The Great Divide Snow of ’74

By Jenny L. Feick, PhD

Writing the article on the Snows of the Great Divide got me thinking about encounters we had with snow while doing the field work for Project: Great Divide Trails back in 1974.  Here are a couple of Great Divide snow-related excerpts from the book Tales from the Great Divide. In these sections of dialogue taken from the book, Dave refers to Dave Higgins, Lani to Lani Smith, Jenny to Jenny Feick (rhymes with hike), Cliff to Cliff White, and Davie to Dave Zevick.

For anyone interested in reading more stories from the folks who initiated the idea of Canada’s Great Divide Trail and Great Divide Trail Association, you can still purchase a copy of the Second Edition of the book in three ways:

  1. Order a print-on-demand version from Amazon for Cdn $85.00 (rate in US$ varies with the exchange rate) plus shipping (free for Amazon Prime members). 
  2. Arrange to purchase a printed copy directly in person from Jenny Feick, the editor, in the Invermere area for Cdn $65.00 (shipping anywhere in Canada would cost $20.00) by emailing
  3. Order a PDF version from the Nature Wise Consulting website for Cdn $25.00 –

From Page 25 of the 2nd edition of Tales from the Great Divide:

DAVE: [Coleman was] “The perfect jumping-off point for all of our study areas for the first two-thirds of the summer.

LANI:That’s where you started from?

JENNY:Yes. We were going south to north, with the idea that the snow would be less in the south.

CLIFF:As it turned out, that year was a horrific snow year. We had a heck of a time!

JENNY: (Looking at Dave) “When we were in Tornado Pass, we had so much snow.

DAVE:There was still about two to three metres of snow on the ground in the [Tornado] Pass, and we were trying to find trails! So, this is not really going too well.

Jenny Feick trying to find the Tornado Pass historic trail in Alta. despite the deep snow in late June 1974. (Photo by Dave Higgins)

From Page 49-50 of the 2nd edition of Tales from the Great Divide:

CLIFF:The nice thing about it was that the Great Divide Trail went through there. It was never logged as you come into Banff [National Park from North or South Kananaskis Pass], and all the way down through Kananaskis Country, either between the Height of the Rockies or on the Kananaskis side, it’s in pretty good shape. So, it was a nice way to finish the summer. We had a spectacular August, if I remember right. Fantastic weather.

JENNY:Except for when we got snowed on at Kananaskis Lakes!

A mid-August snowstorm in the Kananaskis valley, Alta. In 1974 made parts of the study area inaccessible (Photo by Dave Higgins) Mount Sarrail and Upper Kananaskis Lake briefly appeared before again becoming cloud-covered.

DAVE:August 12th, we had our first snow of the season. We got well and truly snowed out there. And the Kananaskis Road at that time was being turned into a Kananaskis Highway, and we had to actually traverse [the construction area].We had to drive our little beat-up car [the VW] over Highwood Summit, which was a complete mess. Actually, I think there’s a picture of the car on that [construction area], where the little car is set in all the rocks on the road and everything. It was taken around then. But I remember having to evacuate out of there in a blizzard, basically.

Chris Hart’s VW Sedan in the Highway 40 construction zone near Galatea Creek, Alta. Summer 1974. (Photo by Cliff White)

CLIFF:I can remember that day. Davie and I were at Connor Lakes that day trying to get out of the pass into Abruzzi Creek. It was a really snowy day. We had to go over that pass until we got into [the] Abruzzi Creek [drainage].We sort of did that loop, but never ended up on the Great Divide Trail. It was beautiful country. That was the one thing that saved the upper [Elk] valley. It was stripped down low, but up high it was just NOT logging country. It had been burnt in 1936, so all the side valleys were burnt out. And beyond a few seismic roads, which never found any oil or gas, most of the country there was in pretty good shape.  So, that was nice.   It started to get pretty nice after that.

Dave Zevick struggles up Quarrie Pass, B.C. after a mid-August snowstorm in 1974. (Photo by Cliff White)

47 Years Later – 2021

Even today, hikers should expect to encounter snow on the high-altitude parts of the GDT any month of the year and prepare accordingly. While the lingering snows of June and mid-August snowfalls along the Great Divide were typical patterns observed in the 1970s through the 1990s, climate change is making these trends less predictable. In 2021, GDT thru-hikers experienced extremely high temperatures in June through to mid-August and the first significant snow fell in the alpine at the end of August and into early September.

Lauren “Neon” Reed on her way up the snowy Jonas Shoulder on September 1, 2021, during the Her Odyssey thru-hike of the GDT. (Photo by Bethany “Fidget” Hughes)

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