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Revive Rogers: Finding Solutions for Glacier National Park

REVIVE ROGERS:
FINDING SOLUTIONS FOR
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK

by Billie Norman

Rogers Pass is a mecca for backcountry skiers, splitboarders, hikers and mountaineers. Yet with the closure of Glacier Park Lodge, the future of lodging development in that area is uncertain. Enter: Revive Rogers, a community-based initiative working to ensure the restoration of lodging at Rogers Pass. Here’s the background story, and how you can get involved. 


 

Photo courtesy Tom McMillan/Revive Rogers.

Deemed the birthplace of mountaineering in North America, Rogers Pass holds a tremendous amount of history and a special place for many outdoor enthusiasts. With over 17,000 visiting the area last winter, Rogers Pass has become a hotspot for ski touring and splitboarding alike (with a considerable amount of users in summer, too). The recent closure of the only lodging along the highway, Glacier Park Lodge, has led to the uncertainty of future accommodation. In light of this, Revive Rogers has been sparked, with a focus on the restoration of lodging for backcountry users who frequent the Rogers Pass area.

TIMELINE OF ROGERS PASS

First, let’s go back in time to give context to the recent developments at Rogers Pass:

1881

  • American Railway Surveyor Major Albert Bowman Rogers discovers Rogers Pass while searching for a route through the thought-to-be impassable Selkirk Mountains for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

1885

  • The railway through the Kicking Horse Pass and Rogers Pass areas is completed.

1886

  • Glacier National Park is created.
  • CPR builds Glacier House – a small hotel in Rogers Pass.
  • Van Horne, President of the CPR, wants Rogers Pass to be a tourist destination.

1899

  • CPR imports professional Swiss Guides to encourage tourism in the area. 
  • Rogers Pass changes the way people viewed mountains. Mountains were no longer seen as barriers, rather destinations.

1901

  • Arthur O. Wheeler is assigned to Rogers Pass to do a photo-topographical survey along the CPR route. The Swiss Guides are placed at his disposal.

1906

  • Arthur O. Wheeler, assisted by Elizabeth Parker, founds the Alpine Club of Canada.

1925

  • Due to high avalanche danger, lack of business, and a number of other reasons, Glacier Park Lodge closes its doors.

1946

  • Arthur O. Wheeler Hut is built in Rogers Pass.

1963 – 2012

  • Glacier Park Lodge reopens and is closed several times.

2012

  • Glacier Park Lodge closes its doors for good.

19th October 2016

  • Parks Canada announces that it will take sole control over Glacier Park Lodge, and that “the structures are now beyond repair, are unsafe and require demolition.” 
  • Though Parks Canada acknowledges that redevelopment will be considered, the future remains uncertain. Additional background here.

ABOUT REVIVE ROGERS

The Revive Rogers movement was launched in November 2016 by Calgary-based backcountry skier Tom McMillan. “Ever since Glacier House Lodge barricaded its doors for good in 2012, it has made it extremely difficult for anyone who lives more than 100km away to access Rogers Pass adequately,” says Tom.

There is a tremendous amount of backcountry terrain immediately accessible from Rogers Pass, and Tom is thankful that Parks Canada has made efforts to keep the area safely accessible. However, some outdoor enthusiasts drive three hours or more to experience Rogers Pass and Revive Rogers hopes that trips to the area might become “less of a logistical exercise.” 

The lack of accommodation is not only a hindrance to winter activities. The limited summer campsites in the area are often booked up far in advance. Tom envisions a revival of Rogers Pass will “enhance everybody’s experience of the area.”

 

IN NUMBERS

  • With only a couple of months under its belt, Revive Rogers has already seen:
    • 1,000 people come together on social media
    • 500+ respondents sharing their input via the survey
    • 450 people sign the petition on Change.org
  • 89% of people from Golden and Revelstoke – the nearest towns to Rogers Pass – saw the lack of a developed space as a barrier to access and are in favour of having a lodge at Rogers Pass.
  • Banff, Canmore and Calgary residents agree with this too, but for them the reason is more obvious: it would mean less of a logistical exercise to access the incredible backcountry terrain.
  • Majority of people want to see budget accommodation, such as private rooms with shared facilities.

THE INSIGHTS

This huge amount of support in such a short time validates the idea that accommodation is needed at Rogers Pass. And perhaps the community can cooperatively come together to raise funds and bounce ideas off of each other to figure out the ideal solution.

Those opposed to redevelopment in the area expressed that their biggest concern would be overcrowding. Revive Rogers states that it is “not trying to encourage an increase in tourism to this part of the world, rather the desire is to provide the people who are currently using the area with the services and accommodation they are currently lacking.”

THE LONG GAME

Revive Rogers understands that there is no short-term solution to the accommodation problem in Rogers Pass, rather it is a long-term initiative. Tom states that Revive Rogers “supports Parks Canada in their need to remediate the site and go through the processes due to past soil contamination.”

THE IDEAL

Five years from now, Revive Rogers hopes to see environmentally sustainable lodging exist at Rogers Pass, aesthetically aligned to the surroundings, serving both backcountry users and park visitors. “And it would be gratifying to think,” Tom adds, “that a little initiative and community had something to do with it.”

Ski touring at Rogers Pass. Photo by Paul Zizka.

4 WAYS YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
WITH REVIVE ROGERS

 


Billie Norman fell in love with Canada at the age of seven and writing at the age of 21. After studying History & Politics at Loughborough University and enjoying a couple of winter seasons in the Rockies, it felt right to merge her two passions together. She started a travel guide website called Voyage Collective to inspire others to get out there and explore.