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Snow and Ice Control FAQ


City snow and ice control services

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The City maintains Calgary roads year round, with the exception of Deerfoot and Stoney Trails, which are managed by the province.

In the winter, our maintenance work includes pre-treating high-priority traffic corridors and known trouble spots with anti-icing materials prior to a forecast snowfall. After a snowfall ends, we follow a Seven-Day Snow Plan to plow roads, on-street bike lanes and cycle tracks, pathways, playground zones, bus routes and other high traffic areas in priority order.

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To the extent that roads can be driven, yes. But, unlike high-volume roads where we plow down to bare pavement, plowing residential streets means packing down soft spots, levelling out ruts and sanding-salting the driving lanes. It does not include:

  • Plowing entire street widths, from curb to curb
  • Plowing down to bare pavement
  • Removing snow

 

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No, back lanes are not part of our snow and ice control services. However, if you think a back lane has become a public safety concern, please report online to 311.

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Yes, there are designated sections of pathways and sidewalks that we clear, as well as on-street bike routes and downtown cycle tracks.

See the Pathways, Bikeways and Walkways map – Snow Clearing for location details. The City’s timeline for clearing snow varies; see the Seven-Day Snow Plan for schedule and scope details.

Sidewalk snow clearing is a responsibility we share with private property owners/occupants. For our part, we clear walkways along major roads and parks, pedestrian overpasses, and bus pads and LRT platforms. In general, we’re responsible for the sidewalks within and bordering City-owned property.

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The 2019 budget for snow and ice control operations is $40.4 million. This budget covers the period between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2019. The City also has a snow reserve fund currently sitting at $12.5 million.

In 2018, Council approved a one-time spend of $9.5 million to improve snow clearing for pedestrians during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 winter seasons. This additional funding allows us to:

  • Clear sidewalks bordering City property as a Day 1 priority within the Seven-Day Snow Plan
  • Reduce windrows at 500 crosswalks and wheelchair curb ramps
  • Extend pathway clearing to 500 km

Property owners (or designated occupants) are still responsible for clearing the sidewalks bordering their private property. See the snow bylaw page for details.​

 

Residential snow and ice control

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Living in a winter city means everyone has to pitch in when it snows. A City bylaw requires property owners to clear the sidewalks that border their property within 24 hours of snowfall ending. It's also important to manage ice on sidewalks, which can easily build up with Calgary's frequent freeze-thaw cycles.

To help you keep your sidewalks clear of snow and ice, The City offers a free, limited supply of a sand (for traction) and salt (for melting) mixture to property owners (no contractors, please). Find out where you can pick up free sand-salt and what restrictions apply.

Please note that compliance with the snow and ice control bylaw is mandatory. Property owners who fail to clear their sidewalks are subject to a minimum $150 charge plus a fine. This fine structure was implemented as part of Council's commitment to improve pedestrian mobility during winter 2018-19.

For more information, visit the snow bylaw page.

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Windrows are the trails of snow left behind by a snowplow. Clearing windrows in front of your property, as needed to access parking, is also your responsibility.

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Anyone able is encouraged to be a Snow Angel for a neighbour who's away or has difficulty shoveling.​

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Contractors who haul away shoveled snow must have privately-owned space to store it. The City does not provide public land for snow storage. Dumping snow in the Bow and Elbow Rivers is not permitted due to contamination risks.

 

Snow control equipment, manpower and anti-icing materials

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It varies from storm to storm. Depending on the weather forecast, temperatures, amount of snow and time-of-day the storm occurs, The City will respond with the appropriate amount of manpower and equipment. City forces include 27 graders, 74 tandem trucks with under-body plows, 18 tandem trucks with front plows, and six snow blowers. During significant snow events, every piece of available equipment is in use.​

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The decision is based on road surface temperatures and weather conditions:

  • When road surfaces are below -5 C and expected to fall, we use a salt-sand mixture called pickle (3 per cent salt, 97 per cent fine gravel). The sand improves vehicle traction while the salt helps melt accumulated snow and ice as it warms up.
  • When road surface temperatures are between 0 and -10 C and not expected to change, The City uses salt to melt accumulated snow and ice.
  • When it's extremely cold, we use sand only for vehicle traction as salt is ineffective in temperatures below -10 C.

Our sanding trucks are all equipped with automatic controls to spread the right material for the current road conditions.

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During the 2017-18 season, The City piloted a new anti-icing material that is a mixture of beet juice and salt brine. Beet brine contains an organic compound that is less corrosive than road salt. Currently The City still has inventory of this material and will continue its trial in certain areas of the downtown core.

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Yes, in known trouble areas where winds frequently cause snow drifting onto residential roads and back lanes that otherwise aren’t plowed.

 

Snow Route parking bans

See the Snow Route parking ban FAQ page.

Snow and ice condition updates

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The Road Conditions Map shows the locations of snow plows and sanding trucks. It tells you which roads are maintained and which routes have been already cleared. The map also shows where traffic cameras are located, which you can click on for a live view of current traffic flows and road condition at that location.

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The Pathways, Bikeways and Walkways map – Snow Clearing displays the areas cleared by The City. Together, The City’s snow clearing efforts are designed to support walking, cycling and people who rely on wheelchairs for mobility throughout winter. They include:

  • Sidewalks and other walkways within or bordering City property
  • Bikeways – cycle tracks and on-street bike lanes
  • Pathways designated for snow clearing
  • Wheelchair curb cuts
  • Bus pads – includes LRT stations
  • Traffic islands and medians

 

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Calgary Transit offers several ways for you to receive updates on weather-related disruptions, service changes and detours, and when emergencies affect service schedules. Check the information on the transit service updates page, sign up for Email Alerts or follow Calgary Transit on Twitter.

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During and after a snowfall, we post snow and ice clearing updates twice daily online and on Twitter. These posts will tell you where we are in our seven-day snow plan and what the overall conditions are for getting around in the city.

Visit calgary.ca/snow for links to more information that will help you get around safely this winter.​