Wednesday morning update

Update: The government says that grooming in K-Country costs $200,000. Read more in the Rocky Mountain Outlook. Could we get 4000 donations of $50 each. That’s it. As Grace commented, “it sounds like pocket change.”

Before I summarize yesterday’s grooming activity, I want to share this message which I received from Stephanie Thomas at CTV…

“I received so many calls and e-mails it was unreal and thats thanks to the post you shared, so I appreciate that.”

Her story… Province defunds trail grooming

Government contacts

The lease on the PLPP snowcat is $75,000 per year. 

I didn’t have a clue what the leasing costs of a snowcat were, so I grabbed a figure out of thin air, $250,000. I hoped that I would be corrected and given the actual numbers by people who know more than I do. It worked. 

I wonder if the government is playing the same game? Proposing the worst-case scenario, then after the outcry and protests, settles on a solution which they were hoping for, and making it look like they were listening? Cynical, I know. 

Governments of all stripes are sneaky. They waited until I was out of the country to announce these cuts. 🙂 

It defies common sense to end trail grooming in Kananaskis when the costs are so miniscule. Tourism is a priority for this governemt, and the tourism benefits alone would be worth it. I think about all the people who stay at William Watson Lodge in the winter in order to go skiing. Older, handicapped, people who would have nowhere else to go. 

I expect the government wants to introduce user fees of some sort and it seems to be an acceptable compromise among most skiers. 

******

West Bragg Creek on morning of Mar 4. Photo by WBC grooming team

Grooming update

There was lots of snow overnight in the mountains. Nakiska had 10 cm overnight. Mud Lake weather station indicates 11 cm. Ski Louise reports 19 cm. 

West Bragg Creek: “5-10 cm of new snow overnight have made for amazing conditions this morning in West Bragg. The best conditions will be on the core trails where the forest is providing protection from the detrimental effects of high winds.”

Lake Louise on morning of Wed Mar 4

Amos, Meadow, Woolley and Wheeler in PLPP were groomed last night, but will already have some fresh snow on top.

The Peter Lougheed Discovery Centre will be closed at 12:30 pm today due to a Fortis Power outage.

Alex worked last night to groom Bill Milne, Wedge, Evan-Thomas, and the Kananaskis Village trails. Same story, there will be fresh snow over the new grooming. 

At Lake Louise, yesterday’s grooming included the Lake trail, Tramline, Great Divide, and Moraine Lake Rd.

While grooming trails in the middle of the night, the groomers frequently encounter fallen trees on the trail such as the one pictured here from last night. There is some training and skill required to safely and efficiently remove these fallen trees so the grooming process can continue. 

26 Comments:

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  1. Gary Blechinger

    From the outset I found it hard to imagine that there would be no grooming at venerable PLPP next year, however, how that will be accomplished remains in question. I’m wondering if there is going to be a coordinated response from clubs and groups and what will be the best way to provide input.

    Myself for example would most like to see grooming preserved at PLPP and if that means sacrificing Mt. Shark and perhaps Ribbon Creek then so be it, however I recognize that others will see it differently. I’d also be willing to accept fees but as a more frequent user I’d favor a season pass that covers both CNC and PLPP and other provincial areas. I also think it is important that there be areas like west bragg creek and confederation where no fees are charged to avoid discouraging beginners.

    I think there is a case to be made for maintaining the status quo, but I’m not sure in the current fiscal and political climate that will fly so I think the community that enjoys the trails should be prepared.

  2. They removed the word “sale” from their announcement on Alberta Parks.ca. I think the petition actually worked. Now they are trying to convince us they’ve never planned to sell anything… Good manipulation Kinga!

  3. I can concur with the initial surprise/disappointment upon seeing that our beloved winter trails will no longer maintained for xc skiing. But there’s a lot of potential for a good outcome here. We have 8 months to figure this out before the next season and there are many options to consider. But we need strong spokespeople such as ski and other recreational clubs, parks people, themselves, and forums such as this – Bob, looking forward to having you back in the empire as a trusted voice for the xc ski community (and best wishes for your family).

    As for the parks issues, the government has proposed to close or reduce funding to a number of parks that are often very difficult to access due to their isolation and are thus underused, which makes them relatively costly to maintain (see the list and google map them). This doesn’t mean people can’t continue to use some of them, they just won’t be serviced with amenities that sometimes have to be helicoptered in. Not that controversial a move. They have not indicated that any public lands will be sold but, rather, that services/facilities in those parks may be leased. This is already happening today. Many provincial campgrounds have private leases for their maintenance or to operate facilities. I used to work for a campground maintenance company, family-owned, back in the late 90s in the David Thompson area. The people that hold these leases are not making millions, they are often retired people looking to enjoy the outdoors and keep busy. They provide care and vigilance of public lands, a great service and more than what the government can afford. Hardly the image of a “profit-making private corporation” as stated in the Leadnow petition. The Leadnow and Y2Y petitions circulating in response to this issue contain misleading and incorrect statements (e.g. “fire-sale of Alberta’s provincial parks”) and should not be further promoted as they’re just playing off people’s initial emotional reactions to the headlines on this issue. This article in the Calgary Herald helps set some of the record straight on the government’s proposal.
    https://calgaryherald.com/opinion/columnists/corbella-alberta-parks-are-not-for-sale-not-one-centimeter.

    Strong emotions and divisiveness make people feel like victims. We don’t have to play the victim card when it comes to our winter trails. Albertans are truly lucky to have access to such exceptional, world-class parks and trails in our back yards, winter and summer. Perhaps it’s time to show our love in different ways.

    • Excellent points. Thanks for sharing.

    • The article is not all its cracked up to be. A few comments presented after the article seem to correct these points. For example, by reverting to crown land: “Would the government allow mining, tree harvesting and more trapping and hunting on Alberta’s east mountain slopes?”

      Followed by: “ “Sites removed from the parks system allow a greater range of uses that were previously not possible under government regulation. Successful sale or transfer to a third party will enable these sites to continue to be part of the community while generating new economic opportunities.” – Kenney government”

      “None of the three parks he pointed to (Sulphur Lake PRA, Smoky River South PRA, Crow Lake PP) supply firewood, so no-one is helicoptering firewood to them. ”

      • The original announcement stated that the 164 sites would be removed outright from the parks system, and if I recall correctly it mentioned “sale or transfer” of these lands. This isn’t the same as partnership like WBC or Ya Ha Tinda. The current statement states, “Sites removed from the parks system would have their legal park designations removed, and could be open for alternate management approaches.” Incidentally, one of the sites that is slated to be removed, Indian Graves PRA, already has a successful partnership operating its campground. Why are they removing it? Seems a little strange.
        I don’t think we should be over-hyping this (the areas in question are mostly small recreation areas), but I also don’t think we should downplay it as inconsequential, especially considering Nixon’s statements on Facebook against conservation efforts. Personally, I also think keeping PLPP around is more important.
        One thing I do think we need to be really careful of, though, is confusing advocating for parks with partisan politics. That is not the point and it gives fuel for those who oppose us, as if supporting non-motorized outdoor recreation, conservation and parks were at odds with conservative values. After all, most of our parks were created by conservative governments, especially Peter Lougheed.

    • Thanks Kinga, for a very thoughtful and and reasonable comment.
      I agree that solutions can be found to continue XC ski grooming at PLPP, Ribbon Creek and Mt. Shark.

  4. 200K, eh? That’s not “millions of dollars!” as claimed by Nixon!
    Tourism is hardly a major mandate of this government. They claim it is, but they aren’t acting on it. They’ve been doing their best to keep the Castle parks under the radar, will do nothing for Bighorn Country, and are now launching this attack on existing Alberta Parks and the “signature destinations” in Kananaskis Country. I don’t mean to sound glib or anti-Conservative in general – I’m not anti-Conservative, most parks in Alberta were established by Conservative governments, and the original champion of Kananaskis Country was none other than Peter Lougheed – but this government is following a very anti-parks policy.
    I’m concerned that these “cuts,” which produce only a small decrease in spending at the cost of much economic benefit elsewhere, are part of a subtle larger plan to reduce low-impact parks use and erode our parks system.

  5. Is that $200,000 track-setting cost specific to one area or all of K-country? I’d gladly donate to help support track-setting if that’s what it takes to keep the area alive.

    • According to the story, it’s for PLPP, Ribbon Creek, and Mt Shark. Considering the costs I’ve posted for snowcats and snowmobiles, this should be reasonably accurate when wages are included.

  6. Wondering how many you who read this website voted for the UCP and expected these cuts which were raised before a few years back..? User pay is NOT the answer when we share and care for our fellow Albertans and guests from elsewhere!

    Wondering how many UCP MLA’s have ever skied or camped in PLPP?
    Wondering how many NDP MLA’s have ever skied or camped in PLPP?

    Wondering how clients of William Watson Lodge who XC ski in the area BECAUSE it is track set and safe will now no longer be served?

    Wondering how many children of UCP MLA’s XC ski, and/or will when they come to an age of understanding ask their parent what in the world they were thinking… why doesn’t my school take me out camping, skiing, etc…

    • Rachel Notley and the all the NDP cabinet ministers were invited to ski at the Nordic Centre a few years ago. Almost all came and skied on one occasion. The same invitation has been extended to the UCP. There has been no response.

  7. I would support trails that are open for all regardless of economic status, and grooming funded by fundraisers or suggested donations from those who can afford it. We would gladly chip in. The $200,000/ year does not sound insurmountable for our active community.

  8. Petition to voice your opinion can be found here:

    https://yellowstonetoyukon.nationbuilder.com/abparks?utm_campaign=aa_03042020_ab_parks&utm_medium=email&utm_source=yellowstonetoyukon

    Here’s the petition:

    Albertans love parks

    Dear Premier Kenney and Minister Nixon,

    I love Alberta’s parks. Your government’s decision to cut the budget and close or deregulate almost 200 parks in the province will affect Albertans and visitors looking to experience our amazing landscapes and recreation.They also ignore the environmental value that many of these areas provide towards a healthy, functioning landscape.

    Please stop this short-sighted move.

    Signed,

  9. $200k/year? So options are:
    – insist government keep funding this chump change
    – have YYC nordic groups organize an annual fundraising drive (ala $50 across 4k people) – means still free for low-income, etc
    – get govt to implement park/trail fees
    – have volunteer-run groups try to organize to trackset trails (which is tough in the cold, dead of night when it often happens – I believe confed struggles with volunteers already?)
    – ???
    – break out the AT skis for the lucky few, and practise dodging snowshoers and fat bikers, but since WBC is closer, it’ll be much less busy at PLPP and Mt Shark, especially if things start to overgrow (see: Sawmill trails…)

  10. Why should we pay user fees when corporations are getting $4.7 billion in tax relief? We are spending $30 million per year on an embarrassing and ineffective “war room.” Jason Kenney is picking our pockets to pay for golden handshakes for his friends and political insiders. That’s just wrong.

  11. Btw, I did some math

    The AB budget is $42,600,000,000 (last I checked)
    These trails cost 0.00047% of the budget.

    There is no economic argument for these cuts.

    I would take trail fees over a shutdown too, but trail fees would invariably lower casual usage, and a more sedentary population could lead to higher health care costs, which already make up a whopping 40% of the AB budget.

  12. We’ll gladly pay our way too. Perhaps xc-skiing is a want – not a need. But we want it!! So sign us up!

  13. Yes, so grateful for this blog site at a time like this.
    Thanks for the cost breakdown. With those figures, they sell an annual pass for $200 and the costs arr covered with the first 1000 skiers! Sign me up!

  14. Thanks so much, Bob! I’m so glad your forum exists during this announcement. I hope that skiers can rally together and come up with an amenable solution.

  15. Rocky Mountain Outlook reported that grooming the trails in Kananaskis costs $200,000 per year. I don’t know the accuracy of that figure, but to me it sounds like pocket change when you’re a government who generally speaks in millions of dollars.

    And I can’t think of a single area in Alberta (outside of the national parks, which I’m not sure how they’re figured into Alberta’s economy given that they are federal) that has the same draw for winter tourism as Kananaskis, yet tourism is supposed to be one of the UPC’s big mandates for the next ten years.

    And I think most of recognize we’ve enjoyed a free ride (glide?) in Kananaskis for years but massive fossil fuel revenues are history, and we’d be willing to pay user fees like most other places.

    Makes no sense whatsoever to me, so I’m inclined to expect the same as Bob, that Kenney and Nixon decided to present us with the worst case scenario so that we’d readily accept the lesser evil of user fees. Let’s just hope they make them reasonable and/or provide an annual, multi-area option.

  16. I would love to hear the exact annual cost of grooming the trails. So far, all I have heard from Nixon is that he doesn’t know the actual numbers. He tosses around that Parks cost 86 million and make 36 million. What of that 86 mill does this cost?
    A way too easy solution…user fees. And perhaps friggin’ 5% provincial sales tax.
    I thinks this all solidly smells like privatization. I sure hope the current grooming quality can be maintained with that plan!
    Am I mad? Yes. Am I sad? Yes. This is so backward. Good thing they took Progressive out of their party name!

  17. Nixon’s claims that these trails are “under-utilized” and that pouring “millions of dollars” into these trails is a “waste” are shameful. These trails aren’t under-utilized and they don’t cost millions to maintain.

  18. We had a lot of snow at CNC also! Expect 15+cm of fresh snow on trails groomed prior to today. Take caution on Rundle and Silvertip as they were groomed whilst it was still snowing heavily leaving one side of the trail covered in more fresh snow than the other and a ridge near the middle, this will be rectified tonight. The team will also work to get Banff natural, Bow and Meadowview along with the regular manmade rec trails done tonight too. Banff trail, Banff Loop, Olympic and Centennial were all redone after the snow finished last night so should be in good shape. Manyt Biathon trails will have a fresh cover as they were done prior to the snow finishing.

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