Parks Canada is Off Route
Visitation to Canada’s Rocky Mountain National Parks has been declining. In an effort to reverse that trend, Parks Canada has announced it will allow the construction of a via ferrata in Banff National Park, at Mt. Norquay Ski Area, above Banff townsite.
Parks Canada does not construct new hiking trails in the Rockies. They don’t even adequately maintain existing hiking trails. (See photos below.) Yet they support what will essentially be an amusement-park attraction? We think this is ridiculous.
While hiking throughout the Canadian Rockies national parks, we’re constantly noticing areas where, if a new trail were constructed, it would soon become famous, because hiking it would be thrilling. Does anyone at Parks Canada recognize these opportunities?
A via ferrata focuses climbers’ attention on the immediate challenges it poses. A hiking trail opens hikers’ eyes, minds and hearts to the environment it traverses. Is anyone at Parks Canada aware of this difference?
Last year, we climbed some of the original via ferrata in the Italian Dolomiti. The routes were constructed during WWI to enable military troops to travel through the mountains. Re-purposing these via ferrata for peacetime recreation made sense.
Constructing a new via ferrata route where there is no such history, however, is nonsense, especially given that the Canadian Rockies’ hiking-trail potential remains largely untapped.
Yes, largely untapped. For every Sentinel Pass trail, Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit, Rockwall trail, or Skyline trail, there are dozens of prospective trails in the Canadian Rockies that would be equally engaging.
Any of them, if constructed, would boost park visitation more effectively than would a via ferrata, because they would enhance the Canadian Rockies’ long-established reputation as one of the world’s premier hiking destinations.
Any of these as-yet unrealized trails would also better serve Parks Canada than would a via ferrata, because they would direct visitors’ attention differently: not toward a manmade contrivance (safety cables strung across a cliff, which could just as easily be located in New York State), but instead toward the unique, vast grandeur of the Canadian Rockies.
That’s our opinion. What’s yours?