How lucky are we?

I was shocked to read the Yellowstone Ski Festival had to be cancelled due to a lack of snow. It’s the first time this has happened in 32 years.

Nearly 3,000 nordic ski enthusiasts gather to enjoy ski clinics, on-snow demonstrations, a trade show, kids’ camps, wax demonstrations, speakers, and cross country ski races. 

The festival occurs over the American Thanksgiving week in West Yellowstone, Montana which is about a 9 hour drive from Calgary.

We are fortunate to enjoy early-season skiing at Lake Louise every year without fail. Moraine Lake road is usually trackset with good snow cover by Nov 10 if not earlier. 

Elk pass in K-Country is usually one of the first places with skiable snow each winter. Going back in my records, the first tracksetting has been as early as Nov 12 and as late as Dec 13, so chances are it will fall somewhere within that 32-day range.

Unfinished business

Ken Hewitt, who was instrumental in the success of the Kananaskis Grooming parking pass last winter, has provided an update on where the surplus funds will go. 

The list below shows an excellent and constructive use of the surplus funds, and I’m surprised they were able to do this much with the money. I hope the WiFi at Pocaterra hut will result in some very timely reports from skiers. 

2020-21 Kananaskis Parking Funds

During the 2020/2021 winter season, funds from the sale of parking passes and public donations enabled Nordiq Alberta to reimburse Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) for the cost of ski trail grooming, and we were left with a surplus of funds to further sustain and enhance ski trails. In March, readers of the SkierBob blog contributed suggestions for the use of the surplus fund, and this post provides an update on the fund uses to date.

Over the summer, a small committee from Nordiq Alberta and AEP have considered a variety of proposals and moved ahead with funding a few specific projects. The funds were accessed to
a) Provide a new trail signage system at Mt. Shark which will be installed this fall,
b) Build signage tools for use in other cross country ski areas of Kananaskis, primarily Peter Lougheed Park,
c) Purchase of new grooming equipment for Sandy McNabb and Bragg Creek
d) Acquire a new snow machine to replace the aging equipment at Ribbon Creek.
e) Install wifi in Pocaterra Hut (still in progress – see photo)

Suggestions for grooming of new or older de-commissioned trails were considered but, in the end, NOT funded since such activities would not be sustainable in the long term with the one-time funding currently available.

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A reminder, my blogging days are essentially over. With ski season almost here, any trip reports henceforth should be posted on SkierRoger

Kananaskis user pass update

Goat Creek trailhead. Evan Buhler RMO photo.

At this time last year, cross country skiers were wondering if there would be grooming in K-country for the winter of 2020-2021. It’s a relief that we don’t have to be concerned about that issue. 

After the province observed how successful XC skiers were in raising the money to fund grooming, they created their own user pass for  all visitors, summer and winter.  Since it came into effect on June 1, 2021, the new user pass for Kananaskis Country has raised just shy of $10 million.

A day pass costs $15 per vehicle, or a yearly pass that allows for two vehicles to be registered under the same pass costs $90.

Read the entire article Kananaskis user pass kicks $9.9 million into provincial coffers

I’m supposed to be retired from blogging but I will post the occasional article throughout the winter. When I go skiing, I will post my trip report on SkierRoger.

A new blog is ready

I’d like to give a warm and enthisiastic welcome to SkierRoger.

Roger Sakatch

One of the nice features which you will notice is that trip reports will appear front and centre on the home page. Click over and have a look – Roger welcomes your feedback and suggestions. 

Roger has posted a self-introduction and tells you a little about himself. 

If there is any more skiing to be done this spring, I hope you will leave a report on the new blog as it will help Roger fine-tune and make sure everything is working properly. No doubt there will be a few glitches to iron out going forward. 

Most of the menu items from my blog have been transferred over, so it should be one-stop shopping. 

Snow-couch funding

MaSid’s Pipestone river couch

“Snow couch funding throughout the empire where decent seating unavailable!”

Like me, did you have a good chuckle upon reading MaSid’s suggestion for the slush fund?

This post isn’t about MaSid’s suggestion to underwrite funding for snow-couches, but it exemplifies why I’ve enjoyed the contributions to this blog. 

As Helen said about MaSid, “you have a gift for creative writing and your personality shines through your unique reports.”

That could be said about most of the people who have commented on here. 

The finish line for my blog is in sight

I’ve been trying to find the words to express my appreciation to everyone who has contributed trip reports and comments, so the following comment from Helen is what I want to say…

“It is ALL these unique reporters who share who they are and what they do that makes this blog such a gift to the rest of some of us, senior ‘armchair enthusiasts.’  I have loved everyone’s reports AND pictures: (Chuck/Alf/Steve/Normand/Diana/Jeff/Erin …..ALL who post) and vicariously inhale every single word that is written and photo that is shared…..I look forward to seeing you all next season.”

A new chapter is about to begin and I will soon be giving you a link to a new blog.

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Kananaskis Conservation Pass

The final results of the CTV poll question, “Do you support user fees for Kananaskis Country?” were 1509-1415 in favour. 52% – 48%. 

The CBC Eyeopener podcast from April 28 has a segment on Pay-to-Play in Kananaskis

Statement from Bragg Creek Trails re: Kananaskis Conservation Pass

Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) Minister Jason Nixon announced the details of a Kananaskis Conservation Pass on April 27th. The pass will help pay for conservation, public safety, and services. It will take effect starting on June 1, 2021. 

Bragg Creek Trails (BCT) is pleased to see that trail stewardship and access to public lands continues to be a focus of this government during a time of provincial financial constraint. The pledge to reinvest 100% of the collected fees back into K-Country infrastructure and services in response to the increased public demand will ensure the long term sustainability of this precious area.

In his address, Minister Nixon mentioned maintaining partnerships with nonprofit organizations such as BCT. BCT is dedicated to trail and environmental stewardship activities and relies heavily on grants and donations to operate.  It is reasonable to expect that implementation of a user fee will result in most of that private funding to BCT evaporating.        

The details around how partnership agreements will be implemented and funded moving forward have not been discussed with us yet.  We look forward to building this new model with AEP to ensure the existing services provided by BCT remain sustainable well into the future. As the details become available, BCT will provide further updates to all BCT members and donors.

Sincerely,

Conrad Schiebel 

BCT President

Paradise….

Valley.

Paradise Valley. Photo by Chuck

Thanks to Chuck for the report and photos. Chuck remarked... “Ski season is far from over in Banff National Park.” See all Chuck’s photos including another bird besides the Chickadee. I’ve probably seen a Savannah Sparrow somewhere but I didn’t know what it was. 

Chickadee. Photo by Chuck

A lot of excitement today surrounding the announcement of the Kananaskis Conservation Pass.  The new pass will cover grooming, so the Kananaskis Parking Pass will go down in history as a one-hit wonder. It was a #1 hit in my opinion. I’m surprised nobody asked Ken Hewitt about the slush fund of about $80,000 which was collected over-and-above what was required to pay the government. 

CTV has an online poll asking people “Do you support user fees for Kananaskis Country?” As I write this, it’s 767 – 712 in favour.  Poll Question

Thirteen winters have melted into spring since this blog started back in 2008 but I will soon be writing my final update. I’ve seen the first draft of a new blog to replace this one. It is a work in progress but I’m impressed. I’ll be posting a link to it when the website is ready.  I’m pretty sure you’ll easily forget about me.  (Truthfully, I knew someone could do a better job and I’m thrilled). 

Pocaterra trailhead.

The vultures are circling and getting ready to pick over the bones of whatever is left on the PLPP north end ski trails. I usually post photos like these a lot earlier, but the season has been prolonged by the fresh snow and cooler weather over the past few weeks. The high tomorrow(Wed) in PLPP is +8°C after a low of zero tonight. 

Boulton Creek

For the record, the two photos on this update were taken in previous years. I’m not sure if the Pocaterra trailhead has puddles of water, or snow, or dirt. I know the hill above the Boulton bridge is one of the first spots to lose snow. 

Shoulder season has always been a difficult time of year for me: skiing is over but it’s too wet and muddy for decent hiking. I’ve gravitated more towards bike riding in recent years and today I was out on some of the paved paths in Calgary. I heard a Chickadee but wasn’t able to spot it, so Chuck’s photo was timely. Saw lots of crocuses. 

$90 fee to access Kananaskis Country

Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon

“The pass will support the continued grooming of xc ski trails” – Jason Nixon

Effective June 1, The Kananaskis Conservation Pass will be required for vehicles entering K-Country. 

It will go by your licence plate and you can include two vehicles for the fee. 

A $15 day pass is also an option. The good news is that we won’t have to pay extra for ski grooming. 

It costs the provincial government $107 million to provide recreation, conservation, and public safety services in K-Country. The pass is expected to bring in $15 million. 

Kananaskis Emergency Services responded to 428 calls for help last year, a 51% yearly increase. 

Today’s announcement includes $1 million for upgrades to the Canmore Nordic Centre. 

Visitor Centres will be re-opened. 

Among those exempt from the fee will be low-income earners and First Nations people.

You can watch a video of today’s news conference.

Calgary Sun Nixon Comes Out Swinging

CBC has a story Alberta to charge $90 annual fee for Kananaskis Country….

“the Kananaskis Conservation Pass will allow the government to invest $11.5 million in K-Country. That will include trail maintenance, search and rescue operations, visitor services and the upkeep of facilities at day-use areas and campgrounds. “

Number crunching

With Tessa at Nipika in 2011

This blog reached 1.8 million+ readers this winter, and logged 2.4 million page views. 

The average winter readership over the past four years was 1.1 million. 

Photo from 1999

Since starting the blog in 2008…

  • I’ve written 2854 updates. 
  • 28,750 comments have been submitted. 

I don’t know what possessed me to log every ski trip and my distance traveled. Perhaps it encouraged me to try and do even more the following season. In any event, here are some final statistics:

My favourite trail, Tyrwhitt

Since I started skiing in 1997…

  • I’ve logged 25,029 kilometres.
  • The most kilometres I’ve skied in one winter was 1731 in 2012-2013. I skied 105 times that season. 
  • The most kilometres I’ve skied in one day is 71(Lake Louise to Banff in 2004). 
  • I’ve skied my all-time favourite trail, Tyrwhitt, 134 times(but no amount will ever be enough). 
  • My second-favourite: Goat Creek, 84 trips. 
  • I’ve climbed Whiskey Jack 203 times. 

First trail I ever skied: Terrace, at Kananaskis Village. My first winter of skiing in 1997-98, I logged 90 kilometres. 

Times I skied with my dog, Tessa: 156. I miss her every day. 

Medals I’ve won in ski races: 17

When I started skiing, all I was interested in was going fast. I entered a lot of ski races and had fun competing against my friend Peter who I met in the Calgary Ski Club. He was usually standing in my way of a gold medal but I finally beat him in a come-from-behind victory in the 2005 Cookie race which was a memorable event for me. 

Excellent “scraps” at West Bragg Creek

Moose Connector at West Bragg Creek. Photo by Ray Yong

Thanks to Ray Yong for the photo and report from West Bragg Creek…

“Snow was thin at the trailhead but fine in the trees.  It was wet and slightly sticky, but no problems with clumping or sticking.  I was using my skin skis and the grip was fine.  Made the mistake of trying mountain road – it’s really, really thin and rocky closer to the trailhead, so best to avoid that move!  The snow isn’t melting in the covered trails, which is great, so it’s best to stick to the inner trails.

Lots of people walking all over the trails, so be prepared for that.”

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When Aqua Toque mentioned “scraps” at West Bragg Creek, I wasn’t expecting to see this. The photo above is a screen capture from the video. To see the 30-second video, click on this link Fox Video.