What year was the Great Divide highway closed?

Update: From the comments which were submitted to this post, it appears the Great Divide was closed to vehicle traffic in 1999. It was likely closed to vehicle traffic in the winter sometime in the eighties. 

It’s wonderful to have the old highway from Lake Louise to BC on which to ski every winter. When the new Trans Canada highway opened up, the old highway was eventually closed, and as a ski trail, we refer to it as the Great Divide. 

Signs are still on the old highway

Today’s update from the Kicking Horse Ski Club in Yoho contained a scribbled note. The writer asked the question which I’ve always wondered about, too: 

What year was the Great Divide(also known as the “Old 1A”) closed to vehicle traffic? 

I’ve searched the internet and can’t find anything except the photo of the ’60 Chev at the arch. It appears the arch was updated at some point, too. 

Does anyone know?

The Kicking Horse Ski Club is responsible for grooming most of the trails in Yoho. So far we’ve had tracksetting on the Kicking Horse trail, and the Yoho Valley road. Trails around Emerald Lake will be next. If you enjoy skiing the Yoho trails, please consider making a donation or buying a $50 membership in the club. 


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  1. I lived in LL in ’97. Pretty sure I was enjoying a car-free 1A on return journeys from Ross Lake mountain bike rides.

    But when was it closed in winter? I first skied there in the mid ’80s so definitely before then.

  2. I was able to find this:

    Adams, Jeff. “Tourists vs. Nature: Five-Year Plan Must Serve Two Masters”. Calgary Herald. 29 May 1994. B6.

    “As for closing the 1A Highway west of Lake Louise, the new five-year plan says the summer-only road is so rough it will soon be dangerous for the average 500 motorists a day who use it each June, July and August.”

    So it sounds like the road was open in the summers up until the mid-90s. I clearly remember driving the road as a kid in the 80s (well, I wasn’t driving: my dad was). If memory serves me correctly there was a gas station where the current parking lot is now.

  3. I think it was 1999. I’m pretty sure that it was still open to traffic in early 90s.
    I have worked at the Chateau for a few years, and remember taking this shortcut a number of times.
    There was a popular tourist attraction at the Continental Divide. A creek that forks, with one side draining east to Hudson Bay, and the other side draining west to the Pacific Ocean.

    • In trying to find an online link to its close date, I found a 1958 NFB film documenting the entire highway. There’s a shot of our beloved Great Divide sign at 46:32. And some lovely shots of the National Park in the couple minutes before and after – hasn’t changed much!

      • I cannot thank you all enough for digging into the history of the closure of 1-A west of Lk Louise. It was I who asked the question above to Bruce Bembridge and Marlaine when I sent in my KHSC fees. Perhaps this road was never open for winter travel (?), but looks like we have the answer to summer travel, at least on the East side of the Divide. Darcy found it to be 1999. Erika, this NBC film brought back wonderful memories for me, and narration by Pierre Burton a special treat. Forget netflix, think I will explore more of these nostalgic films of my childhood!

        • Helen,

          You’re welcome, although it was truly a team effort by a few contributors. I’m a librarian by profession, and when librarians see questions like that, we turn into dogs chewing a bone. We just won’t let go until we know the answer. Now I also wonder when the winter closure started, or if it was always closed in the winter? If it was part of the original TCH I suspect it would have open in the winter at some point in the past.

      • Erika,
        That NFB film is magnificent.
        Hope everybody who has grown up in Canada watches it (sit back and enjoy it, 1 hour).
        The Great Divide is part of our amazing history.
        Thanks for the link,

  4. Are you talking about closed to vehicles in the winter? It is still open in the summer, isn’t it?

  5. The road closed in the mid 90s. It was deteriorating really fast.

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