Snow and Ice Control FAQ
City snow and ice control services
The City maintains Calgary roads, with the exception of Deerfoot, Stoney Trail, and Tsuut’ina Trail / Southwest Ring Road, which are managed by the Province of Alberta.
During Calgary’s colder months our maintenance work includes preparing for and responding to snow events through The City’s Priority Snow Plan. Our work focuses on plowing major roadways, dedicated cycling infrastructure, prioritized pathways and sidewalks, bus routes and other high traffic areas.
The City does not typically plow residential streets. Work in residential areas includes levelling out ruts and sanding-salting icy driving lanes when necessary. Unlike Calgary’s high-volume roads, we do not plow down to bare pavement, plow entire street widths, from curb to curb, or remove snow in residential areas.
Please be aware, plowing activity in residential areas can create windrows. Note that certain narrower residential streets may not be wide enough for some of The City’s larger snow clearing equipment.
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.
Yes, The City clears snow from prioritized sections of pathways and sidewalks, as well as some on-street bike routes and downtown cycle tracks. This work is done on a priority basis after snow stops falling.
Sidewalk snow clearing is a shared responsibility with private property owners/occupants. For our part, we clear sidewalks along major roads and parks, pedestrian overpasses, traffic islands and bus pads and LRT platforms. In general, we’re responsible for the sidewalks within and bordering City-owned property.
For more information on pathway, bikeways and walkway clearing visit the Pathways, Bikeways and Walkways map.
The annual winter operations budget is approximately $51.5 million. This budget covers the period between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31.
Residential snow and ice control
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 for household use. 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, and property owners who fail to clear their sidewalks may be subject to a fine. For more information, visit the snow bylaw page.
Windrows are the trails of snow left behind by a snow plow. The clearing of windrows in front of driveways left by snow plowing equipment is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner, much like sidewalk shoveling. Plow operators make every attempt to keep driveways clear and keep windrows as small as possible.
Those who are able are encouraged to be a Snow Angel for a neighbour who is away or has difficulty shoveling.
Snow control equipment, staffing and anti-icing materials
During winter, crews work rotating shifts to ensure Calgary has enough coverage to respond to snowfall 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All available staffed equipment is deployed during the winter snow events, and additional contracted crews can be called in for bigger snow events.
The City’s snow fleet includes 27 graders, 76 tandem trucks with plows, and six snow blowers. The City also has rental equipment in place and contractors that are called in to supplement crews.
The decision is based on road surface temperatures and current and future 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 -14 C and not expected to change, The City uses salt to melt accumulated snow and ice.
- When it's extremely cold, we use sand/pickle mix only for vehicle traction as salt is less effective in temperatures below -15 C.
Our sanding trucks are all equipped with automatic controls to spread the right material for the current road conditions.
The City piloted an anti-icing material that is a mixture of beet juice and salt brine and continues to use this material. Beet brine contains an organic compound that is less corrosive than road salt.
Yes, The City installs temporary snow fencing in known areas such as parks and open spaces 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.
Sign-up to receive text or email notifications when a snow route parking ban will be in effect and when it’s been lifted.
Snow and ice condition updates
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.
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
Freezing rain is rain that freezes on impact and creates a buildup of clear ice on surfaces. This frozen water forms a layer of transparent ice that makes sidewalks and driving surfaces slippery.
An ice storm occurs when large amounts of freezing rain continue for several hours. They can also include wind, ice fog and cold temperatures.
- Freezing rain can cause damage by creating a heavy load wherever the ice forms.
- Ice from freezing rain can build up on any surface making sidewalks and pathways more hazardous for falls and slips.
Staying safe during an ice storm
- Make sure to find out about the coming weather conditions by check your local forecast.
- Avoid driving or wait several hours after the storm ends to ensure conditions have improved.
- If you have to drive, observe current road conditions and snow plan progress, make sure you have a well-stocked vehicle emergency kit and winter tires installed.
- Avoid heavy exertion and shoveling while the event is underway and be cautious on walking surfaces shortly after.
- If possible, avoid going outdoors. If you have to go outside, dress for the weather and pay close attention to large sheets of ice on buildings, tree branches and power lines, which could fall unexpectedly.
See other ways to prepare for emergencies during a winter storm.