMPPE members and Parks Canada.

This will be done by assessing the Icefields Parkway’s current management and operational practices and gathering data to gain insights into user experiences. Following this, the study will support AMPPE in clearly identifying and communicating these challenges and developing solutions to existing concerns. 

Engaging Parks Canada early in the process could open the door for future alignment on the outcomes of an Icefields Strategy and a successful implementation. Our consulting team will be meeting and communicating with Parks Canada local leadership and staff to highlight the importance of working together with Parks Canada and finding solutions for Icefields Parkway that are mutually beneficial to all parties involved. This is to inform Parks Canada of the process and how it could benefit their operations; and for AMPPE to better understand their current constraints related to the Icefields Parkway operations and visitor safety. 

AMPPE is also interested in opportunities to enhance cycling as an experience on the Icefields Parkway corridor as well as more broadly between the major Mountain Park destinations like Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. Phase 2 of this initiative will include the first step of developing a cycling strategy, based on our understanding of alignment between AMPPE and Parks Canada, and consideration for other partners and existing active transportation funding opportunities.