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TheRockies.Life Staff

2023 Bow Valley: The Year in Review

Our highlights of 2023 in the Bow Valley

The year 2023 was a busy one in Bow Valley. Here are the main highlights month-by-month.


Parks Canada banned private cars from Moraine Lake Road to avoid traffic jams and illegal parking along the roadway. Going forward, only shuttles, public transit, and commercial buses can use the road from June to mid-October.

The Snow Days Skijoring event in Banff captivated the audience, featuring professional horse riders towing elite ski athletes through the town, performing jumps and tricks to the amazement of spectators.

Chiniki First Nation Councillor Jordie Mark urged the Calgary Flames to introduce an Indigenous land acknowledgement before their home games, noting that at the time, they were the only Canadian NHL team without such a practice.

Thousands of fish were discovered dead in Vermilion Lakes on January 8, likely due to low oxygen levels caused by a natural winter-kill phenomenon.

A visitor survey by Alberta Parks about Kananaskis Country’s Highwood Pass revealed overcrowding, insufficient visitor facilities and trail degradation, suggesting the need for better management, especially during the busy larch season in September-October.

Canmore hockey player Luke Philp made his NHL debut with the Chicago Blackhawks against the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 24 and recorded his first NHL point two days later against the Calgary Flames.

Snow Days Skijoring captivated the audience in Banff | Rocky Mountain Outlook


Zach Milligan, a 42-year-old skilled climber who famously skied down Yosemite’s Half Dome in 2021, died in a climbing accident in Banff National Park on Polar Circus – one of the most famous climbing routes in the world.

The Stoney Education Authority, along with knowledge keepers and elders, commemorated the launch of a Stoney podcast, textbook, and dictionary, aiming to safeguard the Stoney language for future generations.

During the mayor’s State of the Town address in Cochrane on February 9, protesters gathered at the RancheHouse against the 15-minute cities concept despite the town’s clarification of not adopting it. The protest escalated, with some demonstrators assaulting, spitting on and harassing town officials and attendees. 

At the 2023 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, the underdog team of Erik Read, Jeff Read, Britt Richardson from Canmore, along with Valerie Grenier from Ontario, secured a bronze medal in the mixed team parallel event in Meribel, France.

Polar Circus at the Weeping Wall along the Icefields Parkway | CDN Alpine


The province expected $11 million from the Kananaskis Conservation Pass for the 2022-23 period, following a visitor count of 4.2 million to K-Country in 2022. In year one –from June 2021 to 2022–the Pass generated $12 million.

At the Special Olympics Alberta Winter Games in Strathcona County, Canmore’s Special Olympians Shane Stewart and Meg Ohsada triumphed, with Stewart earning triple gold in cross-country skiing and Ohsada securing two gold medals in figure skating.

Canmore ski cross athlete Kris Mahler wins a national title.

The Banff Canmore Community Foundation’s Moving Mountains initiative led to the launch of Mînî Hrpa, a Stoney-named Indigenous cultural pop-up centre, which was celebrated in Banff.


Several wolves that spent most of their lives in Banff National Park, including a GPS-collared female from the Bow Valley, were trapped and killed on adjacent provincial lands.

Stoney Health Services announced its intention to construct a long-term care facility in Mînî Thnî by 2025, utilizing up to $8.9 million in provincial grant funding to develop a facility offering 21 continuing care spaces.

Six tourists fell into the Kicking Horse River at Natural Bridge near Field after breaking through the ice, highlighting the risks of mountain rivers.

The province allocated $15.1 million for Kananaskis Country’s provincial parks in the 2023 budget, with plans including $1.7 million for road resurfacing in Spray Valley Provincial Park and enhancements to Spray Lakes West Campground.


♬ original sound – Harsha Kalra


Parks Canada launched an investigation after a prescribed fire got away about three kilometres north of the Banff townsite. The fire forced the evacuation of Banff Rocky Mountain Resort

Calgary police confirmed that human remains found near the Valleyview rest stop of the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park were that of Chestermere woman Vida Smith, 69, who was reported missing by her family three years earlier.

NDP’s Sarah Elmeligi won the Banff-Kananaskis riding in the May 29 provincial election by fewer than 200 votes. It was the only rural riding that went to the opposition on election night. 

Competitors from a leading Taekwon-Do dojang in Cochrane showcased their exceptional skills on a national level by winning nine medals at the 2023 CTFI National Taekwon-Do Championships, which took place on May 6 and 7 in Vernon, B.C.

Sarah Elmeligi celebrating a narrow election victory | Sarah Elmeligi


Banff’s off-leash dog park in the industrial area was shut down on June 13 due to ongoing issues with glass, nails, and other dangerous materials surfacing, linked to its past use as a Canadian Pacific Railway dump site in the 20th century.

Parks Canada announced on June 19 that the pilot bison reintroduction program was successful, with the herd now exceeding 100 bison. The project will continue, building on its achievements over the past five years.

Nakoda Emergency Services organized a town hall meeting to tackle the problem of roaming dogs forming packs on the Nation, which have been responsible for killing livestock and other animals and posing a risk to people

Canmore trail runner Adam Mertens has accomplished the exceptionally rare Bow Tie mountain adventure, a breathtaking trek across some of the most renowned mountains in the Bow Valley, and is reportedly the only person to have completed it in a single continuous effort.

Adam Mertens on Lady MacDonald above Canmore trekking though the night |


The Charleston Residence, which provided staff housing for the Lake Louise ski hill, was destroyed in a fire. Timothy Alexander Paterson, a 40-year-old Lake Louise resident, was charged with arson and possessing a weapon for dangerous use. 

A plane crash in Kananaskis Country resulted in the deaths of six people on July 28. The group was flying from Springbank Airport to Salmon Arm, BC, in a Piper PA-32. 

An announcement was made for a water main extension project in Mînî Thnî and Big Horn, scheduled for 2024, which will connect over 70 homes, thereby replacing private wells that were previously subject to boil water advisories.

At the summer provincials, the Bow Valley Riptides swimming team achieved remarkable success, securing 12 medals (seven gold, two silver, and three bronze) and breaking 27 club records.

At the 2023 Alberta Summer Games (ASG) in Diamond Valley and Okotoks from July 20-23, the first such event since 2018, Bow Valley athletes aged 11-17 achieved an impressive 24 podium finishes, comprising nine gold, seven silver, and eight bronze medals.


A power outage caused by a lightning storm on August 8 left tourists stranded overnight at the Banff Gondola‘s upper terminal on Sulphur Mountain. The outage, which affected both Banff and Canmore around 7 PM, disrupted the gondola service, with people trapped in the gondola cars until about 10 PM.

During the August long weekend, fourteen individuals were charged with 28 offences at Banff National Park’s Johnson Lake, including illegal camping, public alcohol consumption, and starting an unauthorized fire.

Lake Louise village was closed for approximately two hours on the Saturday of the Labour Day long weekend in August. The closure was due to an influx of tourists, though access was granted to residents and those with hotel bookings.

West Fraser Timber‘s (formerly Spray Lake Sawmills) proposal to log 1,100 hectares in Upper Highwood, Kananaskis Country, sparked concern among conservationists and recreational users about the impact on recreational areas and the habitat of at-risk species like bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout.

Alberta Parks began construction on the redesign of Spray Lakes West Campground to restore habitat for bears and other wildlife in the Smith-Dorrien Valley, reducing human-bear conflicts.

Hundreds of people were marooned both in the gondola cabins and at the summit of Sulphur Mountain's interpretive centre during a power outage | Banff Jasper Collection
Hundreds of people were marooned both in the gondola cabins and at the summit of Sulphur Mountain’s interpretive centre during a power outage | Banff Jasper Collection


A malnourished 25-year-old female grizzly bear fatally attacked Doug Inglis and Jenny Gusse, both 62 from Lethbridge, along with their dog, in the remote backcountry of Banff National Park.

The Boss,” a grizzly bear known as Bear 122, entered a yard on Marmot Crescent and climbed a crabapple tree, subsequently bluff-charging at nearby people. Although the bear was initially driven away, it returned several times, leading to the tree being cut down to prevent further incidents.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is investigating West Fraser Timber for constructing a bridge over the Highwood River without a permit. The bridge was built to access a 1,100-hectare logging area in the Upper Highwood, a region home to at-risk fish species.

Cochrane’s Stuart Witt secured first place at the International Society of Arboriculture’s (ISA) Tree Climbing Championship, Prairie Division. His victory qualifies him for the world championships scheduled to be held next year in Atlanta, Georgia.


The Town of Cochrane declared a State of Local Emergency following a breach in the sewage and water lines at Riverfront Park, attracting national and international media attention. 

In response to increasing demand for culturally-focused recovery programs within the Îyârhe Nakoda First Nation, the Stoney Nakoda Adult Treatment Centre in Mînî Thnî officially opened on October 5.

A 30-year-old fight in Canmore development has finally ended, leaving the community polarized. Following a decision by the Court of Appeal, which mandated the Council to accept the Land and Property Rights Tribunal’s (LPRT) decision to approve the huge development, the Canmore Council reluctantly gave thumbs up to Three Sisters Mountain Village Properties Limited (TSMVPL) plans for Three Sisters Village and Smith Creek. 

Canmore’s long-track speed skater Connor Howe triumphed at the national level, securing his third consecutive title in the 1,500m and also winning the 1,000m, in addition to earning a silver medal in the 5,000m.

Canmore biathlete Haldan Borglum successfully reached the summit of all 94 peaks, both named and unnamed, with a prominence of at least 300 feet and visible from the town’s boundary. Beginning in 2020, Borglum navigated the Rockies by hiking, rock climbing, rappelling, scrambling, and bushwhacking to achieve this feat.

A damaged sewer pipe caused a local state of emergency in Cochrane in October | Town of Cochrane


On October 26, in a rare decision, Parks Canada closed all lakes, rivers, and shorelines in Yoho and Kootenay National Parks to public access due to the spread of whirling disease. Initially identified in Emerald Lake on September 20, the disease has since been found in the Kicking Horse River, Wapta Lake, Finn Creek, Monarch Creek, and at the junction of Emerald and Kicking Horse Rivers.

The RCMP Historical Homicide Unit (HHU) and the Calgary Police Service (CPS) Cold Case Homicide Unit charged a suspect in a 1976 cold case murder unsolved for 47 years. The victim, 16-year-old Pauline Brazeau, was a Métis single mother from Saskatchewan who had moved to Calgary, where she was murdered on January 9, 1976.


An independent review of a controlled burn near Banff in May, which escalated and alarmed residents and visitors, revealed initial chaos in the response, equipment malfunctions, confusion about command structure and regulations, and insufficient communication from Parks Canada to the public.

Margaret Holloway from Îyârhe Nakoda First Nation was named the 2024 Calgary Stampede First Nations Princess, and Îyârhe Nakoda elder and Mînî Thnî Community School teacher Duane Mark is also highlighted on the official 2024 poster for the event.

Kris Mahler, a World Cup gold medallist from Canmore, saw his season come to an abrupt end after suffering a broken neck during a ski cross race in Switzerland.

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